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The Zapatista. That's the name of the most famous picture in this show - I wouldn't have known its name from looking at it.  Apparently, Picasso was annoyed about it being called the Zapatista by its painter Diego Rivera. Rivera was said to have originally called it something else, something more pastoral, and Picasso probably got annoyed about it becoming a symbol of the Mexican revolutionaries fighting against the status quo.  I think Picasso avoided being political, but probably felt guilty about it. There was a lot of text on the wall of the SMU Meadows Museum of Art that explained Riveria's activities during this time, and to this I added what I know from popular cultural. Rivera would often annoy people with politicalness, I thought  -- remember the Rockefeller plaza mural as we saw it in the Frida movie? He wouldn't take out the portrait of Lenin.
DiegoRiveraDallas.jpgThe show at SMU this summer (running from June 21-September 20, 2009) was of paintings by Rivera from 1913 to 1917 made in Europe. His cubist period.
The first thing I noticed is that Diego is a great draftsman. He can make a simple line tell a lot about form. Cubism has a nice way of allowing a free way to pile up images to describe three-dimentional space, without rigid rules like perspective and things that concerned Renaissance artists. Cubism's free pile up of images worked to Rivera's advantage when he started making murals.
 I find cubism boringly filled with Spanish painters who all look the same: Juan Gris, Georges Braque ( who is French, sorry) and Picasso. But Diego Rivera had a fresh approach, did a lot of portraits, maybe because that was a way to make a living. They were almost academic in the front, side, top bottom view that seemed almost to come from a Cubist Instruction manual and yet were interesting because the guy could really draw a shape and have it mean something.
There was a room of Spanish painting by other artists showing how Rivera was situated in his time period, and a wall with paintings by his teachers in art college. The teacher that Rivera felt most close to was a Fauvist Post Impressionist and between Rivera, this teacher and the other students and teachers of the period is a diversity of work that looks post-modern. A precursor of bit change.
The Zapatista invites a return look. Centered, Mexican, Cubisit and clear, it was hung in the middle of one gallery with another painting on the other side. The other was a painting of a woman at a well. She was recognizable. The Zapatista was not, just his gun. 

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