The Day After seeing Frida Kahlo in Bendigo
We then spent the next 24 hours discussing why this exhibition wasn't up to the usual standard we have come to expect from the Bendigo Creative Scene: the Art Hub of Australia.
The photographs on display came from the Frida Kahlo Museum and exclusive to the Bendigo Gallery here in Australia. The images first went on display in 2007 following their suppression as instructed by Diego Rivera’s Will. This fact of course added to the intrigue surrounding the images and provided for some smart marketing for the Mexican promoters. What untold truths could these images possibly reveal?
257 photographs line the gallery wall on both sides almost like fence posts or bars on the walls of a prison. Each photo is beautifully mounted and framed but tiny, very tiny. So tiny in many cases the viewer can barely discern the characters within the frame. Brief labels do tell you who they are but little reference to their relationship with Frida, Diego Rivera (her husband) and her father Guillermo Kahlo (born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo; 1871 – 1941) who was a German Mexican photographer and the creator of most of the photos in the exhibition.
Large poster boards placed within the centre of the gallery room provided an explanation and analysis of the photos, divided into focal people and events in Frida’s life. However the result was disjointed and the wording often did not make sense. The photos I have included in today’s blog do not necessarily come from the exhibition as many are not readily available online.
Four photos have been blown up into feature pictures and they are, in a word wonderful, such a shame the curator did not consider enlarging others. So one of my problems is that I’m greedy. I wanted more of the tiny photos blown up so I could immerse myself in the textures, tones, grains of the old photos and. to discern who was in the images. Here, Frida with Diego, is holding a gas mask. There were many gems like this contained in the tiny images.
One of the themes covered Frida’s fascination with her great love (and husband) Diego, however in our view the Mexican curator, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, did not achieve this from the photos selected, of which there are over 6,000!
I did learn one thing. Frida was an expert at handling a scalpel. In some photos Frida has cut out certain people from the image with surgical precision which in itself is significant and somewhat disturbing. A couple of the photos are torn but mostly she has expertly removed the offending image of, herself, Diego, sometimes we don’t know who. But the photos are so small, the impact is lost and the lack of a little more detail was frustrating.
Frida was into cutting things up and often used cutting tools as symbols of her feelings of dislocation. I don’t think this was mentioned in the exhibition but she cut off her hair when Diego divorced her and even painted an image to show the effect- both physically and emotionally.
Take another look at the painting above. Frida is holding a pair of scissors. In the painting The Two Fridas I showed you the other day, one of the Fridas is holding forceps and has cut through the vein that runs from Diego’s photo through the two Fridas to conclude its journey in her lap, dripping blood into her virgin white wedding dress.
I did feel the explanation and analysis of the effect of Frida’s accident with the tramcar was well done. And the photos related to this period in her life were incredible as we see a sensuous Frida, determined to exhibit her femininity which is often lost in other photos and paintings where her attachment to her Mexican culture dominates.