Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo have officially arrived in Denver. Starting this Sunday, you can see their work and the work of other Mexican modernists at a new travelling exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.
The DAM’s Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism features more than 150 artworks by artists of the Mexican modernist movement, including Kahlo, Rivera, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Gunther Gerzso, María Izquierdo, Carlos Mérida and more. Most of the works came from the Gelman collection, a famously extensive collection of Modern Mexican art commissioned and collected by Jacques and Natasha Gelman.
From October 25 through January 24, DAM visitors can examine these artists’ role in shaping a new creative movement, as well as in contributing to a new national identity and spirit of independence that emerged out of the Mexican Revolution. The movement, which established a Mexican avante garde, produced art known for its layered elements: layered times, layered memories, layered cultural influences, and layers of imaginary and physical images.
“With the centennial anniversary of the end of the Mexican Revolution upon us, we look forward to presenting an exhibition that highlights this vital period in history through a variety of artistic mediums,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director at the DAM.
“I hope this exhibition increases the understanding and appreciation of artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and the iconic Mexican modernist artists of the 20th century,” said Rebecca R. Hart, a Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “It’s also my hope that visitors are able to draw connections with their personal experiences and the world around them through the artworks and narratives on display.”
Providing the backbone to the exhibition are 20 Kahlo pieces and 13 works by Rivera, supported by the work of other artists in their circle. As you walk into the installation, you’re greeted by Rivera’s Calla Lilly Vendor. The walls are painted black so that the white lilies seem to glow. His cacti wave to you out of Landscape with Cacti as you turn to the first Kahlo piece: her famous Self Portrait with Monkeys.
Throughout the installation, there are dozens of photos documenting Rivera and Kahlo’s life together. The images depict the artists’ loving, if tumultuous, marriage; Kahlo’s illness, and her sense of humor; their time in Mexico City and travelling around the world; and their political activism (they were members of the Communist Party). Guests can watch home videos of them enjoying each other’s company at La Casa Azul; admire reproductions of Kahlo’s clothing, in which she consciously incorporated different elements of her blended German, Spanish and indigenous Tehuana identity; see the women of Rivera’s extraneous affairs as depicted in his art; and the pain of their miscarriage, as depicted in Kahlo’s.
The installation also explores a number of ideas and submovements within Mexican modernism. Many Mexican Modernist artists embraced mexicanidad, an identity that combines elements of indigenous culture and Mexican national heritage. Artists conveying mexicanidad blended the traditional with the contemporary, creating a new, modern genre by looking to the past and appropriating elements of ancient artworks. One room within the exhibition explores the “Marvelous Real,” an artistic vision that blends different realities and contradicting ideas to create fantastic imagery similar to that found in surrealism, but that is a practice specific to Latin America. And Rivera’s Man Controller of the Universe serves as an introduction to the Mexican Muralist Movement, through which artists like Rivera created large scale public paintings to engage citizens on political and social issues.
Kahlo, especially, seems to be the star of the show; there are dozens of photographic depictions of her alone. She also gets the last word: The very last paintings you see before exiting into the exhibition’s gift shop are The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Señor Xolotl; and Diego on my Mind — works in which she incorporates images of Rivera, contemplating through her art upon their relationship.
Tickets to see Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism will be sold in two blocks. For visits between October 25 and November 30, tickets for nonmembers went on sale at 10 a.m. on October 12. Another round of tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on November 23 for visits between December 1 and January 24, 2021. DAM members have special access to presales, previews and special member hours. All tickets must be purchased online and in advance.