Friday, July 8, 2011

Diego & Frida in San Francisco

I walked past The Canessa Building this afternoon on my way home. It's the place Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo stayed while in San Francisco in the 1930s.
The Canessa Building, Montgomery & Columbus SF
T
he building at Montgomery Street where it meets Columbus & Washington was ideally located for the couple as it was across the street from the "Monkey Block," the hulking artist enclave on the spot the Transamerica Pyramid now occupies. Most of the artists, writers, and bohemian denizens of the Post-Quake period in San Francisco had some association with the Monkey Block. It was a major center of the city's artistic and cultural life for many decades. Both Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson had brief residencies there. It's name came from both its location on Montgomery and the expected Monkey Business known to go on there.

Diego Rivera by Dean Volker by deanv41

The Canessa reminded me of a drawing I did up at Coit Tower a few years ago of the Rivera-inspired murals. The scene I focused on happened to capture a figure that looks suspiciously like the Master Muralist himself -- the big man in the center. It also captures a bit of the raucous downtown energy of a city at once in the depths of a Great Depression and fostering the next guard of New Americans on the very edge of a continent. They fought poverty with brushes and then, later, fascism with arms and ammo.

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