Frida Kahlo. Beyond the Myth

Frida Kahlo is Mexico’s most famous artist and Milan has dedicated an exhibition to her at the MUDEC  Museo delle Culture – which offered a new perspective. More than 100 of the artist’s masterpieces are on display, including paintings, drawings and photographs, many of which have never been seen before in our country. Up to now, most exhibitions on Frida Kahlo have been limited to a morbid analysis of her dark family traumas, her tormented relationship with painter Diego Rivera, her frustrated desire to be a mother and her tragic struggle with illness. Consequently, her work has been radically displaced by her life and the artist irreparably swallowed up in her own myth. The show “Frida Kahlo. Beyond the Myth”, curated by Diego Sileo has runned at the MUDEC until 3 June 2018, revealed how Frida Kahlo still has many hidden secrets and presents new interpretations of her work.

A number of themes emerged from research conducted in Mexico: the expression of suffering, the conscious search for the self, the affirmation of “Mexicanness” and her legendary resilience. These same themes are reflected in the way the exhibition has been designed over four sections: Woman, Earth, Politics and Pain.

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Frida Kahlo was the first female artist to make her own body a manifesto, to express her own femininity in a direct, explicit and, at times, violent manner, irrevocably revolutionising the role of women in the history of art. For Frida Kahlo, the body itself is a composition, a system of signs that translate man’s undefined search, his fears, his anxieties, his unconscious desires and his relationships with time, with no beginning or end. In her portraiture, the artist displays her characteristic “body language” in a series of works aimed at the public, in which she tries to touch the depths of being human.

Frida Kahlo has always been identified with her land and, in her work, she gradually developed a new interest in nature’s elements. This particular aspect of her research has influenced entire generations of artists, not only those from Latin America.

All of Frida Kahlo’s work is political. Her body is used as a manifesto for protest and opposition, in a struggle between justice and injustice, good and evil, strength and weakness, individual freedom and social control. The civilian mobilisation in post-Revolutionary
Mexico magnified the repercussions of her work. Frida Kahlo’s art cannot be separated from a specific historical and cultural context; it is strongly visceral, conditioned in turn by the specific themes of class and ethnicity that contextualise the artist’s research and practice.

Frida Kahlo’s art is marked by a powerful and expressive pictorial quality and violent imagery, which inevitably results in an iconography of pain, unpleasant situations and signs of a profound existential malaise. The artist assaults the observer’s sensibility, portraying pain through actions taken from the real and the metaphoric, aimed at shattering indifference and the general feeling of powerlessness. In Frida Kahlo’s poetics, pain erupts in a brutal and often sudden manner. Consequently, her work emanates a feeling of destruction that swings between life and death.

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