Rivera's First Fresco

Glowing with gold leaf and silver inlay, the exclusive City Club of San Francisco (formerly the Pacific Stock Exchange Club) boasts one of California's greatest surviving Art Deco interiors. But the club's most striking feature is Diego Rivera's first U.S. fresco — the tremendous Alegoria de California. Known as a revolutionary with communist leanings, Rivera was a peculiar choice for this bastion of capitalist exceptionalism, but he did not disappoint. To his patrons, Alegoria clearly represented the ingenuity and fortitude of mankind. To us, there are hints of foreboding. Calafia, the Spirit of California, tears open the earth with one hand, revealing miners toiling in the dark; oil rigs, dredging machines, and a jumble of cargo ships stretch into the distance; carpenter James Marshall, whose discovery launched the California Gold Rush, sits with his hand on the stump of a great redwood tree; a gauge inches towards red. The City Club is not open to the public; Alegoria may be viewed once a month by 25 guests of the volunteer-led San Francisco City Guides.

Mon., May 19, 3 p.m., 2014

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