January 6 – 11, 2019.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera seem to be a great source of Mexican pride. You find souvenirs with Frida’s likeness on them everywhere and Diego’s art is known across the country. Along with a politician, a couple of revolutionaries, a feminist nun, and a pre-Hispanic ruler, they also appear on a Mexican peso note, the 500, Frida on one side and Diego on the other paired with tiny excerpts of one of their works of art. I find it hard to imagine such collective pride for artists in the US. I should start my petition for the portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe with one of her beautiful flowers on one side and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (I know, who’s he?), on the other. Or perhaps I should try for a Jackson Pollack and his painter wife, Lee Krasner, on a 20 – I wonder how boring an abstract expressionist painting would look in monotone dollar bill green. If only Christo and Jean Claude were Americans, it would be too much fun figuring out how to wrap 20s or wrap things with 20s donning their likeness.
But painters – or women as of yet, on paper money, isn’t very American. And I’m sure many of you unless you are art enthusiasts, aren’t that familiar with all the famous artists’ names I so pretentiously dropped in my previous paragraph. This is totally understandable because Americans don’t revere artists in the same way Mexicans do.
But really, I think the pride in Frida and Diego is about more than art. If you ask a Mexican to name a famous Mexican you might get a variety of answers – including many present-day names like Carlos Santana and Salma Hayek. But ask someone outside of the country and I bet Frida and Diego’s names come up quite a bit.
While in Mexico City we got to learn a bit more about this esteemed Mexican couple. I already knew some from art history classes and from the Frida film with Salma Hayek – but there is something about visiting the city where someone lived, walking around in their neighborhood, touring their home, seeing their stuff, their clothes, the things that were important to them, and the things that caused them great pain and grief that makes them more real and gives you a broader perspective about who they were.
And, of course, it is amazing to see the actual art that they both created. At Diego and Frida’s houses in the Coyoacán and San Ángel neighborhoods, at the Bellas Artes, The Museo Arte Moderno, and the Palacio National – we found Frida and Diego all over the City.
A very mini-bio of Frida and Diego
Diego Rivera was already a famous artist when he met the art student Frida Kahlo (20 years his junior). They married in 1929 when she was 22 and he 42. Frida painted portraits and works inspired by nature and Mexican artifacts but is probably most known for, self-portraits. Frida died in 1954 at age of 47. She was little known as an artist until the late 1970s when her art was rediscovered by art historians and political activists.
Diego was part of the Mexican muralist movement. He painted murals in cities across Mexico as well as New York, San Francisco, and Detroit. He died in 1957.
* Click pics to enlarge into a slide show.