Few artists have captured the public’s imagination with the force of Frida Kahlo (1907–1954). In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of this Mexican artist and to recognize her powerful influence on artists working today, the Walker Art Center (in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) has organized a major traveling exhibition that goes beyond the myth, providing an intimate look at 46 of Kahlo’s hauntingly beautiful paintings and 90 photographs from her personal albums, many of which have never been seen by the public. Premiering at the Walker October 27–January 20, and co-curated by world-renowned Kahlo biographer and art historian Hayden Herrera and Walker associate curator Elizabeth Carpenter,
travels to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in February 2008 and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June 2008. Celebrating the opening will be a sold-out Walker After Hours Preview Party on Friday, October 26, and a sold-out opening-day talk with Hayden Herrera at 2 pm Saturday, October 27. (A complete listing of related events follows.)
The exhibition concentrates on Kahlo’s most renowned work, the seductive and often brutal self-portraits, but also includes a selection of portraits and still lifes that amplify her own sense of identity. As her artistic practice progressed, her work grew in confidence and complexity, reflecting both her private obsessions and political concerns. While struggling to gain visibility and recognition both as a woman and an artist, Kahlo was a central player in political and artistic revolutions occurring throughout the world.
“The most important aspect of Kahlo’s painting is, I believe, its emotional force,” says Herrera. “Looking at her self-portraits, you feel that she is speaking directly to you. Whatever it was that propelled her to paint herself again and again connects with the viewer on the deepest level. She painted her own image because she wanted to know herself and to make herself known. She wanted to be kept in mind. She also painted to dispel loneliness, to exorcise pain, and to strengthen her fragile hold on life.”
A small gallery within the exhibition will feature photographs that once belonged to Kahlo and Diego Rivera from the Vicente Wolf Collection—many have never before been published or exhibited. Emblematic images of Kahlo and Rivera by preeminent photographers of the period (Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Gisèle Freund, Tina Modotti, Nickolas Muray) will be on view alongside personal snapshots of the artist with family and friends, including such cultural and political luminaries as André Breton and Leon Trotsky. These photographs—several of which Kahlo hand-inscribed with dedications, effaced with self-deprecating marks, or kissed leaving a lipstick trace—pose fascinating questions about an artist who was both the consummate manufacturer of her own image and a beguiling and willing photographic subject.
“These photographs are ubiquitous in the Kahlo literature and are utterly inescapable, in much the same way that her biography remains the primary force to be reckoned with,” says Carpenter. “It is tempting to read the work through the life experience of this uncommonly vital, brilliant, and agonized individual, as she herself encouraged us to do. The photographs ask much the same thing, tempting us to know Frida, to comprehend, consume, and digest her essence. The photographs breathe life into her memory, but they also lie. Her true nature remains elusive.”
During her lifetime, Frida Kahlo was best known as the flamboyant wife of the celebrated muralist Diego Rivera. Today she has become one of the most celebrated and revered artists in the world. Between 1926, when she began to paint while recuperating from a near-fatal bus accident, and 1954, when she died at the age of 47, Kahlo painted some 66 self-portraits and about 80 paintings of other subjects, mostly still lifes and portraits of friends. “I paint my own reality,” she said. “The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to.” Her reality and her need to explore and confirm it by depicting her own image have given us some of the most powerful and original images of the 20th century. Paradoxically, her work allowed her to both express and continually fabricate her own subjectivity.
Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in Coyoacán, then a southern suburb of Mexico City. Three years after the 1925 bus accident, she showed her paintings to Rivera. He admired the paintings and the painter; a year later they married. Theirs was a tumultuous relationship: Rivera once declared himself to be “unfit for fidelity,” and Kahlo largely withstood his promiscuity. As if to assuage her pain, Kahlo recorded the vicissitudes of her marriage in paint. She also recorded the misery of her deteriorating health—the orthopedic corsets that she was forced to wear, the numerous spinal surgeries, plus a number of miscarriages and therapeutic abortions. Her painful subject matter is distanced by an intentional primitivism, as well as by its small scale. Kahlo’s sometimes grueling imagery is also mitigated by her sardonic humor and her extraordinary imagination. Her fantasy, fed by Mexican popular art and by pre-Columbian culture, was noted by the Surrealist poet and essayist André Breton when he came to Mexico in 1938 and claimed Frida for Surrealism. Kahlo rejected the designation, but clearly understood that under the Surrealist label, doors would open—Breton helped secure exhibitions in New York in 1938 and in Paris in 1939.
Soon after Kahlo returned from attending her Paris show, Rivera asked her for a divorce. They remarried a year later. In the second half of the 1940s her health worsened. Kahlo was hospitalized for a year between 1950 and 1951 and in 1953 her right leg was amputated at the knee due to gangrene. But her insistence on being strong and joyful in the face of pain sustained her, and in her journal she drew her severed limb and wrote “Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?” She was given her first exhibition in Mexico in 1953. Defying doctor’s orders, Kahlo attended the opening and received guests while reclining on her own four-poster bed. Because she could not sit up for long and the potent effects of the painkillers she was prescribed, her paintings from 1952 to 1954 lack the jewel-like refinement of her earlier works. Yet her late still lifes and self-portraits—many of them proclaiming Kahlo’s Communist allegiance—are testimony to her passion for life and her indomitable will.
Frida Kahlo brings together works such as Henry Ford Hospital (1932), recording the anguish of her miscarriage in Detroit (a first in terms of the iconography of Western art history), and The Broken Column (1944), painted after undergoing spinal surgery. It also will include self-portraits such as Me and My Doll (1937) and Self-Portrait with Monkeys (1943), both exploring the theme of childlessness. On view will be paintings that deal with her suffering over Rivera’s betrayals, including the artist’s undisputed masterpiece The Two Fridas (1939). Created during her separation and divorce from him, this magnificent double self-portrait is a powerful image of pain inflicted by love and an expression of Kahlo’s divided sense of self. Collectively these images suggest the extent to which, for Kahlo, painting served as both catharsis and an opportunity to redefine and critique modern bourgeois society.
Collectors of Kahlo’s work can be found around the world—the paintings in the exhibition come from some 30 private and institutional collections in the United States, Mexico, France, and Japan. Several paintings have never before been on public view in the United States, including Magnolias (1945). Two of the most important and extensive collections of Kahlo’s work—the Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico City, and the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art, which is currently housed in the Centro Cultural Muros, Cuernavaca—have agreed to loan some of their most treasured Kahlo paintings to the exhibition.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Walker and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have organized two exhibitions of works from their collections to be presented at the Museo Dolores Olmedo in 2008.
Frida Kahlo Multimedia Tour
This in-depth tour offers rarely seen archival images and film footage as well as artist interviews and commentary from a wide range of Kahlo specialists. It is presented on a small hand-held player designed specifically for museums. The audio guide is available for a $6 rental fee ($5 Walker members). Produced by Antenna Audio in collaboration with the Walker Art Center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Walker Art Center is publishing a richly illustrated 320-page catalogue featuring more than 80 of Kahlo’s works as well as critical essays by Herrera, Carpenter, and Latin American art curator and critic Victor Zamudio-Taylor. A separate plate section of more than 100 photographs is devoted to works from the Vicente Wolf Collection. The catalogue also includes an extensive illustrated timeline of relevant socio-political world events, artistic and cultural developments, and significant personal experiences that took place during Kahlo’s lifetime, as well as a selected bibliography, exhibition history, and index. Hardcover: $49.95 ($44.96 Walker members). ISBN 0-935640-88-6. Distributed by D.A.P. (Distributed Art Publishers, New York).
Walker After Hours Preview Party/SOLD OUT
Friday, October 26, 9 pm–12 midnight $35 ($25 Walker members)
This sold-out preview party features music, cocktails, appetizers, films, art activities, and Party People Pictures.
Walker After Hours sponsored by Target.
Opening-Day Talk with Hayden Herrera/SOLD OUT
Saturday, October 27, 2 pm $15 ($10 Walker members)
Art historian Hayden Herrera discusses ways that Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits chronicle the ups and downs of her marriage to muralist Diego Rivera as well as how they also helped her to cope with physical suffering. Kahlo’s artistic sources, her relationship to Mexican culture in general, and her effect on a number of artists who came of age in the 1980s are also touched upon.
This lecture is made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.
Target Free Thursday Nights
Thursday, November 1
Vamos a Celebrar Día de los Muertos (Let’s Celebrate Day of the Dead), 5-9 pm
Celebrate Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s most beloved holiday, Day of the Dead. View Kahlo’s famed paintings in the galleries, make art with a local artist from Mexico, and see films that explore this festive tradition.
Calavera Mask-Making Activity
Star Tribune Art Lab, 5–9 pm
Twin Cities artist Gustavo Lira and his students from El Colegio School in South Minneapolis guide visitors in making papier maché masks, traditionally worn during Mexican celebrations. This activity is intended for all ages.
Film: Down to the Bone (Hasta los Huesos) by Rene Castillo
US Bank Orientation Lounge, 5-9 pm
Enjoy this 10-minute animated short about a wary skeleton’s journey into the underworld.
Film: La Ofrenda: Día de los Muertos
Cinema, 7:30 pm
Directed by Lourdes Portillo and Susana Muñoz
This colorful documentary reveals the pre-Hispanic roots of El Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—and invites us into present-day celebrations in Oaxaca and in the U.S. 1988, U.S./Mexico, video, in English and Spanish with English subtitles, 50 minutes.
Thursday, November 15
Born Without (Nacido Sin)
Cinema, 7:30 pm
Directed by Eva Norvind
Renaissance woman Eva Norvind documents the life and times of José Flores, a man born without arms, who currently supports his wife and six children (plus one on the way!) by playing music on the street. Flores’ character is revealed as equally flabbergasting and inspiring, drawing together the worlds of Mexican cinema’s icons like cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), hard-scrabble rural folk, and traveling carnivals. 2007, video, in Spanish with English subtitles, 82 minutes.
Thursday, November 29
Change Appropriation Art Activity: Circuit Bending with Beatrix*JAR
Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab, 5–9 pm
Join sound-art duo Beatrix*JAR for a live performance and a hands-on Circuit Bending Workshop.
Thursday, January 3
Frida (Frida: naturaleza vita)
Cinema, 7:30 pm
Directed by Paul Leduc
Frida is the widely acclaimed tribute to the spirit and determination of Frida Kahlo who risked her life for art and love. Told in surreal flashbacks evocative of Kahlo’s canvases, the film captures the spirit of an artist, a cultural leader, and political activist. With Ofelia Medina and Juan José Gurrola. 1985, Mexico, 35mm, in Spanish with English subtitles, 108 minutes.
Target Free Thursday Nights are sponsored by Target.
Beyond Painting: Frida Kahlo in Context
Tuesdays, November, 6, 13, and 27, 10:30 am–12 noon
$60 ($40 Walker members)
This three-part class examines how personal, social, political, and cultural factors affected Frida Kahlo’s life and work. Selections of Kahlo’s writing will be paired with her paintings to encourage new, multidimensional understandings of the artist. The “Cult of Frida” will also be discussed and participants will look at why the artist is so coveted and what inspires such devotion. Taught by Lorena Duarte, a local poet and writer who holds a degree in Hispanic Studies from Harvard University.
Studio Class: Symbolic Sketchbooks
For ages 8–10
Saturdays, November 10 and 17, 9 am–12 noon
$100 ($80 Walker members)
Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab
Sketchbooks are a necessary tool for many artists, including Frida Kahlo, who used them to experiment with materials and scribble down ideas. In this class, kids will visit the exhibition to learn how colors, text, and lines, mixed with a little imagination and a wide range of symbols, can turn our own unique stories into an illuminating visual journal. Space is limited; early registration is encouraged.
A re-emergence of Latin American films and filmmakers on the international scene in recent years has resulted in a wealth of refreshing, groundbreaking new work. From Argentina to Mexico, authentic new voices have garnered international awards and worldwide interest in films from south of our border. The Cinemateca series celebrates the best of this work, launching in November with eight films from Mexico, in conjunction with the exhibition, and continuing in January with screenings the last Friday of each month through June 2008.
November screenings focus on collaborative works from the Nuevo Cine Mexicano (New Mexican Cinema) movement. Intertwined names in film credits by luminaries such as Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel), Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también), and Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) indicate their cooperative spirit and their support, especially by Bernal, of other visionary filmmakers whose work will be screened, such as Francisco Vargas, Eva Aridjis, and Gerardo Naranjo.
The selected films, both dramas and documentaries, serve as a barometer of contemporary Mexican life. From a hot summer night on an Acapulco beach abounding with youthful yearning to the countryside where campesinos fight to keep their land, from a family confounded by bureaucracy and corruption while attempting to cremate their deceased uncle to the power of belief in an unauthorized saint, these stories fill out our limited news coverage, which usually confines its focus to Mexican migration. With humor or irony, and sometimes satire, these films offer a refreshing look at Mexican culture, politics, spirituality, and the economic realities of a country in flux.
Thursday, November 1
La Ofrenda: Día de los Muertos, 7:30 pm
Directed by Lourdes Portillo and Susana Muñoz
See Free Thursdays listing above.
Program also screens at the top of each hour, beginning daily at 12 noon, in the Lecture Room, November 1–December 31, during gallery hours.
Friday, November 2
Never on a Sunday (Morirse en Domingo), 8 pm
Directed by Daniel Gruener
Entrusted to arrange the cremation of his uncle who dies on the unluckiest of Sundays when all official business comes to a halt, a young man tries to circumvent the system and becomes embroiled in a series of mishaps. Darkly humorous with a brooding sexy style, the film pokes fun at the absurdity of a bureaucratic system that is trenchantly corrupt. “Energetic and nervy,” hails Variety. 2007, 35mm, in Spanish with English subtitles, 125 minutes.
Saturday, November 3
Saint Death (La Santa Muerte), 7:30 pm
Directed by Eva Aridjis
Narrated by Gael García Bernal (Y tu mamá también), this fascinating documentary follows the rapidly growing cult of Saint Death—a female Grim Reaper who is tenderly worshipped by those from rough neighborhoods and rejected as satanic by the Catholic church. Director Aridjis introduces us to her amazingly colorful followers, from drug addicts to prisoner to transvestites, who reverently follow the skeletal figure. 2007, video, in Spanish with English subtitles, 84 minutes.
Friday, November 9
Drama/Mex, 8 pm
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo
One sultry evening changes the lives of the assorted characters who meet on a beach in Acapulco. Formerly a luxurious port, this slowly decaying town is as much a character in itself as are a runaway youth, a suicidal businessman, and a young couple facing a break-up. Naranjo balances fun with melancholy and reckless pleasure with sobering moments as a larger tale of moral ambiguity plays out amid the intertwined stories. Produced by Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, this film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. 2006, Mexico, video, in Spanish with English subtitles, 93 minutes.
Thursday, November 15
Born Without (Nacido Sin), 7:30 pm
Directed by Eva Norvind
See Free Thursdays listing above.
Friday, November 16
The Violin (El violin), 8 pm
Introduced by director Francisco Vargas
Set in the 1970s, a seemingly harmless elderly violin player Don Plutarco (engrossingly played by Don Ángel Tavira who took home the Un Certain Regard best actor award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival) supports the campesina peasant guerilla movement’s armed revolt along with his son and grandson. After their village is attacked by the military in the harrowing first minutes of the film, Plutarco wins over the army captain with his music, which gets him closer to information and supplies that can help the guerillas counterattack. See why Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth, called it “one of the most amazing Mexican films in many a year.” 2005, 35mm, in Spanish with English subtitles, 98 minutes.
This screening celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Renew Media, formerly National Video Resources.
The Media Arts fellowships presented by Renew Media are funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Special Friday tours of the Kahlo exhibition for Cinemateca ticket buyers
Purchase a ticket for the Friday Cinemateca screenings on November 9 or 16 and register for a free pre-screening tour of the exhibition. Meet in the Bazinet Lobby. Limit 25 people.
Saturday, December 8, 8 pm
$22 ($18 members)
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
“Frighteningly original, refreshingly cool.” —Rolling Stone
Viva Nortec, la nueva frontera de la música! Made up of DJs, graphic artists, and filmmakers, Tijuana’s Nortec Collective delivers some of the freshest electro-ambient dance music in North America. Riffing and ripping traditional norteña and ranchera music, Nortec DJs fuse frenetic beats, deep bass, loco samples, and Tijuana brass for an infectious collision of style and culture, roots and revelation.
Support provided by the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Walker Art Center’s Music Season is sponsored by Macy’s. Media partners 89.3 The Current and vita.mn.
Free First Saturday
Gallery admission is free for everyone on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 5 pm, with a variety of family activities scheduled from 10 am to 3 pm.
Saturday, November 3, 10 am–3 pm
Gallery Crawl: Powerful Portraits
10 am–2 pm
Visit the exhibition Brave New Worlds to see portraits made by living artists from around the world.
Art-Making for the Entire Family: El Corazon
10 am–3 pm
Make a self-portrait filled with the people, places, and things you love in this collage activity directly inspired by the “heart” of Kahlo’s work.
Art-Making for the Entire Family: Frida-Face
10 am–3 pm
Design your own version of a Frida Kahlo portrait with the help of artist Gustavo Lira.
Best Buy Digital Imaging Booth: Framed like Frida
10 am–3 pm
Get your photo taken against a backdrop of vivid colors, flora, and fauna as seen in the exhibition.
Performance: Grupo Folklorico Mexico Lindo
11 am and 1 pm
Head to the McGuire Theater to experience and learn about traditional Mexican dance.
Film: Shorts from Mexico
12 noon and 2 pm
La Fiesta Ajena (Someone Else’s Party)
Directed by Andrea Eduardina Casar
Angeles can’t wait to go to the birthday party of her mother’s boss even though her mother is worried she won’t fit in with all the rich kids. She ends up having a great time, cracking open the piñata, assisting the magician, and even helping to serve the cake—so why does everyone think she can’t fit in? 2003, Mexico, DVD, in Spanish with English subtitles, 10 minutes.
Story Time: Frida by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Ana Juan
Listen to a bilingual reading of Frida, a playful story about the artist’s life and work.
Free First Saturday is sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, with programming supported by the Medtronic Foundation. Media partner WCCO-TV.
Additional support for Free First Saturday, part of the Walker Art Center’s Raising Creative Kids Initiative, is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Arty Pants: Your Tuesday Playdate
November 13 and 27, December 11, 11 am–1 pm
(no program on December 25)
Free with gallery admission, members and children under 12 are always free
Join us for art projects, films, gallery activities, and story readings for parents and caregivers with youngsters ages 2–5. Meet other families for a treat at Gallery 8 Café.
Infuse your toddler’s burgeoning lexicon with new sounds in a series of multilingual programs. In November and December, meet guest artists as you experience stories, songs, films, and artworks that will excite you and your child into learning new languages and discovering diverse cultures.
The Walker Art Center’s Raising Creative Kids Initiative is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
All talks free with gallery admission
Take in a special gallery talk on Frida Kahlo and her work at 6 pm the first and last Friday of the month.
Friday, November 2
Friday, November 30
Friday, December 7
Friday, December 28
Friday, January 4
Frida en Español
Spanish–language talks at 7 pm the last Friday of the month
Friday, November 30, 7 pm
Friday, December 28, 7 pm
Frida Kahlo Gallery Talks sponsored by Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 20–May 18, 2008
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
June 14–September 28, 2008