by Robert Morrison
December 8, 2011
Google famously tells the world: Don’t Be Evil. Good idea. There’s a lot of evil going around. Yesterday, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunnis decided to take their dispute with Shi’ites to a higher court when one of these votaries of the religion of peace entered a Shi’ite mosque and blew himself up, killing dozens of others. Evil. Pretty clearcut. But then there’s today’s Google logo. It’s a tribute to the 125th anniversary of Diego Rivera’s birth.
Check it out. I have a terrible confession. I like it. The guy’s art is appealing. His murals of Mexican peasants and industrial workers touch me. I love his bold, bright colors. My hero Winston Churchill said he planned to spend his first thousand years in heaven assaulting canvasses with nothing but the loudest, brashest of colors. So what’s the row about good old Diego? Well, the big Mexican folk artist (big in reputation, and 300 pounds big) was a big Communist. The Rockefellers kind of balked at his May Day mural featuring good old Vladimir Lenin leading the happy peasants and workers through Red Square. Lenin, it should be remembered, whose Communist Party card was Number One, refused to let his mistress play Beethoven piano sonatas for him; he didn’t want them to soften him. Lenin enjoyed, really got a rush out of picking up a telephone in his Kremlin office and ordering a thousand people shot in Vladivostok, 9,000 miles away from Moscow. Okay, so I can’t help liking Rivera’s art, minus Lenin. But here’s a link I felt honor-bound to consult. I doubt you’re going to see Nikolai Getman on the “Don’t Be Evil” corporate logo anytime soon. He’s unknown outside conservative circles. But I hope we will all check out his Gulag Collection. He doesn’t have as many bright colors as Diego Rivera.
Slave labor camps tend to be a bit monochrome. Look at Getman’s haunting paintings of zeks being shot, or forced to work in uranium mines, or even being staked out, Christ-like, on a tree to be attacked by swarms of Siberian mosquitos. So, feeling guilty about Diego Rivera reminded me to check out Nikolai Getman once again. Our heroes will never be the most popular. Their work will never be seen in Rockefeller Center. They will not be offered in exhibits in the National Gallery of Art. Their birthdays will not be celebrated by Google. But here’s a consolation. If you study Nikolai Getman’s Gulag Collection, you’ll have a leg up on not being evil.