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Museo de Arte de Ponce Presents Frida Kahlo's Worlds
Frida Kahlo. Autorretrato con chango (detail), 1945. Óleo/tela, 59 x 42 cm. Col. Fundación Robert Brady, AC. © 2005 Banco de México, Fideicomiso Museos Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo.

PONCE, PUERTO RICO.- The Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP) exhibits Frida Kahlo and her Worlds. This exhibition presents a unique approach to the art of one of the most significant artists of the XX century. With more than 250 objects – paintings, sculptures, engravings, customs and ceramic, among others – the exhibition examines Kahlo’s work in the light of the influences of popular art, XIX and early XX paintings, photography and pre-hispanic art. Furthermore, Frida Kahlo and her Worlds places the artist in the background of the artistic renaissance of post-revolutionary Mexico, establishing the relationship with her contemporaries and students.

“This exhibition, curated by the MAP, is an initiative that intends to be the artist’s introspective door to her universe. We intend to bring this great artist’s works closer to the viewer, deciphering her codes just as she shaped them, from the objects of various nature and origin, whose artistic values were perceived by her great sensitivity, even before they were incorporated to the collective taste. We intend to show Frida as Frida the artist, a woman of her time, a sensitive, intuitive and unique being,” states Agustín Arteaga, CEO and Director of the MAP.

Juan R. Coronel Rivera, historian and independent art critic, Nadia Ugalde, Researcher of the National Center of Visual Arts Research of Mexico and Agustín Artega are the curators of this exhibition.

Description -Frida Kahlo and her Worlds includes almost 50 of the artist’s works: 21 paintings on canvas, metal, and paper, 16 drawings, 10 sketches and two engravings and watercolors which Kahlo worked on from 1925 to 1951. There are also works by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, Abraham Angel, Hermenegildo Bustos, José María Estrada, José María Velasco, José Guadalupe Posada, Guillermo Kahlo, Mardonio Magaña, Francisco Arturo Martin, Adolfo Best Maugard, Lucienne Block, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Kati Horna and Hermanos Casasola, among others.

The exhibition is divided in five sections. Each one researches the influences in Kahlo’s art and the evolution of her unique style.

POSITIVISM, A POPULAR TEACHING - The first section shows how the development of the education system of post-revolutionary Mexico and specifically how its new emphasis on science had a lasting effect in Frida Kahlo’s work. The drawing of Luther Burbank, a horticulturist from California, and the anatomically detailed description of one of her miscarriages, for example, show how Kahlo continued pursuing her previous interest in biology and anatomy through her art. In this section the sketches that José Maria Velasco did for the Geology Museum in Mexico City stand out, and they emphasize the evolution of the species, based on Darwin’s theory.

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDY AND THE PORTRAIT - Many of the portraits in Kahlo’s early work are based on models of photographic portraits. In this section, composition and poses are studied in those photographs done by her father, Guillermo Kahlo, as well as by other photographers from Mexican photo studios in the last decades of the XIX century and early XX century. Their influence is shown in the manner in which Kahlo frames her subject with curtains or in the manner in which they are placed within the composition. The photographs of Nicholas Murray stand out. They echo self-portraits or the famous image of the Victor Study and the Reyes family taken in 1929 on the day of her wedding to Diego Rivera, which led the way to the drawing done by her which she would give to Nicholas Murray, which is presently in the collection also part of the exhibition.

THE MOTHER: THE CATHOLIC FAITH - Kahlo’s mother, Matilde Calderón y Gonzalez, was a devout Catholic and, therefore, Kahlo grew up surrounded by religious images. The fourth section of the exhibition is full of religious icons such as the engravings of the Guadalupe Virgin and Christ, done by José Guadalupe Posada; religious colonial paintings - from the Museum of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and popular ex-votos. The latter were paintings on tin, which were offered in gratitude to the Virgin or a saint for delivering the devout from harm. Although Kahlo was not a devout Catholic, she collected popular religious objects and many of the objects in the exhibition were part of her personal collection. Some come from her home studio in San Angel Inn, which were done for her and Diego Rivera by the painter and architect Juan O’Gorman. The self portraits of Kahlo, as well as other very important works, such as The Suicide of Dorothy Hale, Phoenix Art Museum, describe her physical suffering and the tragic event befalling the subject of the portrait. Another example which follows this format is the drawing in which she depicted her own tragic accident which would mark her health and life as a person and an artist.

DIEGO RIVERA, FRIDA KAHLO AND POPULAR ART - After the Mexican Revolution (1910-1925), there was a renewed interest in Mexico’s traditional art and culture, especially among artists and intellectuals. This section of Frida Kahlo and her Worlds presents the types of objects which Kahlo and Rivera collected (folk art and pre-Colombian pottery, traditional native dress and pre-Colombian jewelry) and their depiction in their work. We also find works by colleagues of Kahlo --Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Abraham Angel and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, to name a few – who shared their recently awakened fascination for Mexican cultural traditions. This interest in popular art is manifested in extraordinary works seldom shown to the public, such as Showcase of Detroit, which records objects of the North American culture which she also collected, or in Self Portrait in the Border between Mexico and the United States, and There Hangs my Dress, which Frida did during the time she accompanied Rivera on his trips to the United States to paint murals.

ARTISTIC AND CULTURAL EDUCATION - Another effect of the revolution was the reaction against the European-based techniques at the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City. Many alternative schools opened at that time, known as “schools in the open air,” which encouraged their students to look for inspiration in the popular culture. Adolfo Best Maugard invented a drawing method which carries his name – Method Best Maugard – based on a vocabulary of motifs found in pre-Colombian pottery and regional crafts, which influenced Kahlo’s work as well as the work of other artists found in this exhibit, such as Rufino Tamayo, Manuel Rodríguez Lozana and Abraham Angel, among others.

Muralism, perhaps Mexico’s best known avant guard proposal during the first decades of the XX century, is also represented in Frida Kahlo and her Worlds. The preparatory drawing done by Diego Rivera for the mural, Sueño de paz, pesadilla de Guerra (Dream of Peace, Nightmare of War), which measures 30 feet wide, is one of the exhibition’s biggest attraction. It is the first time it is exhibited outside of Mexico, after 50 years. Said work, which is no longer in existence, was done for the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City and shows the last drawing in natural size that the muralist did during Frida Kahlo’s lifetime, before her death in 1954.

The last two sections of the exhibition are made up of first-class photographs of Kahlo in her famous Casa Azul, which became a museum after her death. These sections deal with another aspect of the artist’s legacy: the work of her students, “The Fridos.” This brings to a close Frida Kahlo and her Worlds, which not only show the fascination and power of this important artist of the XX century, but also her enduring influence.

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