CELEBRATING FRIDA KAHLO IN NEW YORK

At least until May 12th. First, at the Brooklyn Museum with the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving.

But also, through the Mexican painter’s influence on art and fashion with the presentation of artist’s Hormazd Narielwalla’s last series of Frida collages at Art on Paper New York March 7-10.

Finally, throughout a city, which was the first to publicly recognize the art of Frida Kahlo: in New York during the late 1930s where she became a full-fledged artist.

(A version of this article was published on the Mexican online media: First Class MX)

New York, 1946. Frida Kahlo sits still on a rooftop, her eyes slightly open, independent fierce, and self-aware of her surroundings. She’s wearing yellow, red and blue traditional Mexican clothes, crumpled like fragile paper. She seems to wander around her thoughts of uncertainties.

Could it be her own suffering, physical and perhaps sentimental? Could it be the memory of her streets in Coyoacán and San Ángel or of her frail marriage?

The cigarette in her left hand is consumed yet no longer burning. Could it be the sudden success that originated there, in New York–as the Louvre in Paris had purchased one of her self-portraits after her first American and subsequent Parisian exhibitions?

Or is it the presence of Manhattan, its pale blue, almost overcast skies amidst the melancholic skyscrapers? The photographer who took this picture was her American friend and ex-lover Nickolas Muray, whom she had “met a morning in New York on 18 East 48thStreet.”

 

When she returned there in 1938,
it was not a Fridamania city either,
but for once she was alone.
New York was hers.

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Frida in New York, 1946. Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, 2010. Photo by Nickolas Muray, © Nickolas Muray Photo Archive. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

New York was no longer the Gringoland she had traveled to 13 years before in the shadow of her husband Diego Rivera who had been commissioned to paint a mural for the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. 

When she returned there in 1938, it was not a Fridamania city either, but for once she was alone. New York was hers.

That year, New York art dealer Julien Lévy exhibited 25 of her paintings, half of which were then acquired. “The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb,” wrote the French surrealist painter André Breton who authored a text for the catalog of Kahlo’s first exhibition at Lévy’s gallery on 57thstreet. A major success, including in the New York press, although Rivera was always mentioned. The muralist had however publicly recognized her art “not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work, acid and tender (..) and as profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.” New York during the 1930s until recently did not acknowledge the idea of presenting Frida Kahlo independently of her husband, which seemed almost inconceivable. This idea is now viewed as a prolific accomplishment as the feminist Mexican artist created her own path despite the overall presence of Rivera.

 

Feet, what do I need them for
if I have wings to fly?
” – Frida Kahlo

The mere existence of another global exhibition dedicated today ‘only’ to Kahlo has created an invitation to discover the language of her work and what she truly represents as a person. The painter of course, but also the photographer, the stylist, the activist, the sufferer, the lover, the visionary woman who famously wrote, “Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?

 

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Hormazd Narielwalla. Bauhaus Frida No.5, 2019
 mixed media collage on antique tailoring pattern

For the first time in New York, the Brooklyn Museum exhibition is showcasing some of Kahlo’s traditional clothing and other personal artifacts that had been kept locked in the San Ángel Blue House until 2004. Here is the “avant-garde fashionista whose timeless sense of style continues to inspire and influence the worlds of fashion, media, and art today,” which the author Susana Martinez Vidal had described in her best-seller book, Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being (Assouline).

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition follows the one presented by the Victoria and Albert Museum, “Making Herself Up,” for which the upcoming artist Hormazd Narielwalla was commissioned to create four specific artworks and a series of prints based on his paper doll collages inspired by the Mexican icon.

 

“Every braid, which was a staple of Frida Kahlo’s style, suggests freedom and lightness,” Emmanuelle Grelier adds.

The last six Frida paper dolls are presented for the first time at Art on Paper in New York. “Each collage is an explosion of colors, of joys, of assertions, of influence, and of leadership,” explains Emmanuelle Grelier whose gallery Emmanuelle G. Contemporary Art represents the London-based artist in America. “Every braid, which was a staple of Frida Kahlo’s style, suggests freedom and lightness,” Grelier adds.

It was an interior design studio that first asked Narielwalla—an artist famous for turning tailoring patterns into abstract reinterpretations of the body and life—to create an homage to Kahlo. His Frida series is part of a global scale of work on paper dolls and demonstrates, once more, that, yes, appearances can be deceiving: Frida Kahlo’s legacy is alive, vibrant and growing, in New York and far beyond.

Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving at the Brooklyn Museum — until May 12th, 2019 http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

Frida by Hormazd Narielwalla at Art on Paper (Pier 36 – booth 419) — March 7th-10th, 2019 https://thepaperfair.com/ny

Emmanuelle G. Contemporary Art  https://www.emmanuelleg.com/

 

 

About the Author JC Agid

JC Agid is the founder of 37EAST, a brand strategy and business development agency based in the United States. He is also a trustee on the advisory boards of the American Friends of the Paris Opera and of LeaderXXchange.

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