September 3, 2013 - Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) - The Past is Present
September 3, 2013

The Past is Present

William E. Jones, The Battle of the Overpass, 1937, 2013. Mural painted by Lisa Poszywak. Image courtesy the artist and MOCAD.

The Past is Present
September 6, 2013–January 5, 2014

Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit 
4454 Woodward Ave, Detroit MI, 48201 

T 313 832 6622 
F 313 832 4665

Inspired by Diego Rivera’s iconic Detroit Industry murals (1932–33) for the Detroit Institute of Art, MOCAD’s guest curator and Deputy Director of Exhibitions at the Jewish Museum Jens Hoffmann invited a group of international artists to conceive new murals based on the history of Detroit. Eighty years after the completion of Rivera’s monumental work, The Past Is Present commemorates Detroit’s journey while concurrently referencing the Detroit Historical Society’s motto. Made by artists from around the world whose works are rooted in explorations of history, political conflict, and social change, these works allow an opportunity to begin where Rivera left off, examining the history of the city from contemporary points of view.

Each artist has created a contemporary work in response to the city’s struggles and successes post-1933, touching on broader themes that are relevant across the nation. Topics include the many industries, ideals, and events that have propelled America forward—from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s pivotal yet under-recognized speech in Grosse Pointe, Michigan in 1968; to the development of labor unions, urban farming, and the birth of Motown; to the creation of central symbols of the American dream including sports stadiums and the automobile. The murals reference innovative urban responses to enormous losses in population and exalt the fortitude of the city and its people. 

While Rivera may be remembered as often for large-scale controversies as he is for his large-scale frescoes, the impact of his works—their ability to capture history, energize resistance, and celebrate change—cannot be denied. It is in this spirit that this exhibition is based. Providing a looking glass into the past, the murals presented in The Past is Present allow for a reflection of what Detroit was, what it is, and what it may become. 

The Past is Present is curated by Jens Hoffmann, MOCAD’s guest curator, and coordinated by MOCAD exhibitions department Zeb Smith, Jonathan Rajewski, and Liz Glass. 

Murals conceived by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Julieta Aranda, Andrea Bowers, Carolina Caycedo, Nicolás Consuegra, Harrell Fletcher and Katherine Ball, Claire Fontaine, Maryam Jafri, William E. Jones, Daniel Martinez, Pedro Reyes, Martha Rosler, Slanguage, and Hank Willis Thomas. 

Murals painted by Detroit artists Jon Anthony, Michael Burdick, Daniel DeMaggio, Edward John Charles Foster, Nick Jaskey, Jesse Kassel, Sunshine Lee, Sylvia Molina, Chris Morris, James Noellert, Lisa Poszywak, Tylonn J. Sawyer, Lindy Marie Shewbridge, Vaughn Taormina, Adam Thibodeau, and Vince Troia.

Exhibition programming support is generously provided by The Taubman Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts. Additional funding for programming and educational initiatives is provided by Edith S. Briskin/Shirley K. Schlafer Foundation.

September 6, 2013 (ongoing)

Vdrome is an online platform organized by Edoardo Bonaspetti, Jens Hoffmann, Andrea Lissoni, and Filipa Ramos, exhibiting an ongoing schedule of rotating film and video screenings directed by visual artists and filmmakers whose production lies in-between contemporary art and cinema. 

MOCAD will be the first institution to bring the Vdrome film program to its visitors by screening the films on a live feed directly from the Vdrome website, reconsidering the way artists’ films are distributed.

For more information about MOCAD and its upcoming programs, please visit

The mission of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is to present art at the forefront of contemporary culture. As a non-collecting institution, MOCAD is responsive to the cultural content of our time, fueling crucial dialogue, collaboration, and public engagement.


The Past is Present at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)
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