Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism

I guess that like most people, I knew the pop culture Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist, unibrow. It was not until I started teaching that she always popped up in different cultural units and readings. So, I did some research and was blown away! Soon we were doing full units on her, watching documentaries, and writing essays for class. I was so fascinated by this woman, that in 2008 I took the train from Boston to see an exhibit of her paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

When the Norton Museum of Art up the road from me in West Palm Beach hosted an exhibit based on her, her husband Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, I liked it so much I went twice!

Unlike other exhibits, this one delivers on what it promises; It not only has a delightful selection of Kahlo’s work, but it also has a good representation of Rivera’s work and of the whole Mexican Modernist movement, it even has a dozen Mexican dresses on show.

Of course, the real star here is Kahlo beyond the pop culture iconography; Her strength as a survivor of polio, and of having a bus handrail impale her pelvis at 18. She is a crucible of pre-Columbine and Hispanic culture, of Christianity and ancient Mexican religions, of nature and urban environments, of communism and capitalism, of sexuality, and so on with everything.

Besides the dresses, the exhibit has other nice touches like the photos Patti Smith took on her visit to Kahlo’s house in Coyoacán in Mexico City, and a quote from Carlos Fuentes, one of my favorite writers. It is a wonderful exhibit and if you are in Southern Florida you should see it.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, the Norton Museum is an oasis of culture in the suburban wasteland that is Southern Florida, so a morning at the museum with a lovely coffee in the courtyard and a visit to the gift shop is a morning well spent.

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