Nov 24 Realisms

Hi class, we have two lectures to go before we get together Dec 8 on Zoom for your exhibition presentations. As such, I want to free a bit of time in these last few weeks, as you’ll likely be busy turning to your final exhibition papers. So instead of worksheets for these last two lectures, all you need to do for attendance is post a comment on this website (you should see “Leave a reply” just above this text in this post. If you don’t, it means you’re not logged into your CUNY Academic Commons; if you don’t have an account, make sure to make one with your .cuny.edu address, its fast and easy). A paragraph or two is fine–just something to show that you watched the videos for that week. I hope this helps and enjoy!


12 thoughts on “Nov 24 Realisms

  1. Chelsie K. Napier

    During the Mexican Muralism movement, I found it to be very inspiring that the officials who stood at the head of the government, President Obregon and Jose Vasconcelos, were supporting and promoting the art industry. So many times before, art was put under a fine microscope to be continuously judged and picked apart. During this movement, it was a breath of fresh air to see government officials actually commissioning artists to make pieces to educate the public about Mexican history. I especially loved the usage of looking within past heritage to create art pieces. It was moving to see a movement that so desperately held onto their culture instead of being swayed by society. My favorite piece from this movement was Diego Rivera’s “History of Mexico: From the Conquest to the Future”. What I found most intriguing about this piece was that despite the division of labor and power that was being shown, at the top of the mural, Diego painted Karl Marx pointing into the distance with a sun background. To me, Rivera was trying to tell the audience that despite their struggles throughout history, there is always hope for a better future.

    During the Soviet Realism movement, I was disheartened to hear that a decree by the Central Committee of the Communist Party featured a unified conception of what the art style should look like. I felt that it would hinder the creativity of the artists. This movement seemed to contrast Mexican Muralism completely due to how the government wanted to control what the art could depict. Anything negatively portraying Soviet life was not allowed. The artworks of this movement just seemed to push false narratives that would persuade the audience to be more optimistic about Soviet life.

  2. ManSum Chiu

    In 1910-1920, the Mexican Revolution broke out, but the revolution turned into a civil war. During this period, many Mexican artists began to create large-scale murals in public places, hoping to educate and inspire the people, and continuously instill in them the awareness of nationalism and socialism. This movement is called the Mexican Mural Movement. In Diego Rivera’s History of Mexico: From the Conquest to the Future shows convey social and political messages to everyone through murals. Most of the murals are painted in public places in Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city. Most of the murals express national pride and express the indigenous Mexican cultural traditions in different ways.

    The Socialist realism is the main form of Soviet recognized art since it was developed in the early 1920s. However, as the reality of socialist rule began to suffer in the Soviet Union, many artists were forced to show positive and propaganda images of political leaders, cultural icons, and the daily conditions of the new Soviet Republic. Isaac Brodsky’s Lenin in the Smolny Palace is one of the most iconic works of socialist realist art. All the scene details are designed to contrast sharply with the over-richness of Tsarist Russia, from the dust cloth dropped from the temporary office chairs to Lenin’s plain attire and calm and concentrated expression. The polished wood rendering of the furniture, the fabric’s texture, and the gleaming floor show Brodsky’s technical talent.

  3. Lanhua Weng

    The Mexican Mural Movement inspired many American artists in the early 20th Centuries. The reformists came into power favoring communists and art cultures after overthrown the Diaz dictatorship. This new set of politicians believes that visual culture can influence society and allow people to participate in the pre-colonial culture that everyone shares. To inherent Mexican heritage through monumental arts, monumental murals were studied such as Raphael’s School of Athens. The fusion of western-style painting with Mexican heritage depicted incredible Mexican lives through murals. The manifesto that aims to ‘create monumental and heroic art, a human and public art, with the direct and living example of our great masters and extraordinary cultures of pre-Hispanic America’ is very similar to the Soviet constructivist’s idea but specific to Mexican heritage. Art became no longer an individual’s expression but rather part of the education of the public. Through the murals, artists expressed their anti-bourgeois and anti-fascist ideas to influence the people.

    Soviet realism on the other hand also believes the art culture can influence the public but abuse the power of artistic representation through the state power. The form of art that can be allowed at the time must follow the four points from the states. The protocol requires the artists to make realistic arts that must contain class consciousness, portrait figures that were heroic to its society, and showcase the society was in good shape under the leadership of those heroic figures which was not the truth. People were under uncertainty and underwent famine. The paintings were in realistic styles depicting people and living environment, but the contexts were often illusions to the public to show life they might be able to live in if they follow the states. It is frightening that arts were abused to cover the problems and issues of the true condition of society.

  4. Huiling Jiang

    In 1914, the bourgeois democratic revolution broke out in Mexico. Under the impetus of the revolutionary movement, a group of painters set off the mural movement in the early 1920s in order to arouse the people and build national art. People create the mural on the wall of the many public buildings, and mural material also is very broad, artists from different angles, with bright colors reflect the Mexican people life, culture and glorious history of revolutionary struggle, and all kinds of myths and legends, the customs of the indians, singing and dancing, science fiction, etc.

    The Soviet Realism movement is a basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism, requires artists to describe reality in a real and historical way from the revolutionary development of reality. At the same time, the authenticity and historical specificity of artistic description must be combined with the task of using the socialist spirit to ideologically transform and educate the working people.

  5. Faith Garcia

    Similar to the October Revolution, this movement valued culture and art, following the Mexican Revolution. Known as the father of this Mexican Mural Movement, José Vasconcelos encouraged murals to visually promote art that publicly educated individuals of the pre-colonial tradition. Unlike the October Revolution, artists took inspiration from history of Mexican heritage and was stylistically influenced by European avant-garde and Italian renaissance art. I found it interesting how during this movement, artists strived to educate and express for all, rather than solely an individual. Portrait of the Bourgeoisie painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros is a prime example of Mexican Muralism. Through this public form of art, he not only denounces the bourgeois, but he also publicly showcases his interpretation under the bourgeois as an unlivable world. Through murals, this movements redefined art in a manner that made it public to educate society of the origins of Mexico.

    While, the Muralist Movement took place in Mexico, comparably, the soviet Realist Movement took place in Germany. They went from experimental avant-garde works back to conservative traditional works that were state imposed. Under the authoritarian rule of Stalin, artists were pressurized to create realist works that displayed society under a good leadership, although it was far from the truth. Instead, they had to portray detailed paintings that falsely showed heroic political figures. Unlike the Russian avant-gardes that made works that were formalist, soviet realism represented a narrative. Lunchbreak in the Donbass painted in 1926 by Aleksandr Deineka is a work that clearly demonstrates soviet realism. This group of men appear to be happy and carefree as they enter a body of water, as if they are taking a break. However, this portrayal was highly improbable as the country was known to be rural and impoverished, as many experienced famine and death. Soviet realism brought painting back to tradition easel paintings, as artists were forced depict society in a positive manner under Stalin’s rule.

  6. Wildlord

    Once Mexico became post-colonial it started to become more towards the military and business class in continuation of economic ties within the foreign powers and international capital of former colonialist countries. Artists such as José Clemente Orozco had paintings that were often mostly a realist. Creating a narrative within the paintings through the universal conception of humanity. Soviet realism often had the return to order through being state-imposed within humanity. Realism became a form of painting in Russia. For many artists, it became risky to do any type of work besides realism or naturalism painting.

  7. Carlos Mosquera

    Good Day Professor,

    I was intrigued by this lesson since I was not aware of the Mexican Muralism movement. But what I was interested in was in the government’s support and actual support of the art movement to educate and bring some knowledge to any possible viewers. I think this could be called nationalism where the government is somewhat; using this sort of pride into their people.On the other hand, socialist realism was also related to this idea of a government trying to push their ideas and messages to their people, but in this case, it was more like propaganda showing the positive aspects of their country and government.

  8. Samantha Sweeney

    The Mexican Mural Movement and Soviet Realism completely contrast each other. The Mexican government supported artists and allowed them the rights to express their thoughts through art. The Soviet Realism was more so propaganda because art protesting the soviet government were not allowed. The Mexican Murals also embrased their own heritage in their art, celebrating it as well as pushing for new ideas. The marriage between Mexican heritage and new ideas is a beautiful dichotomy of past and future. The Soviet Realism was focused more on formalism to push the ideals of a soviet future.

  9. Mingyan Zheng

    The Mexican mural movement originated from the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which evolved into a civil war and continued into the 1920s. The new regime encourages artists to create Latin American styles instead of copying European works of art, and use fresh and hot Latin American art to awaken people’s national pride and self-confidence. The Mexican artists in the 1920s organically combined the colorful Indian art, the various artistic expressions of European genres, and the spirit of patriotism. They painted large-scale murals in public places in the city, liberating the function of the paintings from decorations, forming public art, enlightening people’s wisdom, and promoting patriotism. This Latin American passion and creative vitality made the Mexican mural movement the first international Latin American art activities of concern.

    At that time in the Soviet Union, artists had to serve the proletariat, and their works had to be realistic, optimistic, and heroic. Therefore, Soviet socialist realism used to be the primary method of artistic creation in the Soviet era. It requires artists to describe reality honestly and historically from the actual revolutionary development. The main task is to transform socialism by vividly presenting facts, the relationship between characters and people in the labor process. Under the guidance of this creative method, the Soviets created many cultural and artistic works in the fields of literature, painting, sculpture, film, drama, and music. However, the socialist realist creative method also became an official ideological tool during the Soviet period and imposed on people’s consciousness. These works seem to be empty political propaganda but they do not seem to be. And they are depicting the exemplary lives of ordinary workers and peasants. Art becomes a tool of education, letting the people know that this is the best system, and letting them know how they should behave; thus creating what Lenin said A new kind of human beings “The New Soviets”. Works in this style often depict an “idealized” reality. When could not conceal the disastrous truth of the collectivization of agriculture, the Soviet government told the people that would reward sacrifices made now in the beautiful world of socialism in the future. In this way, socialist-realism is not realistic but is full of forced optimism.

  10. Daphne Wu

    In my opinion, what happened with Mexican Muralism movement and the Soviet Realism movement completely mirror eachother. With the Mexican Muralism movement, it was really inspiring to hear about Mexican artists creating large murals in public spaces. This was a great was to reach a large audience and educate them in the middle of their everyday lives. Besides being a mural, I especially love David Alfaro Siqueiros’ Portrait of the Bourgeoisie and how it really invites the viewer with the railing and has the scene just engulf the viewer as if their living in this exact moment. The freedom this movement had really contrasted with Soviet Realism. For the Soviet Realism movement, its artists were more constricted with what that can do. They were controlled by the government and they portrayal of life was censored if it was uncooperative with the government’s ideals.

  11. Jean Lafon

    From the Mexican Muralism, I appreciate how in their manifesto they state that they disagree with easel painting. Although I do not agree with them, it is such a bold statement to claim and definitely an impactful “rule” for their movement. The idea of this was to provoke communal works and thought in art and remove artistic power from the individual which was aided by the government’s support. History of Mexico: From the Conquest to the Future, 1929-35 by Diego Rivera is of enormous scale. I appreciate the way in which the mural is subdivided. Although it is quite busy, it successfully separates different parts of history in a comprehensive manner. On the other hand, the government didn’t fully support Soviet Realism artists to produce work of their own ideas. They had set guidelines that had to follow government ideas. Lenin in the Smolny Palace, 1930 by Isaac Brodsky is an amazing work of art. Within the painting, I appreciate the texture and detail of the fabric on the chairs. This work is a tipichnost which displays the subject in their everyday life and praises Lenin for his thought and influence on Soviet society.


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