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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Kahlo-Rivera : le face-à-face d’un couple volcanique

by Ixchel Delaporte

Kahlo-Rivera: The Encounter of An Explosive Couple

Translated Sunday 10 November 2013, by Pilar Albisu

The Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris, is presenting “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Art in Fusion”. It is a tribute to this mythical pair of Mexican artists, displaying paintings and many other documents, and will run until January 13, 2014.

A late follow-up to France’s « Year of Mexico », the Musée de l’Orangerie is presenting « Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Art in Fusion », combining a series of paintings, sketches and photographs of the Mexican artists, until January 13, 2014.
Some forty nails dig into her skin, arms, breasts, and face. Her body is split vertically down the middle. Cut up unevenly from the neck to the pelvis, her flesh reveals a Roman column that seems about to collapse. She holds a white sheet that wraps around her waist and hides her sex. Her mouth is closed, her hair is down, and white tears run down a face expressing no pain (The Broken Column, 1944). Like in nearly all her paintings, Frida Kahlo is not looking away. She confronts, she faces life. Her dark eyes, lined by thick eyebrows, stare directly into ours. No doubt, this must be how she first stared, like a « demon » (as her father would say), at Diego Rivera, the great Mexican muralist who was 20 years her senior.

A Story of Love and Painting

The Musée de l’Orangerie had thus been hoping to tell this mythical story of love and painting. Art in fusion? The truth is that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s works are not exactly easy to fit together. Three rooms attempt to highlight one artist as much as the other, but it’s difficult to narrow down Rivera’s monumental works and murals to a small selection of early, European-inspired paintings, or to a few portraits and still-lifes. The challenge was nearly impossible. On the other hand, what’s striking about the first room is the way in which these two free, passionate, committed, but also deeply wounded souls literally come to life through a gallery of photographs (taken by Muray, Gisele Freund, Guzman or Lola Alvarez Bravo) and a video that never gets old, where we see them strolling through the garden of the Blue House at Coyoacan, and later welcoming Trotski and his wife.

An Unsettling Encounter, Even Today

Among these images arranged like a family album are mixed in painful little paintings and sketches, such as the one depicting the bus accident which, in 1925, broke Frida’s spinal column (Accident, 1926) and left her sterile: her life’s disappointment. It should be noted that one of the lithographs on paper, worthy of some of the nicest pictures of the 18th century, titled “El aborto” in Spanish, suffers from an unfortunate mistranslation, given that it does not depict an “Abortion” but a miscarriage... The second room houses the couple’s more modest paintings, produced mainly in the 1940’s: portraits of Huichol Indians, farmers, flower merchants, workers, and servants, as well as their children.

The exhibit ends in an enclosed space dedicated to Frida’s paintings, such as “Broken Column”, but also includes the very bloody “A Few Small Nips”, where a woman’s mangled body is spread out on a wooden bed. A rape and a murder, no doubt. Finally, the ever-unsettling encounter concludes with a series of self-portraits and one very small painting: tiny, perhaps one of the most minimalist and explosive at the same time, painted in 1950, four years before her death. A painting that encompasses them all.

Exhibition Catalogue « Art in Fusion », co-publishing Hazan-musée d’Orsay, 224 pages, 35 euros.

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