Now open at the Denver Art Museum: “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection.” It runs through Jan. 24 and is sure to be a draw for area art lovers. Timed tickets are required so one will want to plan ahead, since we are dealing with limits on how many can attend at any one time ...
When the Mexican Revolution ended in 1920, change was afoot in every aspect of that country’s life, including in its arts. Rivera’s huge murals were soon famous and in demand in the U.S. and Europe — examples are tied into this large (150 works) exhibit on walls as well as with a few paintings, such as the well-recognized “Calla Lily Vendor.”
Mexico City was the center of activity and was home to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and a circle of creatives who combined Mexican folk art with techniques adapted from European arts — also in flux at that time. Rivera, 30 years older than Kahlo, was established as an influential painter.
Also there: Jacques and Natasha Gelman, who collected works by the local artists, who were their friends.
Gelman was a partner at Posa films and connected with the local art community, where he and his wife began to collect works by their friends. This exhibit includes 150 works by internationally recognized artists, most from the Gelman collection, with additional works from the collection of Denver-based John and Sandy Fox and from the museum’s collection.
Mexican Modernism combined social realism and fantastic visions that were unique to Mexican history and literature. Both Kahlo and Rivera painted portraits of Natasha Gelman, their patron and good friend.
Frida Kahlo had suffered from polio when she was a child, then was badly injured as a teen in a bus accident that left her back permanently painful. She said: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and I am the subject I know best.”
She was still a student when she met the much older Rivera. They fell in love, married, divorced and remarried. Kahlo’s family home, the blue house that is now a museum, was their home.
Seven of her distinctive self-portraits are included plus a number of other drawings and paintings.
Pets, local flora, foods and surroundings fill the images, shedding some light on a distinctive lifestyle that makes a viewer invent stories to accompany the art. Kahlo’s “Self Portrait With Monkeys” is especially appealing ... and then there is that wee Itzcuentli dog ... and brilliant parrots. Sound as well as color.
“Diego on My Mind,” widely used in publicity for this exhibit, is fascinating. She wears a traditional lacy headdress — Tejuana style — and on her forehead is an image of Rivera. The trademark heavy eyebrows almost resemble bird wings as they meet above her nose and she looks straight into a viewer’s eyes.
Other artists included in this exhibit: Maria Izquierdo, Carlos Merida, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Gunther Gerzso.
Photographs of these friends and others are a nice addition to the exhibit, as is a grouping of Kahlo’s colorful garments.
Allow time to walk through and then return to images that capture the imagination especially well.
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