Friday, July 25, 2008

Visiting Frida Kahlo Exhibition at SFMOMA

Last night I got together a group of San Francisco friends and we went to see the Frida Kahlo show at SFMOMA. Thursday nights tickets are half price and the museum is open until 9pm. We made a fantastic evening of the exhibition followed by dinner at Maya a modern Mexican cuisine restaurant located a few blocks from the museum.

We were very lucky that my friend Thelma is a docent at SFMOMA and took us around the exhibition. If you can, try to get a docent tour. It makes all the difference. Thelma highlighted just a few images and used those to highlight the monumental events in Frida's life - her accident, marriage to Diego and miscarriages.

We started at the San Francisco wedding portrait Freida and Diego Rivera, 1931 and Thelma asked us to point out what we noticed about the image. The difference between the two figures was the most obvious - that one is large and monochromatic and the other, Frida, is small and brightly colored. We discussed her traditional clothing and the delicate placement of their hands. An interesting element that I hadn't noticed is that Diego is the one holding the paintbrushes and palette although Frida was the painting's artist.

Thelma took us to The Two Fridas, 1939 and we immediately noticed the similar clasp of the two Fridas' hands. In this image the Frida on the right holds a small portrait of Diego as a small boy. From it there is a vein that wraps around her arm, connects to a human heart, crosses over her shoulder and around the back and neck of the left Frida and to her broken heart and continues to this Frida's lap where she holds medical scissors that attempt to stop its slow bleeding. Thelma pointed out that this is one of the first known double self-portraits. It was painted when Frida and Diego were between marriages.

The final image we viewed was The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Me and Senor Xolotl, 1949. In the center is a nude Diego being embraced by Frida who is embraced by the earth which is embraced by the universe. Frida is in a nurturing role but she cries and her heart bleeds. It is Mother Earth who is fertile. Diego, with his third eye has the wisdom as well as the source of fuel - fire, held in his embrace.

Although I have seen many of these images in Museo Frida Kahlo and Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco, Mexico City, there were some new images. Plus, to my delight and surprise the Portrait of Doctor Eloesser was there. He looked like there had been additional restoration work done on his face and hair beyond the work that the Museo Dolores Olmedo restores performed in 2005. There was no reason to be surprised to see him there considering that the image lives in the San Francisco General Hospital. Perhaps it was more the joy of seeing an old friend.

Fantastic additions to the exhibition included a small gallery of artifacts from Frida and Diego's stay in San Francisco including their marriage license. (So fantastic that I was married in the same city hall and have the same marriage license nearly 90 years later). Another gallery had dozens of never-before-seen original photos of Frida, Diego, their friends and family.

Although it was very crowded and our little docent tour kept picking up folks we had a fantastic and somewhat intimate view of the exhibition with Thelma's guidance. A real joy was a little girl who attended with her mom - both were dressed in traditional Mexican dresses and the girl had a hairpiece that made her look like Frida with braids and flowers in her hair. It was wonderful. Both gift shops offered many of these items and other Mexican crafts. It made me want to return to Mexico City and purchase thousands of paper flowers to fill my bedroom.

SFMOMA has an interactive online education site about Frida that you can access here.
This is a street banner in the Mission District for the exhibition.

1 comment:

rachel-anne said...

wow!!! thanks for the post and thanks for the company at the sjma. it was nice to spend some time with you and frida. the little dancers were a treat to make butterflies with! i didn't even venture into this part of the blog til today...
i scored one of the frida street posters that you have pictured in the blog from my boss at sfmoma. take care and see you soon!!!