Monday, May 4, 2015

Detroit: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Exhibit at Detroit Institute of Arts

A few years ago, my friends and I read Barbara Kingsolver's, The Lacuna, a book in which the main character becomes an apprentice to Diego Rivera and ends up living and working alongside the artist and his wife, Frieda Kahlo. We found the book to be fascinating, so when the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) announced this exciting joint exhibition between Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, we vowed to see it together.

We found our chance on Saturday, April 18 and spent a wonderful afternoon perusing the exhibit. I had seen Diego Rivera's famous Detroit Industry murals many times, but I hadn't realized until I saw the preparatory drawings and read more about itthat the murals chronicled the entire process of building a car. Here are just two of the images I took in the giant, sunlight space.
You can see the car chassis moving down the production line as the steering wheel is installed (above).
This image (above) shows what I think is the engine block getting screws tightened before it is loaded onto a cart to go on to the next phase. The murals were commissioned by Edsel Ford. The narrative in the exhibit remind us of the complexity of auto production and states that Edsel Ford was impressed that Diego Rivera was able to comprehend and translate the entire process so seamlessly.

Photography is not permitted in the exhibition itself, but this link to the Frida Kahlo website features many of the Frida Kahlo images that I saw in person at this exhibit. In all, Frida Kahlo's style has more biological references and violent interpretations than I am comfortable with. Let's just say that I didn't buy any magnets of her work to hang on my fridge. 

What I was most interested in was the idea of two artists living a life together. The image that left the biggest impression on me was a photograph of Frida painting on an easel inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. The audience knows that since this was painted inside the DIA, her husband must have been up on a scaffolding working on his mural nearby. The piece she was painting was titled Self Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States and it hangs in this limited engagement exhibit. There are 38 works by Diego Rivera and 26 works by Frida Kahlo.

Another photograph that caught my attention and in fact may be the one "take away" that most museum visitors will remember after seeing this exhibit, is of the pair kissing. Someone captured a kiss between Diego Rivera and his wife, artist Frida Kahlo up on the scaffolding, adjacent to his Detroit Industry mural. In this moment, they are husband and wife, who just happen to be making art history in Detroit.

You can find local events and programs about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Detroit here. The exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts will be on display until July 12, 2015.

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