BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art presents Diego Rivera’s America, the first major exhibition focused solely on the Mexican artist in more than 20 years, on view March 11 – July 31. One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Rivera told the story of everyday experience in epic murals and individual paintings. The exhibition provides a critical and contemporary interpretation of Diego Rivera’s work, whether done on the wall or the easel.
Diego Rivera’s America examines the artist’s production through more than 130 works, including his drawings, easel paintings, frescoes and more. The presentation reveals the broad range of Rivera’s creativity through a series of thematic sections that bring together more works from this period than have been seen together since the artist’s lifetime.
Diego Rivera’s America is co-organized by Crystal Bridges and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is curated by James Oles, guest curator, with Maria Castro, assistant curator at SFMOMA, and coordinated at Crystal Bridges by Jen Padgett, the museum’s acting Windgate curator of craft. Crystal Bridges is the second and final stop for the exhibition, the only remaining opportunity for visitors to experience Rivera’s broad and expansive vision of America.
In his public murals and paintings, Diego Rivera painted human experience — families and workers, struggles and celebrations, histories and imagined futures. Between the early 1920s and the early 1940s, he worked in both Mexico and the United States and found inspiration in the social and cultural life of the two countries. He imagined an America — broadly understood — that shared an Indigenous past and an industrial future, and where cooperation, rather than divisions, were paramount.
The 25-year timeframe covered by the exhibition coincides with a fraught historical period: the search for stability and unity in the wake of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), the economic collapse of the Great Depression, the international rise of fascism, and the Second World War. In the context of these global events, Rivera forged a 20th-century vision of both Mexico and the US, informed by his travels back and forth across the border.
“Rivera believed in the power of art to change the world, a sentiment that is more relevant today than ever,” Guest Curator James Oles said. “This exhibition uses the power of art to explore themes that bring people together across generations, cultures and social classes.”
A century has passed since Rivera embarked upon his career as a muralist. Although US-Mexico relations during this period have been marked by periods of tension and cooperation, cultural exchange has been constant. Diego Rivera’s America revisits a historical moment when Rivera, more than any other artist of his time, was instrumental in forging Mexican national identity in visual terms.
The exhibition features iconic works such as Dance in Tehuantepec (1928), The Flowered Canoe (1931), Nude with Calla Lilies (1944) and other depictions of flower carriers and vendors. Three major paintings created in San Francisco by Frida Kahlo, including a self-portrait of her standing next to Rivera, are also included.
Diego Rivera’s America includes rarely seen works from private collections and major paintings on loan from museums in both the United States and Mexico. In addition, studies for pivotal mural projects in Mexico City, San Francisco and New York, as well as large-scale digital projections, convey the immersive quality of his epic murals.