Thursday, September 15, 2005
Exhibiting work from a turning point in art history could mark a turning point for the art community in Steamboat Springs.
Tonight, the walls of the Depot Art Center will display 42 sketches by Diego Rivera, one of Mexico's best-known artists.
The pieces on display are simple line drawings of people Rivera met during the 1920s in the Tehuantepec region of Southern Mexico. The faces and visual vocabulary he drew in his sketchbook would appear again and again in his murals and would 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 Mexican Ministry of Education hired him to paint a mural titled "Creation."
As Rivera's mural took shape, Minister of Education Jose Vasconcelos was disappointed with the stiff European allegories Rivera was using. When Rivera was almost done the piece, Vasconcelos sent him to Tehuantepec to "de-Europeanize" 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 will be will on display this weekend at the Depot.
The Rivera exhibit is part of the larger Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival's celebration of Mexican Independence Day.
The opening reception for the Diego Rivera show will be held at the same time as the 10th Street festival, which will feature mariachi music, food and a Mexican Independence Day "Grito" re-enactment led by Mexican Consul General Juan Marcos Gutierrez GonzÃ¡lez.
Art teachers also are using the Rivera exhibit as an educational opportunity. Since Tuesday, 200 students have made chalk interpretations of Rivera's sketches on the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue from Fourth Street to the Depot.
The Rivera exhibit follows in the footsteps of the success of the 2004 Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival exhibit at Centennial Hall. That exhibit featured the work of Mexican sculptor Yvonne Domenge.
After the Domenge show, the Mexican consul offered Steamboat access to an exhibit of work by famed Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Local artist R.C. Dieckhoff went to Denver to view the show. Although many of the mural dimensions were less than 8 feet, one piece spanned 16 feet. After searching Steamboat, Dieckhoff could not find a place large enough to display the exhibit that also would meet the show owner's criteria for light, temperature control and security.
When Dieckhoff turned down the Siqueiros show, the Mexican consul offered the smaller exhibit of Rivera sketches.
"My brain went crazy," Dieckhoff said. "Having this exhibit means everything. In the art world, we are seen as a cow town, but having this show makes a statement that we can host an international exhibit."
The exhibit is on display through Oct. 16. As show curator, Dieckhoff will give tours by appointment, and Steamboat Springs Arts Council docents will be trained to explain the exhibit. After the buzz of the exhibit has died down, Dieckhoff will return to addressing the problem that revealed itself when he couldn't find a place for the Siqueiros exhibit.
"This whole process has identified a need in Steamboat for a building that can house exhibits such as this one and beyond," he said. "We need a museum-quality space so we can continue to take advantage of the opportunities that will come out of (showing the Rivera exhibit)."