Saturday, December 15, 2007


The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has reopened with easier access for anyone interested. An extra incentive for Metro Detroit residents -- local public libraries are stamping free passes to the DIA and most other cultural venues in the area. The program lasts through October 2008, and you can get stamped for guests, too. The DIA pass, which lasts a week per patron, is good for up to four people.

Today, I mostly looked at Diego Rivera's gigantic Detroit Industry Murals of 1932 -- from the Great Depression. Beautiful, fierce, fresco. Rivera didn't sugar coat industrial labor.

It's a little like the giganticism seen in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (released in 1927, but set in the year 2026). Rivera's vision is quite sobering, warm and dreamy all at the same time.

If there are people still living on Earth five hundred years from now, and if they study history, Edsel Ford and Albert Speer may seem like the same guy. As far as the "rational organization" of industrial production of the 1930s and 1940s by engineer-types, anyway.

And will anyone be able to distinguish between Benito Mussolini, Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush in 2507? Mussolini, the eerily prescient fresco by Diego Rivera pictured above, was finished at the New Worker School in New York in 1933. Is that a prsioner at Abu Ghraib, a Gitmo torturer, or a leader of the Ku Klux Klan?

The more things change . . .

Najoua Belyzel, North African French singer -- her birthday. Part fantasy, part science fiction, at least in dress. . . . .

Today's rune: Breakthrough.

Let in snow, let it snow, let it snow. . . . .


Lana Gramlich said...

Although I can appreciate these pieces for their artwork, personally I would never paint an industrial image or have one in my home. It seems like much of my life is geared toward getting as far away from industry as possible. Call me a luddite, but the more our technology "advances," the more frightened I get. At least with the birds, raccoons & woods I know what to expect!

the walking man said...

The murals actually are a marvel in their construction, they were painted on while the plaster was still wet so they could only be done in small sections at a time. And lana there is more than just industry to the murals, some of the smaller parts have a fetus in them and blacks being educated by a special school H. ford set up for them to help them overcome their southern rooted illiteracy (Henry was an anti Semite not a racist.)

In 1987 they were being cleaned and in the upper picture the man in the cap was one of Rivera's apprentices who worked on the mural, he and his wife came back and supervised the cleaning of them.

There is also communist sympathetic touches worked into the mural like a red star on a glove, unfortunately the glove rests on the hand of Henry Fords henchman, Bennet, who started the bridge massacre during a workers food protest during the depression.

Hours is not enough time to take in all that Rivera was saying, although he used the Ford plant in Dearborn where raw material came in and it shit out completely finished cars as a model. It is fascinating to see his real statements for labor in those four walls and cornices.

originally it was in an uncovered court and when it was completed the board of directors wanted it torn out and destroyed, it was only the threat of losing anymore of Mr. and Mrs.Edsel Fords money (two of the wealthiest people in the world and the only inheritors to the wealthiest fortune in the world at the time) that stopped them.

Instead they put a glass roof over it enclosing the open courtyard.

It is a wonderful statement on Americans ability to produce and grow.



lulu said...

Those are GORGEOUS!

I used to love visiting the Rivera mural at Coit Tower wehn I lived in SF.
Cool that the Library is giving out free passes. Chicago's libraries have passes to all the local museums, but, over holidays nand the summer especially, it is nearly impossible to get them.

Charles Gramlich said...

Great art. A little bit disconcerting. Like Lana, I could appreciate this in a museum but not in my house.