Last week, finally, I went to visit the exhibition “Frida Kahlo e Diego Rivera” at Appartamento del Doge of Palazzo Ducale, in my city, Genoa.
Unlike the previous exhibition in Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, which was dedicated only to Frida Kahlo, the Genoa’s one shows works from Kahlo and her husband, art and life companion, Diego Rivera.
At the entrance of Appartamento del Doge in Palazzo Ducale, the very first room, an introduction to the rest of the exhibition, presents us the couple: some panels, both in italian and english, report the distinct events of the two characters in chronological order, in relation with the political mexican history. Here we will learn, if we weren’t already knowing, that when Frida was born, Diego was already a young man on the way of success, and we’ll also see the dates of their first encounter, of the marriage, and of the events of them both related to Communist Party. Other than the panels, in this room there’s also e screen showing the historical videos of the couple together.
After this short intro, the exhibition path is starting: the first room groups the early Rivera’s works, included some sketches from his travel around Europe. I’ve been attracted especially from his italian sketchbook (exhibited for the first time), in which, if I remember right (alas for my stupid habit of never taking notes!), Rivera depicted on the paper his memories of the travel to Agrigento (definitely Sicily).
From the following room, there are also Frida’s works: from room to room the paintings tell us the life of the couple like they were pictures in a book. From the dire bus accident of Frida Kahlo, happened when she, very young, was still studying to become a doctor and that will crack her dream, leaving her the time to develope her artistic part:
To the encounter with Diego through the photographer Tina Modotti, that soon became a marriage, to the following travel to the USA, when Diego exhibited at MoMa and Frida left Mexico for the first time.
In the sixth room of the exhibition, dedicated to the portraits of high society’s characters that both the artists realized (especially Diego), leaps out the style difference between the two of them: if surely there were many mutual influences, on the other hand their works are far from looking alike. It’s undoubtedly clear in the double portrait of Natasha Gelman:
If Rivera’s brush portrays a rich, beautiful, fascinating woman, Frida gives instead an image of a melancholic woman, brooding in her gravity and with her gaze lost in the void.
In the path follows a room containing the photos of the couple: from the pictures of Frida and her family taken by her photographer father Guillermo Kahlo to those taken at events, at exhibitions and even in the intimacy of Casa Azul. Are present, of course, the famous potraits of Frida taken by her friend and lover Nickolas Muray:
Thereafter we walk in a room grouping the paintings in which we can spot surrealist influences in the works of the two artists; here is exhibited, between many paintings, the famous “The two Fridas“:
And then the hall dedicated to the connection between Art and Love, always explicit in Kahlo’s works, which often are permeated with loneliness and abandonment, results of the troubled relationship with the unfaithful Diego, who will even betray her with her sister.
The last rooms are the most intimate and painfull of the entire exhibition: Frida Kahlo, seriously ill and in the grip of loneliness, doesn’t paint portraits anymore, starting a period of still-life. One of her last paintings, saved from the garbage by a friend, potrays her as a withered sunflower, with the head bowed and the sun setting. In the same period, on the opposite, Diego is on The Times cover, famous and far. Shortly after, Frida will die and Diego, finally but anyway too late, will realize how much he loved, and hurted, her.
In these rooms are also many Frida’s drawings, in which her self-expression was more free than in the paintings, and fragments from her diary.
The ending room groups some of the traditional dresses wore by the mexican artist, inspiration to many stylists, and also one of the orthopedic corsets she had to wear all her life after the bus accident:
Conclusion: a marvellous exhibition, touching and complete, on the Rivera-Kahlo couple. These 120 artworks give us an unique view on the work of the two artists that, in art as in life, were different, sometimes opposite and far, but still indissolubly tied to each other.
There’s only a week left before it closes, and, if you didn’t visit it yet, do whatever you can to not lose it.
Of course, at the end of the exhibition we had to take a selfie with Frida 😉
Frida Kahlo e Diego Rivera
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 9 – Genova
20th settembre 2014 – 8th febbraio 2015