This work was commissioned by the Museum in 1940 for the landmark exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art. It was painted by Orozco over a period of ten days, often in front of the viewing public.This six-panel fresco (intended to be arranged in any order) depicts abstracted elements of mechanical warfare, including the tail and wings of a bomber, tanktreads, and chains—as well as a pair of upturned human legs. Ironically, though, Orozco insisted it had "no political significance." He stated, "I simply paint the life that is going on at the present—what we are and what the world is at this moment. That is what modern art is."
MoMA Audio: Collection, 2008
Curator, Luis Perez-Oramas: We are looking at a mural painted by the Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco in 1940 entitled Dive Bomber and Tank. It was made during the second World War, and it refers to what was at the time happening in the world.
Here he builds this universal statement against violence. It is the ultimate monstrosity of modernity that is being represented here in the scene of smashing bodies and destruction. We see a central element that looks like a dive bomber plane that has actually crashed. We also see, at the bottom of the mural some faces, attached with chains. And on the right side of the mural, a pair of legs of someone who is obviously a victim of this crash. There is an organic element that resembles a snake. It's an apocalyptic view painted by Orozco at an apocalyptic time.
The Museum organized in 1940 a very big exhibition entitled Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art. And, Orozco was commissioned by the Museum to come to New York and to paint this mural for that exhibition. Orozco painted the mural in the hall of the museum. During ten days of frenzied labor, and helped by assistants, he painted the mural in front of the audience. It was a little bit like what we call today a performance.