Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Frida Kahlo's Pain & Pleasures Bloom Up the Dali Museum

Ah, beloved Frida Kahlo, the queen of my painting heart whose detailed portraits always strike such an evocative cord.
The Dali Museum (named after the quirky, refined, multitalented, well known Surrealist, Salvador Dali) is a wondrous place in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida. Around the building, designed by Yann Weymouth (who was Chief of Design for I.M. PEI projects on the National Gallery of Art's East Wing in Washington D.C. and The Grand Louvre in Paris, France). On Dali's site describes structure in great detail:

" combines the rational with the fantastical: a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma”. The Enigma, which is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dali’s museum in Spain. Inside, the Museum houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dali’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule." 
Overall, inside and outside, the building and its manicured surroundings seem to escape from a most exciting whimsical fantasy. Apparently there is a labyrinth and I'm saddened to have missed escaping down the mystical rabbit hole maze. Next time.

Bright, viable flowers and plant life flourish in the afternoon sun.

On One Dali Blvd exists a fantastical, surreal world that delights all minds-- creative and logistical.

The exterior surrounded with greenery landscape. 

When expectant viewer find third floor, walls greet them, covered in a plethora of synthetic spring flowers, Frida Kahlo's white lettered name nestled atop pinks, greens, and yellows. Lively colors reflect tone of an artist passionate about life despite miseries of physical ailments and unexpected tragedies. This latest American Kahlo exhibit features fifteen paintings, several drawings and prints, and photographs. Some pieces were in the nearly two year old NYBG exhibit, including a replica of her Caza Azul garden. One of my personal favorites, the heartbreakingly poignant Broken Column, features a dispirited Frida with fat tears spilling down her cheeks, an erect medical contraption centered in her exposed body.


Portrait of Alicia Galant, 1927
The Bus, 1929
Portrait of Virginia, 1929

Henry Ford Hospital, 1932
Portrait of Luther Burbank, 1932
A Few Small Nips, 1935 
The Deceased Dimas Rosas at the Age of Three, 1937
My Nurse and I, 1937
Broken Column, 1944

The Flower of Life, 1944

Portrait of Dona Rosita Morillo, 1944
The Chick, 1945
The Mask (Of Madness), 1945
Self Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945

Without Hope, 1945

A still from a short documentary on Frida. Here she's drawing in her sketchbook, dressed rather fashionably in a chic cap and heavy coat.
Frida Kahlo, Lola Álvarez Bravo, ca. 1944.

Frida Kahlo (with Globe), Manuel Álvarez Bravo, ca. 1938.
In every nook and cranny, images of Frida flow around, either on thin tapestries, adhered to walls, or looped in a sincere video. Her famous quotes largely printed throughout exhibit space. Viewers see Frida as carefree spirited, as smoldering temptress, as solitary thinker, as stylish fashion maker, as revolutionary. Images are taken by various photographers from her father, Guillermo Kahlo to Manuel Álvarez Bravo and his first wife, Lola Álvarez Bravo to Nickolas Muray (seen back in Toronto years ago).

Portrait of Alicia Galant, oil on canvas, 1927.

Small vintage photographs include one of Frida and sister Cristina (top right).
Frida Kahlo on a boat at the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, Mexico City, c. 1928-29.
The Bus, oil on canvas, 1929.
Frida incorporated her life in her work, even her fruit and flower set ups contain sensual elements. Most paintings, however, reveal horrific tragedy. Accident, 17 September, 1926 is a drawing sketch, with broad, angry marks, all contour without shading, narrating grisly bus crash that almost killed her. Its completely opposite of The Bus, the painting a safe calm before treacherous storm, apprehensive figures unaware of the tragedy about to befall them.

Accident, 17 September, 1926, pencil on paper, 1926.

Frida in Caza Azul, her garden.
This beautiful photograph took up the space of an entire wall.
Portrait of Frida Kahlo, Guillermo Kahlo, 1932
Self Portrait with Small Monkey, oil on composite board, 1945.

The Chick, oil on composite board, 1945.

Self-Portrait, pencil on paper, 1932.

Excerpt from her diaries.
Excerpt from her diaries.
Excerpt from her diaries.
The Kahlo Family with Frida dressed in her father's suit, Guillermo Kahlo, 1926.
The Dali Museum presented a rather compelling visual behind Frida Kahlo's life through lens of art, writing, and photography and in the end, encompasses a thought provoking, three dimensional biography on art history's most passionate voice. Detrimental circumstances would have eaten away spirit. Frida, however, didn't allow physical ailments to destroy her creative tenacity. Instead, she painted diarist confessions on canvas and metal surfaces, acknowledging to the world to see that she was not a weak woman conforming to diabolical, societal ideals. She dared and challenged and fought. How could anyone deny her greatness? Dali himself adored her. Thus, her poignant oeuvre belonged in this exceptional museum, placed in perfect adjacency to another innovative mastermind.
Frida ends next Monday. Please do see and be amazed by this brilliant, beautiful, talented woman.

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