It's always exciting when Sydney gets an exhibition with works from a big name artist. This exhibition of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is so popular that you need to book online in timed sessions which are mostly sold out on weekends. It was amusing to see some young ladies viewing the exhibition all dressed up as Frida with flowers in their hair and colourful clothes. I know she's a popular feminist icon, but I didn't know dressing up as her was a thing !! My friend thought it was a bit silly, as she dressed in traditional Mexican clothes to make a political statement, not for decoration... but I thought it was kind of fun to see people getting into the spirit of the exhibition !
The exhibition focus is on Frida and Diego's relationship and how their lives and relationship with one another shaped their artworks. Heavily documented is her physical and mental anguish from the effects of her earlier polio and later injuries relating to her horrific bus accident which lead to multiple surgeries and bouts of depression throughout her life.
The exhibition is a mixture of a few of Kahlo's portraits, drawings, lithographs and sketches, works by Diego Rivera, photos of Kahlo, letters she wrote and video footage. The small sketches included some very moving and confronting drawings relating to her feelings about her miscarriage and pregnancy termination. The larger oil paintings she did on this topic were not included.
The photos in the second half of the exhibition were also quite moving and confronting, showing her in her hospital bed with plaster corset and ending with images of her dead in her funeral casket.
The actual artwork selection of her famous portraits was rather small considering the output of her works in her short life, but was curated in an interesting way to give an overview of her life as a way of understanding the themes in her artworks.
Some of the artworks from the exhibition I've included here are Self Portrait with Monkeys" (1943) - probably the most famous artwork included in the exhibition. The above middle portrait is from a photo session. Above right is the first painting of the exhibition "Diego on my mind" (1943) which sets the theme of the exhibition, as an overview of her relationship with Diego. Below left is "The bride frightened at seeing life opened" (1943) which I find amusing and the bottom right "The love embrace of the universe" (1949) is the last painting in the exhibition which shows a kind of a realisation and resolution of how things are placed in her life with Diego represented as a baby that she is nurturing.
This exhibition is on now at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Sacha Grossel is a practising Visual Artist from Australia.