Murals have long been public art that engages with the local population, usually with a message. Looking back at the Mexican Muralist movement, National Mexican treasure, Diego Rivera, painted the history of the Mestizos onto the walls of government buildings, raising their status by linking their culture and traditions to all things that Mexicans had pride. This honor assisted Diego Rivera in being invited to NYC to paint a mural by Nelson Rockefeller at the newly built Rockefeller Center. The theme was to be “Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future.” History reports that Nelson Rockefeller approved the sketches and Diego Rivera completed the mural. When Nelson Rockefeller spotted an image of Lenin in the mural, he demanded Rivera paint out the image – when Rivera refused, the mural was covered up and eventually chipped off the wall of the building.
Even today public art can turn controversial – just recently the Weinstein Co. commissioned murals to commemorate “Fruitvale Station,” about the 2009 fatal shooting of Oakland’s Oscar Grant in preparation of promoting a movie about the incident. Thinking it would be a great way to promote the movie to a forward-thinking audience, they had problems when it came to reviewing the sketches and requesting artists to make changes in imagery.
Public art is just that – art out in and for the public, however, artists should continue to hold onto their artistic integrity. Murals provoke public commentary and provide a voice for those that frequently are not heard. Are we all listening?
photo below: Ron English’s “Abraham Obama” mural that went up in Boston on July 4th 2008. Daniel Lahoda is dressed as Lincoln. (Ron English)
Brava, Linda. I learn more about Art today from your writings than any other source!
Thanks Karen – it is fun to write about my passion.