Jose Luis Hernandez
It is easy to be struck by the paintings. The show “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism” is an intricate and lovely exhibit at the Philbrook Museum of Art. We learn about Diego and Frida’s tumultuous relationship, their social influence and the bonds they formed with other artists and patrons, and the emotional intimacy and political commentary embedded in their art.
Kahlo’s fame alone will attract many. You’ll want to experience his work up close, as the paint still appears fresh on the canvas.
The show incorporates other equally serious artists such as Rufino Tamayo, Maria Izquierdo, Carlos Merida, Lola Alvarez Bravo and many others. The pieces evoke nostalgic stories and delight the eye. You can come and experience the earthy colors and expressive lines of the paintings or delve deeper into why these works were made. The exhibit flows beautifully through the Helmerich Gallery, and there’s something interesting around every turn.
Kahlo’s self-portraits reveal a person ahead of her time. She doesn’t mind describing her fears or mental states — her vulnerability skyrockets her humanity (and ours), and that’s why we’re so emotional. Look at the way she paints her look and spend some time there. There is deep sadness and catharsis in 1937’s ‘Self-Portrait in Bed’ as she confides in us about her pregnancy loss.
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Art collectors Jacques and Natasha Gelman are also in the spotlight. There are many portraits of them in different styles by different artists who received their patronage. Gunther Gerzso’s geometric expression is on full display here with an intelligent way of representing the couple.
Rivera’s lyrical and romantic portrayals of the Mexican people, as portrayed in “Calla Lily Vendor” or “The Healer,” both from 1943, invite viewers to experience the purity of an indigenous country in conflict with its evolving identity and its pressure to become a modern country. , a more globalized nation.
I know Mexico is still struggling with this problem. I also hear Rivera crying out across borders: how can people honor roots and age-old traditions while moving forward?
Nestled between the major paintings is a series of film photographs by Lola Alvarez Bravo. She was a friend of Kahlo and the first gallery owner to exhibit her paintings in Mexico City. Don’t miss seeing 1946’s ‘Burial at Yalag’, depicting a traditional funeral procession where people dress in white to honor their dead. There is a serene beauty in this scene of shadow and light.
It’s clear that Kahlo was never afraid to speak her mind. Viewers might feel uncomfortable with her sketches of “Lady Liberty” from 1945 and 1949. Although these never materialized into a formal painting, she had planned to use the Statue of Liberty as a vessel for expressing political concerns. In his sketches, the statue holds a bag of money and the atomic bomb.
Despite its complexity, the show is for everyone, and children will find many works entertaining. They can pick up a charming portrait of a toddler in Mexican attire (Rivera), a large canvas of cacti figuratively dancing in the desert (Rivera), and an otherworldly figure eating breakfast with a fork (Tamayo). Traditional embroidered dresses from the Tehuantepec region complete the multi-faceted collection.
Kudos to the leadership and curators of the Philbrook Museum of Art and all its supporters for producing an exhibit that raises the cultural profile of our city.
Jose Luis Hernandez is the director of Sistema Tulsa at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church and a member of the Philbrook.