To receive Trotsky, Frida laid a luxurious table. In the middle was a round cake, the center of which was decorated with a hammer and sickle surrounded by small candles. Around the candy, straight lines formed by flower corollas were projected outward, somewhat imitating the rays of the sun. Also, from the flowers, Frida wrote a greeting in large letters: “Up, the fourth international. Long live Trotsky.” A tea set and cloth napkins completed the décor. The photo report is made in black and white, but the table turned out to be cheerful and colorful.
This gesture, witty and sweet, sweet and feminine, might have seemed banal in the eyes of some courageously orthodox militant communist… and it is even likely that among the diners it went unnoticed or only aroused oblique admiration, because it was considered a “minor” gesture. characteristic of the mistress of the house. The great myth of Frida Kahlo grows, in my opinion, from the secondary role in which she lived most of her life and in which the creation of her own character was forged not only as a resource of subjectivity, but also as a work of art in itself.
Her characteristic Mexican outfits appeared at the same time that she married Diego. If at first she dressed like this for him, then over time Frida realized what she was doing and enjoyed it. Two stays in the USA (1930-31 and 1931-33) were decisive in this process, since his exoticism caused more excitement there than in Mexico. In San Francisco, people stopped on the streets when they saw her; At social dinners, in front of the press, and among New York intellectuals, his appearance attracted attention and ensured his proper role in the complex world of the Bonfire of the Vanities. In the northern country, Frida deployed her world, subjectivity and creativity in two territories: domestic and external. At home, she experienced an abortion, pain, mourned the death of her mother, painted and wrote many letters; on the outside, he created himself as a symbol.
There is a playful expression “sweet flu” for a cold that lasts longer than usual. I think that Frida’s life could well be summed up with the idea of ”gentle pain” in all the senses that this expression contains and can evoke. However, little attention was paid to the boredom that became attached to Frida and accompanied her through the long and repetitive stages of her life. “I’m bored” is one of the most frequently repeated phrases in his correspondence during the gringo period, and also, naturally, during his recovery from an accident that many years ago crushed his pelvis, one leg and lower back.
Boredom and loneliness made Frida amuse herself by playing the game of creating and recreating herself. In her youthful letters, she amused herself by signing her letters as “Frieduch” and also by the German version of her name “Frida”, from which she took the letter “e” when fascism rose in Germany. In the United States, she chose another of her given names, Carmen, so as not to be associated with her father’s country of origin, and years later, referring to her lover Nicholas Murray, she named herself Xochitl (flower in Nahuatl).
For a long time, Frida Kahlo did not take herself seriously artistically, and her position as the “wife of a great genius” forced her to develop her art outside of public scrutiny and pressure. Feminine, intimate and personal, her painting departed from the bombastic nationalist epic that characterized Mexican art of the time and that was eventually institutionalized in the hands of power.
Although her training as an artist was self-taught, she had an extensive knowledge of art history and repertoire. From this place, he consciously chose the popular Mexican aesthetic to wrap up his plastic language. She was not a prolific or regular artist, as her work was often interrupted by health complications and a hectic life with Diego. With the exception of a couple of paintings, his work is rather small.
The beginning of his artistic boom is linked to the founding myth of his meeting with André Breton. The Frenchman was very mistaken in calling her a surrealist, because, as Carlos Monsivais said, her painting did not arise in a dream, but in painful wakefulness. Frida was not particularly happy about joining a select group of European surrealists and became furious when a member of the gallery in which she exhibited wanted to show only two of her paintings, considering her work too scandalous. During her time in Paris, she felt closer to Marcel Duchamp than to Breton and his group. In fact, Frida’s “primitivism”, like the readymade, was ten steps ahead of its time.
Due to the fact that her attitude towards the art system was distrustful and unpretentious, Frida’s work has an authentic and unique spirit, which even today resists the deceitful circus that was staged from it. The postmodern accepted her because she was the forerunner of plurality and contradiction: the beautiful and the ugly, the betrayed and the unfaithful wife; sad and happy, dull and cheerful, feminine and mariachi, “sour and tender”, in Diego’s words … androgynous. Frida Kahlo was full of humor, brilliance and charisma; explosive and generous short circuiting without concessions in the face of conventions.
Frida’s posthumous promotion into the pantheon of the iconosphere resulted in the random and indiscriminate scattering of her meager works, mostly to private collections. Two of them hold the largest number of copies, including his most famous self-portraits and numerous personal items. The Dolores Olmedo painting, which can be seen in Madrid this year and has not visited Spain since 2005, is the product of a paradox, as the collector acquired the paintings not out of admiration, but out of enmity (which he is rumored to have done to steal Frida and remove her from market). For its part, the Vergel Foundation collection (formerly the Gelman collection) last exhibited in Spain in 2000 and has been involved in all sorts of controversies.
If the dismantling of the myth of Frida is possible, it will not come under scrutiny, and the critical, curatorial and active exhibition of the most famous artist in the world today is a chimera. When not in Mexico, the Olmedo and Vergel collections tend to travel the world separately as blockbuster exhibitions, and with the exception of an official centenary tribute held in Mexico in 2007, the two collections, and Frida did not meet any more work in the same space. We’ll probably have to wait for another memorable date for something like this to happen again, but a new perspective on the character, her work, and her legacy is hardly possible outside of the various political and business interests that bind her today.
On the shelf next to my computer, I keep a few popular crafts that consist of small wooden boxes with clay skulls representing everyday scenes inside. I’m particularly interested in the one I bought at the market: Frida, with a parrot on her shoulder, appears in a wheelchair, while Diego draws her. Even though it shows a false and sexist situation (the most emblematic self-portrait artist is portrayed by her husband, to whom some of her work is attributed in this scene), the object is fascinating and revealing to me because it is a product of street-level freedom, a living history. , not myth, the power of fable and creativity.
Perhaps Frida needs to move away from the leading role and return to the background in which she was fruitful and free; to fly off the pedestal and shake off the tons of dust that try to immobilize her like the marble effigy she never wanted to be. I close my eyes and picture her as the frustrated girl in one of her paintings who wanted an airplane but was given fake wings (“Ask Planes and Give Them Little Wings”, ca. 1938). I would like to think of her as the naughty Friduha of the cards, drawing and scrawling in the margins of the pages, telling stories with self-confidence, like an unstoppable fountain of beauty and creativity.
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