Early in the Depression, Diego Rivera was commissioned by Edsel Ford to create a series of murals in the gallery of the Detroit Institute of Arts, giant frescos whose theme would be America's industrial might. This volume studies the astonishing results and gives us a remarkably close look at Diego and his wife, Frida Kahlo. Rivera's Detroit Industry murals are one of this country's greatest treasures. In addition to providing full coverage and analysis of the murals, the book includes chapters on the murals' planning and antecedents, Rivera's working methods (which can be read as a primer on frescos), Diego and Frida's lives for their nine months in Detroit, and the public's dramatic response to the strong socialist/communist themes in the works.
"Rivera reached a level of understanding about himself, his work, and the world that is reflected in the Detroit murals and that does not appear in any of his work before or after. . . In its Pan-American perspective, thematic richness, complexity of design, boldness of presentation, and vibrance of color, the Detroit mural cycle has no peer in the history of modern art. _Detroit Industry_ remains today a historical record of a fictive past, a utopian vision of the industrial culture of Detroit played out on a cosmic scale, an inspiration to the entrepreneur and social reformer alike, and a monumental modern work of art to be contemplated, studied, and enjoyed."
I was down in Detroit a few months ago, and had the ability to visit the DIA in ideal conditions, when they were limiting the number of admittances (due to COVID-19), yet most of the galleries - and the Rivera courtyard - were open. I haven't seen the DIA ever look better - and I was able to spend a good half hour contemplating the _Detroit Industry_ murals without the pressure of crowds (and school groups, hahaha). I left convinced more than ever that it really is a great work of art, and Detroit is incredibly fortunate that the circumstances of its creation worked out the way they did. Linda Bank Downs does a fine job of showing how everything had to come together "just right" in order for the mural sequence to be such an ideal representation of its creator, its patrons, and its city.