Arts / Museums

The Dallas Museum of Art’s Frida Kahlo Exhibit Offers a Rare Look Into the Life of the Iconic Painter

"Frida Kahlo: Five Works" Is On View This Spring

BY // 05.07.21

An icon of art history and feminism, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) transcends the narrow label of painter to enthrall and inspire fresh generations more than 60 years after her death in Mexico City from injuries suffered in a bus accident decades earlier. In the 1970s, the cult of Frida was born as second-wave feminists discovered the idiosyncratic Kahlo, whose emotionally loaded Surrealist canvases began to eclipse the work of her titanic husband, Diego Rivera. This spring, the Dallas Museum of Art organizes a show for Kahlo that is unique and intimate — the antithesis of a blockbuster, but an exhibition that nonetheless yields insights.

Culled from a private collection on loan courtesy of Mexico City’s Galería Arvil, “Frida Kahlo: Five Works” (through June 20) serves up an unexpected portrait of the artist via a single drawing, three oil-on-masonite paintings, and one personal object: a 1944 portrait of the twice-married couple, Diego and Frida 1929-1944, displayed in a shell-encrusted frame where they seemingly merge identities to become one being. From the same period comes the exhibit’s showstopper, Sun and Life of 1947, a sexually charged painting featuring a crimson sun with a weeping third eye front and center.

Frida Kahlo Dallas
Frida Kahlo’s “Sun and Life” of 1947 is a sexually charged painting featuring a crimson sun with weeping third eye. (Courtesy of the DMA)

Kahlo’s commitment to honoring her Mexican heritage and focus on indigenous people and archaeology are on view via two oil paintings, both from 1951, which encourage the viewer to decode the artist’s use of objects: Still Life with Parrot and Flag and Still Life, the latter featuring an early Colima pottery vessel of an indigenous hairless dog. The earliest work among the five offerings, View of New York (Dedicated to Dolores del Río), hails from 1932. The pre-fame drawing made in Kahlo and Rivera’s Barbizon-Plaza Hotel room alludes to the historic time leading up to Rivera’s Rockefeller Center mural commission — a controversial, high-profile project that ultimately and tragically was destroyed.

Find Kahlo in the museum’s Atrium Overlook on Level 4. Organized by the DMA’s curator of Latin American Art, Dr. Mark. A. Castro, “Frida Kahlo: Five Works” stands as a pendant exhibition to “Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico,” also curated by Castro, to showcase the museum’s own holdings (through January 2, 2022).

*Pop-up exhibits from the DMA are soon opening in Downtown Garland, Irving, and Oak Cliff in celebration of the exhibit, featuring larger-than-life renderings of Kahlo’s paintings.

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