Is Diego Rivera Google Doodle a Nod to the 99%?

Diego Rivera Google Doodle

Today’s Google Logo honors the 125th birthday of Mexican painter Diego Rivera. It’s an interesting choice for a worldwide Google Doodle because other doodle’s honoring cultural icons of Mexico have not necessarily been worldwide – despite the fact that, arguably, they have had a more recognisable global impact. Rivera is famous for courting both controversy and Frida Kahlo; and also for concealing his politics in displays of public art.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York is currently running an exhibition of Rivera’s work, of which the most recognisable is the Agrarian Leader Zapata, but he is also known for two controversial works commissioned in the USA following the Great Depression of 1932; for Henry Ford in Detroit and also for the Rockefellers in New York.

According to PBS, the mural he designed for Henry Ford “depicted industrial life in the United States, concentrating on the car plant workers of Detroit,” and whilst the piece drew criticism for expressing socialist sympathies, it was defended by Ford’s son and remains on show today. However, the latter mural intended for the RCA building in Rockefeller Center was destroyed for depicting a May Day march of workers bearing red flags and led by Lenin. Whilst clearly Rivera held no sanctity for his wealthy commissioners, the article concludes that Rivera’s “original painting style and the force of his ideas remain major influences on American painting.”

However, compare other Mexican cultural icons impact on the world and one might argue that the inventor of the color TV, Guillermo González Camarena, has had more of an obvious and immediate impact on American culture than Rivera. Yet Camarena was only honored by a Google Doodle in his home country. Naturally this raises some questions. Why wasn’t he picked for global recognition? Why Rivera? Why now?

Rivera’s medium to convey his politics was public art. Murals by their nature are solid, stable and immovable, unless the brick canvas itself is torn down. By comparison, Google Doodle’s are the butterfly equivalent to public art; here for a day, for all the world to see and then gone the next. There is something interminably curious about Google’s choice in who and what to celebrate via a Doodle, and often the winning picks go against the grain of what one might expect from a huge corporation. There is plenty of hidden depths and artistic allusions in previous Doodles and today’s is no different, as detailed in this excellent critique from the Washington Post.

So with that in mind and Google’s “hippy” past (the first ever Google Doodle was essentially an ‘out of office’ notification to say that the founders had gone to Burning Man), I have to wonder if today’s Doodle for Rivera displays some sympathy with the man’s cause, and veils a message of solidarity with the 99% who are subject to, and protesting, the machinations of the current world economic climate.

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