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Gregorio Luke to talk about controversial murals

July 29, 2011 | 10:00 am

Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads"

The 12th annual "Mural Under the Stars," narrated by Mexican art expert Gregorio Luke, gets underway Sunday at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

This year's series features artists David Alfaro Siqueiros (on July 31), Diego Rivera (Aug. 7) and Jose Clemente Orozco (Aug. 14). The trio are regarded as the founders of the modern school of Mexican mural painting, all having created frescoes on structures and buildings throughout the world and California.

Siqueiros, the most controversial of the muralists, was a member of the Mexican Communist Party, and his art was reflective of a Marxist political ideology. In 1940, he participated in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky.  After his expulsion from Mexico, he spent a brief time in California in 1932. This is when he painted his large-scale "Tropical America" on the exterior of Italian Hall on Olvera Street, which will be reopened to the public in 2012. The mural depicts an Indian peon, representing oppression by U.S. imperialism, crucified on a cross capped by an American eagle.

"America Tropical" David Alfaro Siqueiros

For the series, images of 10 to 15 murals are flashed on an 1,800-square-foot white wall in the museum's parking lot as Luke narrates, providing historical context and biographical background. The former director of the museum got the idea for "Murals Under the Stars" when working in Washington.  A planned Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at Corcoran Galley was canceled because the content was thought to be obscene. Protesters projected the censored images on the side wall of the museum at night.

"This season, we are able to add a new interactive visual component of the lecture," Luke said. "We can zoom in and enlarge important details of the mural. In the Diego Rivera show, I talk about his Rockefeller Center mural, which was destroyed because it contained a portrait of Vladimir Lenin; I can now zero in on that part." 

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-- Liesl Bradner

Murals Under the Stars, 7 p.m., Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, 562-437-1689, www.molaa.org. Tickets: $20 general seating, $30 priority, $10 students and seniors.

Upper image: Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads." Credit: Museum of Latin American Art

Lower image: David Alfaro Siqueiros' "America Tropical." Credit: Museum of Latin American Art

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