It may seem odd to seek out Mexican art in the nation’s capitol when there are so many culturally important American things to see, but since I love the Mexican muralists, I decided to visit the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington DC and see the latest Diego Rivera exhibit.
The museum’s goal is to share Mexico’s vibrant cultural past and present. Established in 1990, the Institute presents diverse, ongoing cultural programs and has become a thriving artistic center in the heart of the City. It is housed in a beautiful building (a work of art itself) and has great free lectures, films and even culinary events.
Its current exhibit Diego Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads (through May 17, 2014) centers around the mural Rivera painted in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. The mural was started with great fanfare at the time but was destroyed by Nelson Rockefeller before it was finished because it included images of Lenin and an anti-capital references. Essentially, Rivera did a bait and switch on ol’ Rockefeller although he maintained that it was the artistic muse that made him do it.
The exhibit reconstructs its history with reproductions of previously unpublished material, including letters, telegrams, contracts, sketches, and documents, following Rivera’s commission. The controversy it created was probably better for Rivera than the mural itself. No loss because he recreated it for the most part in Mexico City calling it Man, Controller of the Universe, which now I have to see. The exhibit also includes some photos of Rivera with Frida Kahlo who is, in my opinion, the better half of that talented couple.
This museum has a permanent collection of modern artists from North and South America. Its current exhibit, Retrato en Voz Alta: Portraits of Contemporary Mexican Artists by photographer Allan Fis, includes subjects such revered Mexican visual artists as Pedro Friedeberg and José Luis Cuevas, both of whose works are represented in AMA’s collection. Fis’s photographs turn the lens on the artist, representing those who ordinarily are the ones depicting other subjects.
After seeing some Mexican art you will no doubt be in the mood for some Mexican food. The District of Columbia has some great South American food. El Rinconcito has two cozy cafes that offers tasty authentic El Salvadorean and Mexican food and one of them is right near the Mexican Cultural Institute.