Knowing Frida Kahlo: NY explores life and work of the artist

22 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cultural Clicks: Frida Kahlo’s Lovers and Parenting Advice from Metallica’s James Hetfield.

NEW YORK – The studio and garden of the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, a magnet for artists and intellectuals all over the world, has been recreated in New York as part of a new exhibition of her work.Frida Kahlo’s 1940 masterpiece, “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”—also with black cat and monkey— is now drawing crowds at the New York Botanical Garden, in the city’s first show devoted to the Mexican painter in more than a decade. The piece was conceived as a consolation prize, a gift to mark the end of Kahlo’s affair with the photographer Nickolas Muray. (When she broke things off with Leon Trotsky, in 1937, she made him an it’s-not-you-it’s-me portrait, too.) Kahlo met the Hungarian-born Muray in 1931, two years into her first marriage to Diego Rivera, the great love of her life. Visitors pass this entrance and enter an oasis of nature—zinnias, calla-lillies, Lady’s Eardrops, giant green philodendron leaves—an explosion of color and plants and flowers cocoon the garden paths.

Groarke said the exhibition sought to examine Kahlo’s work in a different way, and combined plants already in the garden with others sourced elsewhere. It was news of the pair’s second marriage, after a brief split, that made Muray realize that Kahlo would never agree to marry him. (Their affair finally ended in 1941, but they remained close friends for the rest of her life.) Muray was a pioneer of color photography, and his most famous works are the portraits he took of Kahlo in her flower-strewn Tehuana hairstyles and folkloric dresses at her home, La Casa Azul. But they also refer to a specific work on display in the botanical garden’s art gallery along with nine other paintings and four works on paper by the artist. “Self-Portrait Inside a Sunflower,” painted in 1954, shows Kahlo, her thick eyebrows exaggerated to Groucho Marx proportions, standing in front of a lava-stone wall and wearing a traditional Zapotec dress.

Watch a clip, accompanied by voice-over excerpted from Kahlo’s diary. “Nobody will ever know how much I love Diego,” she wrote. “If I had good health, I’d give him all of it.” But, while Kahlo’s adoration of the great muralist is evident, it’s rivalled by the intensity with which she glances at Muray’s camera—a portrait of a love triangle. For the summer, New York City’s shrine to all things living and green is transforming into a little piece of Mexico in its latest exhibit, Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life.

Artist Frida Kahlo, she of the iconic unibrow, traditional Mexican dresses, and intricately braided hair, has become one of the most recognizable faces in art. Since her death at the age of 47 in 1954, a cult-like following has developed around her and the vibrant, wholly original paintings and drawings she created. Show people loved being drawn by him; readers of the Times and the many other publications for which he drew loved hunting for his daughter’s name, Nina, woven into the sleeves and hairdos of his subjects. Highlights include portraits of Ella Fitzgerald, Ringo Starr, and Carol Channing; original-cast drawings of “Fiddler on the Roof” and “West Side Story”; and a 1928 collage of Laurel and Hardy made out of wallpaper samples. Some of the commercials broadcast on network television in the sixties and early seventies reflected giddy delight in the very creativity that went into them, as does this commercial for Jeno’s Pizza Rolls, a product that came on the market in 1968.

She also acquired an impressive roster of lovers—both men and women—including Leon Trotsky, Josephine Baker, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, and painter Jacqueline Lamba, the wife of André Breton. But those halcyon days didn’t last, and the notes to the Alka-Seltzer clip help to explain why: that commercial left many viewers wondering what product it was advertising. Its centerpiece is a “re-imagining” of the garden at the Casa Azul, Kahlo’s birthplace and home with Diego Rivera where the Museo Frida Kahlo is now located. Corporate clients discovered that there was no inherent connection between the inventiveness of a commercial and its positive effect on sales, and they began to exercise a much tighter creative (or uncreative) control over ad agencies’ commercial productions. There are sections of cobalt-blue wall, one with the hand-painted inscription “Frida y Diego vivieron en esta casa, 1929-1954” (“Frida and Diego lived in this house, 1929-1954”), and a downsized version of Casa Azul’s tile fountain, its frog motif inspired by Kahlo’s nickname for Rivera, sapo-rana, or toad-frog.

The path leads past Swiss-cheese plants, so called for the distinctive holes in the lobes of their enormous leaves; showy bougainvillea; calla lilies; and the bright yellow flowers of the Jerusalem thorn tree. Then, the big payoff: a facsimile of the tiered pyramid that Kahlo and Rivera installed at Casa Azul to display Rivera’s collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts and the work of the folk artist Mardonio Magaña.

The institute’s spring series, subtitled “Beethoven and Beyond,” brings leading musicians and students together to explore works by that greatest of masters, as well as music by a prominent contemporary composer. Recent festivals highlighted pieces by Peter Lieberson and Stephen Hartke; this year the honor goes to George Walker, who won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1996, for “Lilacs,” a work for voice and orchestra that had been premièred by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (He was the first African-American composer to win the prize.) “Lyric for Strings,” probably Walker’s most-performed piece, will be played in the second of two concerts by the Institute’s faculty, which features such noted musicians as the violinist Miranda Cuckson, the violist Misha Amory, and the pianists Thomas Sauer (the Institute’s director) and Ignat Solzhenitsyn. There are winsome little fellows no bigger than a Ping-Pong ball, and statuesque columnar cactuses and pumpkin-size cactuses bristling with nail-like spines.

You notice that everything that she paints in her still lifes and her paintings is very carefully selected.” Walking through the exhibit, visitors are hit with a vibrant explosion of life. Beethoven himself will not be neglected: the selections, largely orbiting around the key of C minor, will include the “Pathétique” Sonata and the String Trio, Op. 9, No. 3. (May 31st at 7:30 and June 3rd at 8.) —Russell Platt Late last week, James Hetfield, the guitarist and co-founder of Metallica, released a short video giving parenting advice. It’s hard not to feel the spirit of Kahlo right there with you, surrounded by a diversity of flowers, rainbow of bright colors, and vivid greens of living plants. The stunning, colorful pyramid lives on in the Bronx, now featuring row upon row of terracotta pots (which came from Mexico, but were distressed to look older) with native plants in them (think lots of varieties of cacti). Hetfield got sober and, a little over a decade ago, the band agreed to let a film crew follow while it talked and argued with a therapist during its efforts to complete its eighth studio album, “St.

Hetfield had a tangled childhood that enriched his professional life—the demons of “Enter Sandman” had to come from someplace—but complicated his personal life, and substance abuse and fallout from his rock-and-roll-lifestyle took their toll. (He was born into a strict Christian Scientist household in California, his dad left the family when he was a teen-ager, and his mother died of cancer shortly thereafter.) Hetfield is now in his fifties and has three children. Zavala said. “I thought, ‘Do they know how sought after Kahlo’s work is for exhibitions?’ But I trained in a very interdisciplinary way, so the idea intrigued me.” The unusual focus of the show turned out to be the strongest selling point for Ms. If you actually want to learn something, check out an interview he gave in conjunction with “Absent,” a 2010 documentary about missing fathers. “I think, once I started yelling at my kids and laying down the hammer,” he says in it, he realized, “Oh, whoa, that’s what my dad would do. Kahlo took a mystical view of the relationship between humans and the cosmos, and she absorbed powerful oppositions — sun and moon, life and death, male and female — into the complex swirl of symbolic forms in her art. The natural world supplied Kahlo with visual metaphors for Mexico’s complicated blend of peoples and cultures, echoed in her own hybrid identity as the daughter of a German immigrant father and a Mexican mother and in her ambiguous sexuality.

The botanical garden wrote the footnotes, so to speak, in living form. “With all due respect to the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum, they couldn’t do this show,” Ms. Coelho said. “It’s one thing to walk by a cactus in our display and say, ‘Nice plant, native to Mexico.’ It’s very different to see the same cactus and say: ‘Wow!

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