The show, “Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting,” at the High Museum of Art in Midtown, features more than 120 paintings, photographs, drawings and other examples of the couple’s work.
“That means Frida and Diego is the largest exhibit ever mounted of their work together,” said museum Director Michael Shapiro.
It holds more than 25 percent of Kahlo’s total artwork.
“We’re also delighted to announce this is our museum’s very first completely bilingual exhibition with Spanish and English versions with all texts, extended labels and audio tours,” Shapiro said. “Since Kahlo and Rivera are Mexico’s most famous artists of the 20th century, we wanted to highlight the ways in which their work continues today to influence Mexican artists of the 21st century.”
The exhibit showcases a chronological collection of the couple’s artwork, ranging from themes of maternity, politics, Mexican identity and portraiture. The high commissioned two Friday and Diego-inspired “reading rooms,” he said, designed by Mexican contemporary intervention designers Hector Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena.
“[Frida and Diego] presented that pure human emotions never run out of time,” Cadena said of the exhibit. “To talk about happiness, suffering, relations, heritage — that’s never going to end. That’s always going to connect to human beings.”
The couple married in 1929 when Kahlo was just 22 and Rivera was 20 years older. Rivera was a professional well-known worldwide while Kahlo was self-taught and rarely heard of, and they produced significantly different artwork. Consulting curator Elliot King said it is important to combine the couple’s work because they are generally “received as very separate artists,” he said.
Diego is known for larger-scale pieces while Kahlo is known for her smaller “emotional” pieces, King said. However, he said there is a common misconception of Kahlo as a small woman who is “always responding to Diego having affairs.”
“But she is such a strong woman, a strong personality,” King said.
Several photographs hang in the exhibit, depicting Kahlo’s and Rivera’s lives and romance.
“You can get to know Frida and Diego as people as well as through their art,” King said.
He said highlights of the exhibit include Rivera’s several of Rivera’s 200 cubist paintings, as well as Kahlo’s portraits.
“They are so moving and lovely but honestly grotesque,” he said.
One of Kahlo’s paintings shows the aftermath of a car wreck she was in, causing her to break her spine, pelvis and leg.
“That pain comes through so powerfully, but she remains so strong and resolute,” King said. Carlos Phillips, director of the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, said the exhibit provides a complete view of their relationship, and reveals how different yet “intimately related” the couple was.
“It’s the first time you see in a large scale both ideals,” Phillips said.
He described Rivera’s work as political and historical and Kahlo’s as more personal.
“When you go to the exhibit, you will see Frida painted her life,” he said. “She was catalogued a surrealist but she always said, ‘I’m not a surrealist, I just painted my life,’ which is true.”
Kahlo died in 1954, followed by Rivera three years later. Escrawe described the couple as “two very strong personas collided.”
“The persona they formed together was bigger than themselves. They wrote this wonderful novel that is timeless,” he said. “We will always as human beings relate to love, magic suffering and happiness.”
Additionally, the museum is offering programs in conjunction with the exhibit, including six Frida and Diego-inspired lectures, a series of nine films with connections to the artists and Mexico and bilingual tours for Spanish-speaking visitors every Sunday during the exhibit.
If you go:
o What: “Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting”
o Where: The High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
o When: now through May 12
o Tickets: $19.50 for adults, $16.50 for seniors and students, $12 for children ages 6 to 17, free for kids 5 and under.
o Information: www.high.org