Self portraits by artist Frida Kahlo (titled from left) "Self Portrait with Braids", 1941, "Self Portrait with Monkeys," 1943, and "Self Portrait with Monkey," 1945, are displayed Feb. 8 as part of the exhibition featuring the works of Kahlo and Diego Rivera, "Frida & Diego: Passion Politics and Painting," at the High Museum in Atlanta. The exhibit features more than 140 works, making it the largest exhibition of the couple's art ever displayed together.
ATLANTA — A major exhibition opening in Atlanta explores the work of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, the famed 20th century couple who shared influences ranging from Marxism to Mexican folk art but whose legacies could not be more different — her best-known work consisting of dramatic self-portraits, his celebrity stemming from public murals celebrating Mexican nationalism.
“Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting” opens Thursday at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the only U.S. venue where it will be shown. Featuring more than 120 pieces, it is the largest exhibition ever of the husband-and-wife’s work shown together and includes about a quarter of Kahlo’s total body of work, according to the High.
Rivera and Kahlo were married for nearly 25 years — a union that was both passionate and tumultuous — but their art is rarely shown together in a single exhibition because of the perceived differences in their styles, said curator Elliott King.
“What our show really tries to do is bring these two artists together, to talk about their shared context, the influences that really brought them together as a couple — their shared commitment to Mexico, their shared politics, their commitment to the Marxist revolution — and I think that’s a story that really hasn’t been told fully because the two artists have been seen in isolation,” he said.
By the time the two married in 1929, Rivera was already established as a creative figure, perhaps best-known for more than 200 public murals that depict scenes from Mexican history to promote cultural nationalism commissioned by the Ministry of Education. His outgoing personality added to his celebrity.
Kahlo was virtually unknown as an artist when the two met. She had suffered numerous broken bones — including a spine fractured in three places, a broken pelvis and broken collar bone — in a 1925 bus accident that also left her unable to have children.
She was very private and used her small-format painting to channel her physical and emotional suffering.
Immediately upon entering the exhibition, the visitor encounters a blown-up larger-than-life photograph of the pair — Kahlo looking off to one side as Rivera, who’s right behind her, stares over Kahlo’s shoulder straight at the camera.
“I think one of the things that is most compelling about this exhibition is the story of these two people, and we really thought this photograph captures that,” said High director of collections and exhibitions David Brenneman.