Art Review


The Museo de las Américas (861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401) is hosting Frida Kahlo, a photography show documenting the life of the iconic Mexican painter, who died almost fifty years ago.

During her short life, Kahlo was hugely famous, but she is even more famous now. Celebrities such as Madonna collect her paintings, some selling for more than a million dollars. And Hollywood, of course, recently made a movie about her, starring Salma Hayek. For goodness sake, her face has even appeared on a United States postage stamp -- and she wasn't even a citizen.

This frenzied attention is no surprise: Kahlo is a romantic figure along the lines of Vincent van Gogh (though I don't think he got a stamp). Kahlo was disabled by a freak accident, the details of which have entered into legend. She was impaled by a steel rod, her clothes ripped away and her body covered with smears of her bright-colored paints. Plus, she dressed outlandishly in folk costumes that showed her support for the left-wing Mexicanidad movement. Not to mention her tumultuous marriage to the most famous artist in Mexican history, Diego Rivera.

The Kahlo show at the Museo was organized by New York's Throckmorton Gallery and includes work by Carl Van Vechten, Lucienne Bloch, Nickolas Muray and Bernard Silberstein. Though she was hardly beautiful, Kahlo was very photogenic, as shown in the uncredited photo above.

The photos at the Museo survey her whole life; some of them were taken by her father, Guillermo Kahlo. In one of these, "Frida Kahlo with Tears," a lovely head shot in soft black and white done in 1930, she has drawn tears falling down her cheeks. The show includes many remarkable images; there's even a shot of her in her coffin with Rivera leaning over it. The image was taken by Héctor Garcia, who also took photos of Kahlo in the hospital during her last days.

Speaking of last days, it looks pretty grim for the Museo, with the buildings set to be foreclosed on next week by Bank One, which holds the institution's mortgage -- unless someone bails the place out to the tune of $700,000. The Kahlo show is scheduled to close on March 6, and the Museo's staff assured me that it would play out its run.

When I spoke with José Aguayo, the Museo's founder and only recently departed director, he made it clear he would not come back as director -- which I think is too bad -- but he says he's "confident the board of trustees will come up with something before it's too late." Gee, I sure hope he's right.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia