Frozen Assets

by Diego Rivera (1931)

The panel’s upper register features a dramatic sequence of largely recognizable skyscrapers, most completed within a few years of Rivera’s arrival in New York. In the middle section, a steel-and-glass shed serves as a shelter for rows of sleeping men, pointing to the dispossessed labor that made such extraordinary growth possible during a period of economic turmoil. Below, a bank’s waiting room accommodates a guard, a clerk, and a trio of figures eager to inspect their mounting assets in the vault beyond. Rivera’s jarring vision of the city – in which the masses trudge to work, the homeless are warehoused, and the wealthy squirrel away their money – struck a chord in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression.

Proverbs 22:16-23

16   Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself,
and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.

17     The words of the wise:

Incline your ear and hear my words,
and apply your mind to my teaching;
18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
19 So that your trust may be in the Lord,
I have made them known to you today—yes, to you.
20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings
of admonition and knowledge,
21 to show you what is right and true,
so that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?

22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate;
23 for the Lord pleads their cause
and despoils of life those who despoil them.

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