Frida Kahlo

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Frida Kahlo has become the most universally admired Mexican artist nearly five decades after her death. In the last decade in particular, she has been a great ambassador of Mexican art and culture. The complexity and depth of her human and esthetic dimension have made her a universal symbol. Her paintings sell for millions of dollars at auctions, and her face is an international icon. She gave shape to an esthetic and everyday world in works that combine affection and humor, sadness and sarcasm, the intimate and the collective. Indeed, her creations reveal an artist who deserves to have her own special place in twentieth-century Mexican art.

In the imagination of the world, Frida Kahlo is a succession of self-portraits and portraits. More important than her fame and abounding legends, there is her photogenic and - if we can coin the term - "portrait-genic" quality, and aptitude for always conveying memorable features. Frida is a myth in the sense that she represents to a host of different groups and individuals certain values and deep emotions; and she is the visual and existential consequence of a whole range of stimuli. Although at this point it is impossible to know which came first ( the myth or the person of the same name), one thing is certain: in the complex phenomenon that is Frida Kahlo, the self-portrait is a constant distinguishing element. Making a portrait of Frida means embarking on a process that seeks to capture in images the spell or singularity of a being who is as fragile as she is powerful. For her part, Frida choose a powerful method of isolation from and relationship with the world: the self-portrait, idealization that is materialization, the reflection that becomes the cruelest of mirages.

In her pictorial versions of herself, Frida opts for a game of substitution. Allegory is the disappearance of an apparent or literal meaning in favor of another, deeper meaning. In this sense, Frida is the face that is effaced, that makes way for the emblematizing of melancholy, of the woman whose mask is her true face, of the creator who recognizes herself only in the crystalline surface of the canvas, of the woman who is solitary out of necessity and who has been alone so much she must create her double.

As a Baroque poet might have said, when you are no longer what you see, you have become what you have painted. Without resorting to such rhetoric, Frida nonetheless favored allegory as the concrete rendering of an abstract idea. Like all great self-portraitists, she ceases to be an abstraction only when she paints herself; she abandons unreality only when she turns herself into "fabula". Her most powerful and celebrated body of work is also the richest in meaning.

If to the photographic camera Frida radiates her pictorial qualities ("I am a person, taking photos of me comes close to making a painting," could be her message), her self-portraits, guided by a remarkable intuition, overflow with symbols that may or may not be explained and that last like hallucinations. She is severe when she is tender and tender when she is harsh, she painted herself calmly so as not to admit emotions without pretext, and she ridicules herself and the ideas that people have about her. Frida - the Lovely Lady Without Pity, even for herself - records her raison d'etre et de souffrir, her heraldic motto, the strength and center of her frailties: the refusal to distinguish between dream and nightmare, foreboding and suffering. As in few cases, the work is the exorcism evoked by suffering and rage in order to relieve a body that harbors so much malignity; as in few cases, Frida's oeuvre translates inexpressible injury into visions of rebirth. Surviving tragedy is the first principle of resurrection.

As we know, Frida also worked with other themes, producing portraits for friends and on commission, as well as still-lifes, political fantasies, and cosmic panoramas. But her self-portraits are her greatest achievement,...
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