The Power of Art

Tanya. Portrait By Phone, from Volodymyr Kuznetsov’s personal diary, 2011

New York — Ukraine — Los Angeles

Art lovers who know their history, particularly the history of the marginalized, will recall that moment in time when Nelson Rockefeller censored Diego Rivera. The artist had been commissioned to do a mural at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Rivera inserted a figure of Lenin into the work and Rockefeller insisted he remove it. The artist objected and the 63-foot long mural was demolished. That’s the 1930s for you. But this week, came news from Europe that Volodymyr Kuznetsov’s, “Koliivschina: Judgment Day” mural, commissioned by the Kiev Museum, Ukraine, was destroyed by its director. Why? Because the work depicts priests, judges and other figures burning in a vat of fiery red liquid. (Sounds like an updated version of Dante’s Inferno to me!). Oh, that’s Eastern Europe for you.

But wait! Remember that guy in Los Angeles, the museum director who destroyed the work that he commissioned Blu to do? In defense of his position, Jeffrey Deitchthe of MOCA, Los Angeles, said that Blu’s antiwar mural, located where it was, was insensitive to the neighborhood that includes a Veterans’ Affairs building and a memorial to Japanese American soldiers. Well, that is what happens when you commission artists to do works. You either tell them what they can or cannot paint or you take what you get! The great Bard of English literature, William Shakespeare, understood this concept very well.

Detail of offending Diego Rivera mural, recreated in Mexico by the artist. © Ramalama_22
‘Koliyivshchyna: Judgment Day’. © Volodymyr Kuznetsov
Blu’s anti-war mural. © Casey Caplowe

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Art

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    1. Yes and yes on both views. If I was Blu, I would have done a single coffin draped in the U.S. flag. I will never forget a picture that I saw early on in the Iraq war. Regular passengers inside a plane just landed on U.S. soil. They are looking out on the tarmac. There is a coffin down below. It’s draped in the American flag and there are soldiers surrounding it. The image stays with me even now. Some poor bastard dead in a coffin surrounded by his comrades in arms and the President sitting pretty in the White House starting s**t and saying things like, “Mission accomplished.”

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