Modernism, figurative art
Media Oils, murals,
Artistic Focus Clifford
Wight “came, created and departed without biographical traces.”
He was born in England around 1900 and in 1922 began working in Mexico
as a mural assistant to Diego Rivera.
• Wight accompanied Rivera to the United States
and assisted the artist with mural work in Detroit Michigan, at the San
Francisco Art Institute, and at Rockefeller Center in New York. The famous
Rockefeller fresco was destroyed in 1933 because it contained a portrait
• A similar controversy attached itself to the frescoes painted
by Wight as part of the Coit Tower works sponsored by the Public Works
of Art Project in 1934. Wight’s creations, iconic figures of a farmer,
a cowboy, a surveyor and a steelworker, were deemed acceptable by the
San Francisco Art Commission. Nonetheless, the detail connecting two of
the figures, a segment of chain with the words “In God We Trust,”
the Blue Eagle symbol of the NRA, and a hammer and sickle with the words
“United Workers of the World,” created so much concern that
its presence helped delay the Tower’s opening through the summer
of 1934. Some thought the artist was “inviting the average citizen
to make a choice among the three.” Only after the potentially offensive
symbols were whitewashed did Coit Tower finally open.
• Wight expressed offense at the censoring of his work, claiming
that the elements were merely symbols of alternative systems and not propaganda.
Additional biographical material and full bibliographic
references are available upon request.
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