Just when you think you know everything about Frida Kahlo, five works by the famed artist reveal more about her practice and storied life. Frida Kahlo: Five Works is on view through June 20 on the Atrium Overlook on Level 4 at the Dallas Museum of Art.
The exhibition opened simultaneously with Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico, now on view through Jan. 2, 2022.
The exhibitions, both curated by Dr. Mark Castro, Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art, is part of the museum’s free general admission. Frida Kahlo: Five Works is an intimate exhibition, examining the larger aspects of Kahlo’s artistic practice.
“She is an artist who has gone beyond fame to capture a global audience,” Castro said. “What I love about Kahlo is when you cut through all of that well-deserved hype and all of the amazing stories of her adventurous life and captivating personality, there’s still amazing works of art at the core.”
The exhibition features four paintings and a drawing on loan from a Private Collection, courtesy of the Galeria Arvil in Mexico City and investigates Kahlo’s personal language of metaphorical imagery and her late career exploration of still life painting.
View from New York is a drawing dating from 1932 and captures the vista from Kahlo’s window at the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel during a stay with her husband, Diego Rivera. Most city views focus on the skyscrapers, but Kahlo details her room’s radiator and the curtains.
Diego and Frida is often referred to as a birthday gift for Rivera. Encased in the original shell covered frame, the painting shows their two faces fused together. It is an intimate painting, reflecting a close bond and the need for each other to exist.
Sun and Life reveals Kahlo’s knowledge of art history and spiritually. The painting depicting the cycle of life and death features allusions to Egyptian and Aztec mythology as well as elements of Italian Renaissance painting.
Still Life with Parrot and Flag and Still Life are examples of Kahlo’s still-life painting in the last years of her life. Kahlo painted Still Life as payment for her dentist who repaired a dental bridge that was causing her pain. Portraying Mexican fruits, national symbols, and ancient artifacts, these still life works are a different kind of self-portrait.
Castro collaborated with the museum’s conservation department to use non-invasive imaging techniques to look below the surface of three of Kahlo’s works, offering insights into how she painted. Blue labels throughout the exhibition describe what was discovered.
The museum is also offering four pop-up installations in Dallas, Garland, and Irving, all geared to bring people closer to Kahlo’s works.
“I saw it as a great chance for our visitors to look closely at the five works, think about Kahlo, think about her life, but also think about who she was as an artist and what these five works can tell us about her practice,” Castro said.
Castro began working on Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico last spring, as the pandemic provoked anxiety and uncertainty. Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, Castro found comfort in these spiritual objects “This is a show quite near to my heart,” Castro said.
The exhibition features 20 bultos, carved wooden sculptures depicting Catholic saints, the Virgin Mary and Christ, and a variety of ex-vetos, small oil-on-tin paintings commissioned in gratitude for an answered prayer.
“These are objects that are focal points for prayer. They are objects that one can appeal to for intercession, and they are objects that express gratitude when you receive that intercession,” Castro said.
Saint Joseph, a bulto attributed to José Benito Ortega, depicts Joseph as a young man, carrying an infant Jesus. This representation as a protective husband and earthly father would have been comforting to the sick and suffering.
“Personally for me, what I was really drawn to was a lot of these works have connections to healing and protection. These are objects that when someone is sick, you might bring to their bedside in hopes that would get well again,” Castro said.
Castro chose to prominently display Saint Rosalia of Palermo, a sculpture of the patron saint of plague victims surrounded by an arch of red flowers and golden halo, at the entrance of the exhibition.
“I wanted something that would give our visitors but also our staff a sense of safety and a sense of healing,” Castro said. “I wanted a space that would give a little bit of solace and healing during these complicated times.”
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