Rivera show ends Sunday

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— Almost 1,200 people have walked through the doors of the Depot Art Center since the exhibit of Diego Rivera sketches opened Sept. 16.

Attendance has been more than double what other exhibits at the Depot have generated, said Steamboat Springs Arts Council Artistic Director Beth Banning.

The exhibit of 42 sketches by Rivera, titled "Brilliance Before the Brush," will be taken down Sunday after the gallery closes at 4 p.m.

The exhibit originally was to be displayed in Centennial Hall as part of the Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival. Just days before the exhibit was to open, the show was moved to the main gallery at the Depot.

The museum-quality exhibit came with a strict set of guidelines, including increased security. Windows had to be covered to block light, and volunteers had to sit in the gallery during business hours.

"I was really impressed with all the people who stepped forward to make this exhibit happen," said Steamboat Springs Arts Council Assistant Director Jen Jones.

The pieces on display are simple line drawings of people Rivera met in the Tehuantepec region of southern Mexico. The faces and visual vocabulary he drew in his sketchbook appeared again and again in his murals and came to mark his signature style.

Rivera grew up in Mexico and attended art school at the Academy of San Carlos. He left for Europe in 1907 at age 20 to study under Picasso, among others. When he returned to Mexico 14 years later, the Mexi--can Ministry of Education hired him to paint a mural titled "Creation."

As Rivera's mural took shape, Minister of Education Jose Vas--concelos was disappointed with the stiff European allegories Rivera was using. When Riv--era was almost done with the piece, Vasconcelos sent him to Tehuantepec to "de-Euro--peanize" his art.

The changes in the third panel of "Creation," painted after his return, are striking and foreshadow his future style.

"Creation" was completed in 1923, providing an estimated date range of 1921 to 1923 for the sketches that have been on display at the Depot.

When the exhibit opened in Steamboat, curator R.C. Dieckhoff saw it as a turning point for the local art community.

In the last days of the show, he still sees the potential.

"I think (this show) is an indicator of what we can do," Dieckhoff said. "It opens the door to any opportunity for art. There's not a level that's too high."

Dieckhoff has discussed the possibility of bringing in a show of work by Frida Kahlo during a future Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival, but he sees the gap between a show of sketches that cost the city $3,000 to exhibit and a show of well-known paintings.

"We were lucky with the (Rivera show). It was on its way out of the country. It was small, and its dollar value was low enough that we could acquire it," Dieckhoff said. "The requirements of a higher-end show will be more stringent. We just don't have the venue for that right now."

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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