On The Traces of Frida Kahlo: A Life Lived in Art
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's iconic style celebrated at the Museo Frida Kahlo
11 Feb 2013
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING: The latest exhibition at the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City
Set inside visionary Mexican artist FRIDA KAHLO’S former home – La Casa Azul in the bohemian neighbourhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City – the Museo Frida Kahlo presents their latest exhibition in collaboration with Vogue Mexico. Kahlo’s wardrobe now sees daylight again, after a long time hiding away in the Casa Azul. Following her death in 1954, husband and Mexican artist DIEGO RIVERA had locked Kahlo’s clothes away, perhaps thinking them to be too private for showing.
Celebrating Kahlo’s remarkable style fusing Pre-Hispanic mythology, folk tradition and a reverence for her Mesoamerican indigenous heritage, the exhibition presents sketchbooks and artworks by Kahlo alongside key pieces from Kahlo’s personal wardrobe: intricately embroidered textiles and dresses, braided flower headpieces, Chinese-inspired laced boots with flaming dragons, a small gold ashtray, jewellery, and a particularly quirky pair of sunglasses.
The exhibition takes its title from an artwork by Frida Kahlo of the same title – Las Apariencias Engañan (Appearances can be Deceiving) – where Kahlo portrays herself in manner of an X-Ray, revealing her dramatic disabilities concealed beneath the layers. The consequences of a severe bus accident during her youth, Kahlo was to suffer her whole life from these, fuelling her art with an incendiary passion and spirituality. Provocative, surreal, and poetic, Kahlo’s art transcended painting, extending onto her very self to create a living and total work of art.
Known for her intense self-portraiture and dream-like symbolism, Kahlo’s style was as exuberant and fantastic as the realities she painted. It is remembered that when Kahlo would walk in the street in full regalia, little children would ask her ‘where is the circus?’, to which she would simply carry on.
The exhibition extends through a presentation of never-before exhibited photographs of Kahlo, and contemporary designs by fashion designers such Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons and Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy offering tribute to Kahlo’s flamboyant style through their collections.
With a Jewish-Hungarian father and an Amerindian-Spanish mother, Kahlo’s roots were mixed but Kahlo constructed her identity as a proud display of mexicanidad and ‘primitive style’; an interest shared with Diego Rivera. Although Kahlo sometimes mixed in European elements into her wardrobe, her favorite style became that of the traditional dress from Tehuantepec – a legendarily matriarchal society in Oaxaca, often accompanied by her adopted pet monkeys, exotic birds and Xoloitzcuintli dogs (a breed of dogs sacred to the Mayans and Aztecs).
Philosophy and politics surface in the mix with Kahlo affirming her revolutionary convictions through a Communist hammer and sickle painted on one of her plaster cast corsets.
Feet, what do I need you for, when I have wings to fly?
– Frida Kahlo
Appearances can be deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo is on view through November 22 2013 at the Museo Frida Kahlo, Londres 247, Col. Del Carmen, Coyocan, Mexico City, Mexico.
Photography and text by Sophie Pinchetti