March 15, 2014 was the opening ceremony for the new exhibit, Frida Kahlo, Her Photos, at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA. The exhibit is based on a book of the same title published in 2010 and edited by Mexican photographer, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, also curator of the exhibit.
The photographs are part of Frida’s personal collection housed in her family home, La Casa Azul, near Mexico City. After her death in 1954 Diego Rivera donated the home to the people of Mexico as a museum. Personal belongings and artifacts in the home including paintings, clothing and photographs were put on display in the museum, while everything else was stored away for over 50 years.
In 2007, Pablo was asked to unseal and go through the photos. In a 2012 interview with Noreen Naseer of Art Beat on PBS, he said, “I started looking, and the idea was to do a show with all the stuff that was there in La Casa Azul, which was not a very big museum. So when I was asked to curate that show, I did, but as I started looking at the work, I was so fascinated that started working on a book, Frida Kahlo: Her Photos.”
Pablo went through over 6, 000 photographs. Of those only 200 are on display at MOLAA, reflecting six different elements: origins, family, loves, broken body and photography.
In the exhibition we see her father the photographer as a young man, handsome with passionate eyes; and also as an elder in his twilight years. He was a well-known photographer of his time and also took many self-portraits, an influence we see in Frida’s own works.
Frida is well known for her vibrant and dramatic paintings, many of them self-portraits, but did you know she was also a photographer? The exhibit includes photos taken by friends, her family and photos taken by Frida herself. In her photos we see models of life recreated in her paintings: indigenous life, landscapes and the Ford Motor plant that would become an iconic image in Diego Rivera’s work. Some of the most striking photos are those of Frida after the major accident that forever changed her life in actuality, in thought, in art. You see a vulnerable but transparent Frida.
“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint”-Frida Kahlo
The event at MOLAA was a bit chaotic. There were many, many people which created long lines through every step of the evening. The space is not big and most of the photos are small, which made the careful viewing of the photos a tedious experience. I will definitely go back again on a less crowded day to better take in the experience. Also, there was no book about the exhibit available; not the one the show was based on or any local publication. It was unclear as to why but I suspect many would have wanted the souvenir for purchase, as I did. Aside from the exhibit halls there was live entertainment in the sculpture garden, food and mini artisan market in the back outdoor space and fun photo prop spots, bar and DJ in the interior studio. Overall there was a vibrant energy and excitement, all components for an excellent night at the museum! Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get an intimate view of Frida and the life she lived in this very personal collection of photos on display at MOLAA.