note: this painting can be found in bytes and bits at: http://www.diegorivera.com/murals/nwsny2.html
Modern Industry is one of the many murals that Diego Rivera was commissioned to paint in very capitalist New York City despite his political affiliations. This piece was painted in the New Workers School, an institution that sympathized with many of Diego’s themes. It is fresco, 1.83 x 1.80 m.
The style of Rivera’s murals is pretty nontraditional. There is a definite texture to this piece, gritty yet detailed. Rivera uses many different images instead of one large one, and these images are secluded to their own cell, which forms a almost cartoon-like composition. Line is in heavy use, and though the color is somewhat muted, it also serves to break up the image. Scale and proportion are used liberally to emphasize the themes of the piece. This again is a shared element with cartoons. The shapes get larger towards the bottom of the painting, which draws the eye in one direction. This serves as a counter balance to the broken cell-based composition, giving a unity that was in danger of being lost. The old white capitalists at the bottom are a warmer color than the rest of the piece which gives them a feeling of being cleaner than their surroundings.
The subject of this painting is the class conflict resulting from industrial capitalism at the turn of the last century. The many, the poor and oppressed, work for the profit of the few. It seems to seek to remind the audience that the price of industrial advances in societies are paid with the lives of the working class. Religion is also incorporated in a negative light, not surprising considering Rivera’s socialism.
I have always been attracted to murals, and especially murals that make a political statement. This piece is both, in which Rivera makes no distinction between his expression and his beliefs.