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Art Through Time: A Global View

The Urban Experience Compare: What Makes a Mural Relevant to Its Audience?

The Working Class (detail)

The Working Class (detail)
Artist / Origin: José Clemente Orozco (Mexican, 1883–1949)
Region: Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Caribbean
Date: 1926
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Fresco
Medium: Painting
Location: Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City, Mexico
Credit: © ARS, NY/ SOMAAP, Mexico City. Courtesy of Schalkwijk/Art Resource, NY

Tribute to Jackie Robinson

Tribute to Jackie Robinson
Artist / Origin: David McShane (American, b. ca. 1970)
Region: North America
Date: 1997
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Mural
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 30 ft. (9.1 m.); W: 24 ft. (7.3 m.)
Location: 2803 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA
Credit: © 1997 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / David McShane Photo ©

What makes a mural relevant to its audience?

Murals are grand-scale paintings moved off of canvases, panels, and paper and onto walls. These circumstances make them an ideal form of not just decoration, but communication as well. As these two works attest, murals can convey powerful messages that are both socially and politically relevant to their urban audiences.

Questions to Consider

  • Each of these murals is what we might call “site-specific,” that is, it was created for a particular building in a particular place. Why should we think about the physical environments for these works? What do they tell us about the intended audience for each mural?
  • What are the subjects of these two murals? Why do you think these particular themes were chosen? What makes them relevant to the urban audience?
  • Who commissioned each of these murals? How does the identity of the person, group, or organization behind the work’s creation affect your understanding of the mural’s intended meaning and purpose?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2