NCMA Presents: Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism

“Self Portrait as a Tehuana” by Frida Kahlo

The North Carolina Art Museum opened the Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism on October 26, 2019. The pieces featured in this exhibit are from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman collection, named after two people who became very close with both Kahlo and Rivera. 

The exhibit features pieces from both artists, a timeline of their lives and even a replica of La Casa Azul, Kahlo and Rivera’s home in Coyoacán, Mexico. Since their works are so dispersed around the globe, only a few central pieces are shown at the exhibit. 

The first piece in the exhibit  is an ofrenda, or an altar used in Day of the Dead celebrations. Guests may write messages to loved ones who have passed or to the artists themselves. 

Following the ofrenda is one of Kahlo’s more famous pieces, “Self Portrait as a Tehuana”, which depicts her with Rivera on her forehead. This piece introduces the viewers to Kahlo and Rivera’s complex and turbulent marriage that is an apparent theme throughout the exhibit, as it was a major part of both of their lives. 

After the painting comes a timeline of Kahlo’s life, including her time with Rivera. While her paintings are dispersed throughout, the timeline highlights different photos taken of Kahlo, showing her life outside of her paintings and showing a side of her that many don’t see. 

Throughout the timeline, Kahlo is seen wearing traditional Mexican clothing in many of the pictures. Based on these photos, the museum created replicas of the outfits which were displayed on a stand with placards explaining the different traditional pieces. 

Coming after the timeline is the replica of La Casa Azul. The room highlights different aspects of Kahlo and Rivera’s personal lives. Throughout different pictures, writings from Kahlo’s journals are projected onto the wall, revealing her thoughts and artistic process. Attached to the ceiling is a mirror which imitates the mirror Kahlo had installed above her bed so she could paint after a streetcar accident that left her bedridden for long periods of time. On the floor in the room, there is a message that is reflected in the mirror to say “Despierta Corazón Dormido,” or “Wake Up, Sleepy Heart.” 

At the time these artists were alive, Rivera’s art was far more popular than Kahlo’s. However, since her death, Kahlo’s art has quickly garnered much more popularity and attention from people across the world. 

This exhibit tackles that “Fridamania” in a refreshing way by providing context outside of her most famous pieces. It reminds the audience that Kahlo shouldn’t only be recognized for her art and to identify the different complexities of her personal and political life that make her a well-rounded person, not just a painter. 

While showing some of her more recognizable pieces, the exhibit highlights the less known side of Kahlo, displaying her drawings and sketches, journal entries, along with personal photos.  The Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism exhibit will remain open until January 19, 2020.

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Ella Terry is a managing editor for the Jagwire. She’s a junior and this is her second year on the staff. She is an avid reader and loves cats and all things Harry Potter. She loves to bake and is eagerly awaiting the release of Frozen 2.
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