Nikolas Drosos: Mexican Muralism in the Soviet Union and its Satellites

This research project traces the often-ignored history reception and engagement of Mexican muralists in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites from the 1920s to the 1960s. It integrates well-known episodes, such as Rivera’s activities in Moscow from 1927-28 and Siqueiros’ “open letter” delivered to Soviet artists in 1955, with lesser-known ones, such as the failed mural commission that Siqueiros received in the People’s Republic of Poland in 1950, or the works produced by Rivera following his visit to Eastern Europe in the 1950s, which reflected on both the status of contemporary realism and the artist’s own prewar experiences in the first workers’ state. In doing so, it elucidates a long history of trans-continental artistic exchanges that evaded the established centers of Paris and New York, in favor of an alternative axis between the capitals of the foremost revolutionary states of the twentieth century: Mexico and the USSR. Despite its associations with permanence and immobility, muralism was central to these exchanges, as it was seen a paradigmatically revolutionary art form, capable of radically transforming public space and educating the masses. At the same time, this project also seeks to uncover a series of deeper conflicts and misunderstandings that unfolded underneath the surface of the purported alliance between revolutionary artists across continents and political contexts.

Nikolas Drosos is a postdoctoral fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. He specializes in Modern Art, with an emphasis on Eastern European Art in its global context. He holds a PhD from the City University of New York and a MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. His current book project is provisionally entitled Reforms: Art, Architecture and Socialism in Eastern Europe, 1953-1958, and examines the relationship between artistic and political reform in the wake of Stalinism in the USSR, Poland, and Yugoslavia. Drosos’ other interests include the historiographies of art from outside of Western Europe and North America, and the trans-regional artistic networks constructed around politically-engaged realism during the early Cold War. He has been the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and a post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. Originally from Greece, He currently resides in Los Angeles.


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