This year marks the centenary of the birth of Frida Kahlo and the 70th anniversary of Diego Rivera’s death. So the Florida Museums Highlight two influential artists in multiple exhibitions. Diego Rivera: Eternal Fusion, at the Casa Azul in Casa Mañana, the infamous camp of Corazón Moreno in Havana, Cuba (until 28 March), a sprawling semi-detached house-cum-art museum, is surely the most comprehensive display of Rivera’s work anywhere in the world. Where else can you see 60 works (cabinets, furniture, paintings, a grand piano, an amplifying box, a saddle) dating from 1901-67 alongside nine newly acquired prints and 12 works from his childhood?
Intricate … Rivera’s Lamada (detail)
In Los Angeles, visitors to the Caravaggio: The Life and Work of Caravaggio at the California African American Museum (LA AAM) can see five major reassembling of works from an internationally celebrated series: The American African Man and Woman, from 2004-12, and The Paintings and Paintings as Objects, from 2013-14. The 1929 painting Song The Scribe Holds Up the Palmyra, and a selection of murals, were only found in 2012 after being auctioned by a private collection, and have taken five years to rebuild. The four other paintings were found in catalogues in England and France.
Also at LA AAM, State of Migration: The Decade Latino Americans Left California, 1961-68, with 20 works, from then 14 artists, illustrates the period when a movement grew in support of civil rights and immigration reform. The shift from the American West to the political and cultural centre of the country was vividly illustrated by murals, such as David Ramirez and Bruce Lee (1961), five images from the murals for the home of Mayor Sam Yorty and depicting King George V and his royal bodyguards, and other political scenes by the Los Angeles City Council, reminding Californians of their right to express political opinions and religion.
Rodrigo de Paredes’s The Atocha Catcher, Ulloa, Spain, 2009. Photograph: Alfredo Díaz-Valdivia
While the arts have responded to social issues since artists created in the 19th century, these two exhibitions seek to put the power behind the movement into the prism of the 20th.
The artists’ example and their work are still essential tools to explore historical significance, political debates and social change.
State of Migrants: The Decade Latino Americans Left California, 1961-68, at LA AAM Photograph: California African American Museum
Linda Eckhardt is curator of exhibitions at State of Migrants: The Decade Latino Americans Left California at LA AAM