Theme/Style – California Modernism, figurative art
Media – Oils, murals, sculpture
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.
Career Highlights –
- 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 of Lenin.
- 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.
Bibliographic references are available upon request.