Viva Rivera! SAMA exhibit celebrates Mexican culture

Diego rivera (jennifer alejos)

An intimate exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art brings artwork from acclaimed Chicano artist Diego Rivera.

The installation, titled “Diego Rivera in San Antonio,” features nine pieces portraying various scenes of indigenous Mexican life. Rivera, who often painted still-lifes and portraits, is most often associated with the Mexican Mural Movement that took place in the 1920s in response to the Mexican Revolution.

Rivera began drawing at the young age of three. Upon receiving a scholarship to study in Spain and France, Rivera began following the Cubism style of painting from his peers, later switching to the Post-Impressionist style. In 1927, Rivera pursued a relationship with fellow artist Frida Kahlo, who was a student at the time. The two wed in Aug. 1929 and lived a tumultuous marriage. At the time, Rivera was developing a reputation for the themes explored in his pieces such as atheism and political activism.

The exhibit showcases Rivera’s talent for capturing life moments with a few sketches characterized by dominant line work and vibrant paintings that tell stories of Mexican labor and everyday trials of survival.

In a series of oil paintings, Rivera shows the lifestyles of villagers such as “The Siesta.” The painting depicts a tranquil scene with a mother putting resting her children to sleep. The mother cradles the infant in her arms while two other children lay asleep on the floor. An expression of calmness appears on her face as she sits beside her children. The color tones of pale blues, greens and corals add to the feeling of harmony in the piece.

Another piece from the exhibit shows Rivera’s political side in his painting, “El Septimo De Noviembre, Moscu.” In the painting, grey paint strokes define figures interpreted as soldiers while bold red shapes represent Russian flags and banners. More prominent figures appear in the foreground while others effortlessly blend into the background, creating a sense of identity.

The piece “El Albani,” translated to “The Bricklayer” also makes an appearance in the exhibit. The painting became a subject of national coverage when it was discovered in the home office of Rugeley Ferguson. After being in his family for over 80 years, Ferguson inherited the painting and had it stored in a safe within his home. Ferguson learned the true value of the painting when he went on “The Antique Roadshow.” The piece has been appraised at $800,000 to $1 million dollars. “The Bricklayer” has since been loaned to the San Antonio Museum of Art for the exhibit.

“Diego Rivera in San Antonio” will be on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art until January 31. For more information, visit