Big City Lights: Frida Kahlo Retrospective

May 27, 2010

by Maya

“I paint self portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

Last Saturday my fellow goddesses and I went to the Frida Kahlo Retrospective that is currently being shown in the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum in Berlin.

Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954) was one of the most influential female artists and surrealists of the 20th century.

I have been interested in her work since my teens but have never had the chance to see an exhibition of her paintings. One piece of information that I didn’t have before was the fact that her father was an immigrant from Germany. So somehow it makes sense to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth (she changed her birth year to 1910 to coincide with the year of the Mexican Revolution) with such a comprehensive exhibition in Berlin. Bringing together the over 150 paintings and drawings that are owned by private collectors all around the world was an extremely complicated and tedious process.

The most striking aspect of her work is its utter expressiveness and how unbelievably personal it is. Nearly half of her paintings are self portraits. It is evident that her art is a manifestation of her emotional turmoil and physical pain. Her work is extremely rich, full of metaphors and symbolism. Its complexity makes it so difficult to grasp all the facets at first glance. Kahlo’s art makes you think. Her paintings are not just beautiful decorations. Actually some of them are the complete opposite of beautiful. They are highly disturbing and even painful.

If you are not familiar with Frida this exhibition will give you a great introduction to her art. The chronological display of her life and work helps to recognize her growth as an artist.
I was particularly fascinated by the many private photographs because they make her seem so real.

I can also recommend the movie “Frida” (2002) with Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina who plays her husband and famous muralist Diego Rivera. Of course this Hollywood-esque introduction to Kahlo does not compare to actually seeing her paintings in real life but Salma Hayek’s performance is really impressive. I remember loving this movie.


One comment

  1. Greetings – Wonderful article on Frida, such a wonderful opportunity to see her work close up! I was lucky enough to see a show in San Francisco after studying her life, work, and art in graduate school and became a life-long fan. We also got a chance to see some home movie footage of Frida and Diego along with a room full of photographs that, as you point out, really gives one a sense of knowing her.

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