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Issue No. 18 - Humanity

Mirror, Mirror…Frida Kahlo Photographs at Throckmorton Fine Art

©THROCKMORTON, Anonymous image of Frida Kahlo Resting, 1943 

 

Throckmorton Fine Art is showing a selection of photos of Frida Kahlo by various photographers, taken throughout her life. The exhibition features portraits of the Mexican artist, whose own paintings mostly consisted of self-portraits. Suffering from polio as a child as well as injuries following a trolley car crash, pain was a big part of Fridas life. The injuries left her unable to have children and her art centered on isolation, infertility and pain. An artist whose main object was herself, the exhibition at Throckmorton Fine Art gives an opportunity to see how others saw her.

THROCKMORTON Nickolas Muray image of FRIDA WITH FAWN 1939 gelatin silver print 4.5x6 (2)

©THROCKMORTON, Nickolas Muray image of FRIDA WITH FAWN, 1939

 

Mostly consisting of black and white photos, the exhibition features a few color prints of Frida photographed by her lover Nickolas Muray. The photos are beautiful portraits of a strong woman, but do not offer alternative sides of the artist’s life. Muray’s photographs show a Frida that is similar to how she depicts herself in her self-portraits. They show vigor but also isolation, most notably in the photo where Frida is seen alone on a rooftop in her traditional Mexican dress in contrast to the New York skyline in the background in which she does not seem to fit in. The smaller black and white photos provide the most interesting alternative view of the artist.

THROCKMORTON Nickolas Muray image of FRIDA KAHLO WITH CHAVELA VARGAS 1945 gelatin silver print 3.25x 5-8 inch susan@susanpr

 ©THROCKMORTON, Nickolas Muray image of FRIDA KAHLO WITH CHAVELA VARGAS, 1945

 

During her life, Frida was mostly known for being artist Diego Rivera’s wife. After her death her fame surpassed his. In spite of a tumultuous marriage, her husband saw her as an artistic genius and encouraged her career. This is reflected in the photo of her and Rivera taken by Peter Juley. There Diego is standing behind Frida, who is sitting on a chair, with his hand on her shoulder in a manner that harkens back to older portraits when women stand behind men. In addition to Diego’s support for his wife, the photographer captured Frida as the stronger of the two, something that the world later would acknowledge.

THROCKMORTON Frida Kahlo Gardens Frida by painting©THROCKMORTON, Frida Kahlo Gardens Frida by painting

 

In stark contrast to those portraits in the exhibition that resemble the isolation Frida expressed herself, are a number of photos that show a different side of her. Lucienne Bloch’s portraits of Frida passionately kissing her husband or playfully winking to the camera are such examples. Bloch seems to have captured a happier and more easygoing person than what we have come to know of Frida. Leo Matiz’s portrait of Frida lying in the grass in San Francisco and Héctor Garcia’s portrait of her embracing her dog are other examples of a more blissful personality that is at odds with how Frida saw herself.

THROCKMORTON JUAN GUZMAN image of left-Diego Rivera and Walt Disney-center 1942 gelatin silver print 4.75x6

©THROCKMORTON,  Juan Guzman image of left-Diego Rivera and Walt Disney-center, 1942

 

Today Frida is celebrated almost like a saint. She has become an image of a powerful woman that overcame many obstacles. The two photos by Fritz Henle showing her dressed in a head scarf outside a church in Mexico gives immediate connotations to the classic iconographic depictions of the Virgin Mary. This photographer seems to have seen in Frida something that the world had not yet discovered.

THROCKMORTON photographer Gisele Freund shot Frida Kahlo at La Casa Azul

 ©THROCKMORTON, photographer Gisele Freund shot Frida Kahlo at La Casa Azul

 

All in all this is an exhibition showing a selection of photos where the photographer and the viewer are looking at someone that was constantly looking at herself. This brings an interesting meta-level to the assembly of these works. The most telling photographs might therefore be Lola Alvarez Bravo’s portraits of Frida looking into a mirror. The photos show Frida while she is studying her own reflection, a telling portrayal of the very essence of her artistry.

Text by Helena Calmfors

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