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galligan_art3010_xc_w4_A1_DQ3_09092010

galligan_art3010_xc_w4_A1_DQ3_09092010

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Published by Michael Galligan
Diego Rivera, Mexican Muralists, Great Depression.
Diego Rivera, Mexican Muralists, Great Depression.

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Published by: Michael Galligan on Sep 09, 2010
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11/19/2012

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ART3010  American  Art  History  

Week  4,  Assignment  1:  Discussion  Question  3   By Michael Galligan Mural Traditions Your textbook covers the history of the development of a mural tradition in the U.S. as well as its relation to traditions in Mexico. Unlike paintings, murals are often executed on an architectural surface and, therefore, have a close aesthetic relationship to their site. Discuss the possible limitations imposed by this relationship for both the artist and the viewer. What are the structural challenges posed by a mural’s relationship to its site? What needs to be taken into consideration for the preservation of these works of art? Use examples to illustrate your discussion. During the Great Depression Franklin Roosevelt instituted sweeping reforms that included programs that paid artists to create works of art (Pohl 390-391). One of the most far-reaching programs of the FAP/WPA distributed a weekly wage in return for painting murals, or sculpting statues (Pohl 392). The bulk of the mural work occurred in local post offices, as nearly every town had one. Artists were to produce images that were essentially constructive and non-abstract with the ideal of associating local interests with a distinctively American spin (Pohl 392). The locations of murals in buildings usually required working with small or broken spaces at the tops of walls or over the postmaster’s door (Pohl 392). These types of murals confined the artist to work in small and unconventional spaces. However, doing so removed art from the cloistered halls of the elite to the American public. An amazing aspect of this story rests upon the shoulders of Mexican muralists such as José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siquerios, and Diego Rivera. These Mexican artists produced many powerful murals for Mexican public buildings that helped reinforce the social transformations begun during the Mexican Revolution (Pohl 405). Diego Rivera painted a mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts near my home during these years. He accepted this commission from private industry: Ford Motor Company. Edsel and Henry Ford faced difficult issues during the darkest days of the depression. At the time, Mexico threatened to take away American companies rights to mines and oil fields, while American workers struggled to organize and form unions to protect their safety and assert their rights. By hiring Diego Rivera, a successful Mexican muralist, they hoped to show respect for Mexico, while at the same time depicting images of the American workers that made their industry possible. The irony of his employer and their workers being beaten by Dearborn police to avoid unionization could not have escaped Rivera’s attention as he worked on the murals for over a year (Pohl 415). What I am truly appreciative of is that all three murals have survived at the DIA for almost 80 years now. They are indoors in a climate controlled world-class facility. Though displays and art have come and gone these murals represent a constant at the DIA. They are near the front doors in a main hall where most public speaking is performed. I will attach two images of the East and West murals that I photographed just before the latest renovation in 2007.

Work Cited 1. Pohl, Frances K. Framing America: A Social History of American Art. 2nd Edition. New York, New York: Thames and Hudson, 2008.

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