In the years following Nicaragua's 1979 Sandinista Revolution, more than three hundred murals were created by Nicaraguan and international artist brigades. David Kunzle was profoundly moved by the aesthetic and political power of these murals, and when he saw that they were being destroyed after the Sandinistas were voted out in 1990, he resolved to document them. This visually exciting, emotionally compelling book is the result of his efforts. Today many of Nicaragua's murals have been obliterated, and Kunzle's book may be the only record of these works. Approximately eighty percent of the murals are reproduced here, many with extensive commentary. Artistic styles from the primitivist to the highly sophisticated are represented, showing themes of literacy, health, family, and always the Revolution. Kunzle outlines the historical conditions in Nicaragua—including U.S. interference—that gave rise to the Revolution and to the murals. He chronicles the politically vindictive destruction of many of the best murals and the rise and fall of Managua's Mural School. Kunzle also refers to other Nicaraguan public media such as billboards and graffiti, the great mural precedent in Mexico, and the more recent attempts at socialist art in Cuba and Chile. Nicaraguan murals became blackboards of the people, a forum for self-image, self-education, and popular autobiography. Kunzle pleads for the restoration of the surviving murals and for the revival of the mural movement, for it is, he says, "art that belongs to and benefits us all."
The use of large public wall murals was an important component of the Sandinista drive to change Nicaraguan society during the conflict torn years of the 1980s. Inspired by the powerful and artistically superior work of the Mexican muralists of the first half of the century, the Nicaraguan murals present a trite array of muscular peasants, workers, and martyrs familiar from a host of Americn post office walls and Soviet posters. As the political climate of Nicaragua changes following the elections which toppled the Sandinistas many of the murals are being effaced. If the shrill and partisan text can be ignored, the catalog of photographs presents our only record of the foreign and native agitprop which colored a turbulent era in Nicaragua. For academic collections with an interest in political art.David McClelland, Temple Univ. Lib., Philadelphia
In the wake of a systematic campaign by revanchist Somocistas (abetted by the US) for the destruction of the remarkable murals associated with the Sandinista revolution, this welcome volume goes beyond merely documenting lost and extant murals to plead for the preservation and restoration of the survivors, for the revival of the mural movement, and for the international community to denounce the destruction of the past and prevent destruction in the future. The extensive (83-page) introduction is followed by a catalogue which provides a detailed, illustrated listing of all accessible murals of sufficient size and quality. Includes 100 color plates. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
David Kunzle is Professor of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of The Early Comic Strip: Picture Stories and Narrative Strips in the European Broadsheet (California, 1973) and The Nineteenth Century Comic Strip (California, 1989).