Thursday, April 09, 2009

Detroit Institute of Arts

We've spent a few days in Ann Arbor, hosted by some generous friends, but we struck out one day for Detroit and its Institute of Arts. It's fascinating because the whole Institute would probably not have existed had Detroit not once been the fourth largest city in the U.S. 50-60 years ago. I thought it was a great museum -- large enough to hold many things of interest, but not so large that it couldn't be taken in within a single day. A couple of parts were worth the price of admission by themselves. The museum's most famous work are the Detroit Industry Murals, painted by Diego Rivera in 1932 and 1933. For a Communist (and Trotskyist, etc.), Rivera was orthodox enough to remember that it was the industrial proletariat that will bring about the socialist revolution, and so he celebrated the creation of industry and even of industrialists. There are, in his madman's mind, also currents of horror at the workings of technology, which he strongly associated with the United States (as against Mexico, which he associated with the workings of nature).

See also his occasional wife Frida Kahlo's not-unambiguous interpretation of the divide between "natural" Mexico and "industrial" America:

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