By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
When I first heard that the Frida Kahlo , Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism exhibit currently on display at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) would contain only 20 pieces of work from Frida Kahlo and 17 pieces from Diego Rivera I was a bit disappointed, after all Frida Kahlo, who died at 47, produced approximately 200 paintings, sketches and drawings and Diego Rivera who passed away at the age of 70 in 1957, created 147 pieces of art.
I initially thought it would be a limited exhibit confined to a small space and wasn’t expecting much. To say I was pleasantly surprised by the expansive and impressive exhibit would be an understatement.
In addition to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work there is María Izquierdo’s 1946 Naturaleza viva, which features a variety of still-life fruits, vegetables, and a conch shell, symbolic of Mexico’s authentic beauty and fresh goods that are abundant across the country. Also Carlos Mérida’s vibrant and bold 1959 painting titled Festival of the Birds, which uses figurative, surreal, and geometric styles to depict a flock of birds.
There are works by Lola Alvarez Bravo, Gunther Gerzso, María Izquierdo, Carlos Mérida, and others including one of my favorites a painting of Cantiflas, the enduring and iconic Mexican comic, by Rufino Tamayo.
The exhibit spans much of the second floor of the Denver Art Museum’s Anschutz and Martin & McCormick Galleries. It will be on display through Jan. 24, 2021. (See below for ticketing information.) Most of the works on view are from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Jacques and Natasha assembled a robust collection of Mexican modernist artworks by collecting primarily from friends, such as Frida and Diego, who completed commissioned paintings for the family including some of themselves. There are also a couple of touching short films, one featuring Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera enjoying a romantic day at the famed ‘Blue House” in Mexico City that the couple lived in and loved.
Mario Carrera, former Entravision executive, told Latin Life Denver that everything about the exhibit has been meticulously thought out from the font style used in the headlines used to describe the many aspects of the exhibit to the colors used on the walls the paintings, photos, sketching hang on. “The blues, reds and mustard tones are representative of those you would find throughout Mexico during that time and even today said Carrera Adding, “that while the exhibit will be available virtually for those who may not be able to purchase tickets or who may want to avoid public spaces during Covid, the experience of being here in this space in person is truly a special one that will be remembered for some time to come. It rivals the Monet exhibit that was here recently said Carrera.
Consul General, Berenice Rendon-Talavera, General Consulate of Mexico for Colorado said in her welcoming remarks “As we enter the 100th anniversary of the end Mexican Revolution this exhibit provides the public with a unique opportunity to view not just the art of this challenging era but to witness the great creativity that is the result of a process of a movement in search of a strong national identity based on the aspects of our cultural history in regard to the end of the Mexican revolution in 1921.
Rebecca Hart, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art for the Denver Art Museum said “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. 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.” said Hart.
The exhibit features all original art work from Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and others with the exception of a copy of a huge wall mural by Diego Rivera, “Man at the Cross Roads, Man Controller of the Universe”
Rivera stirred up controversy yet when he was commissioned to create Man at the Crossroads for the Rockefeller Center in 1933. He was chosen to complete a mural on the first floor of the Rockefeller Center, with the theme of man at the crossroads, looking to the hope of a new and better future. The original work included pictures of women drinking alcohol, cells depicting sexually transmitted diseases, Leon Trotsky and a portrait of Lenin, which upset Rockefeller, who commissioned the work. He demanded that the face of Lenin be changed, but Rivera refused. Rockefeller immediately paid for the work, dismissed Rivera, and covered the mural. Rivera, who was determined to have his mural shown, re-created it at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and renamed the piece Man, Controller of the Universe. The original Man at the Crossroad in the Rockefeller Center was smashed and hauled away in 1934.
There is also a moving photo exhibit “Cuerpo Herido, Wounded Body” showing and describing the physical trauma Frida Kahlo endured. Kahlo suffered from the lingering effects of Polio she contracted at age four. Kahlo later suffered severe spine and pelvic injuries in a horrific bus accident. The exhibit describes her perseverance as “During her long convelanace, art became a path of survival and self expression.”
Author Carlos Fuentes compared Frida body to that of the fractured Mexican state that grew into a unified state following the revolution.
The photos include those of her confined to hospital bed and a wheel chair eloquently dressed with her trademark make-up and hair style to a bit of an erie photo of her in an open casket surrounded by mourners at her funeral.
Frida died unexpectedly from pneumonia a week after her 47th birthday, on July 13, 1954, she was 47 years old.
It may be fitting that an exhibit featuring a woman artist who suffered physically most of her life preserved to live a life of love and passion despite the ailments that plagued her for most of her life. Frida Kahlo is an example to everyone in overcoming adversity no matter what life may hold.
According the a press release provided by the Denver Art Museum, “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are often credited as having played a crucial role in establishing a Mexican avant-garde. Their body of work often incorporated portrayals of mexicanidad, an identity born of Mexico’s ancient cultures and its colonial past that projected a visionary future. The exhibition will showcase 13 works by Diego, including his 1943 Calla Lilly Vendor. In addition, the exhibition will explore his famous murals that incorporated social and political messages aimed at reunifying Mexicans after the revolution.”
The exhibition will include more than 20 of Frida’s paintings and drawings inspired by personal experience, Mexican folk art, and a world view that embraced contradictions, often called magical realism. Of these works, seven are self-portraits, including her 1943 painting Diego on my Mind.
Tickets for the Denver Art Museum’s (DAM) highly anticipated Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection exhibition. Tickets are on sale in two blocks to help manage capacity and visitor flow, with an eye toward a healthy museum experience. The first block of tickets are sold out. The second block of tickets will be available for purchase starting Monday, November 23, 2020, at 10 a.m., to see the exhibition during its final eight weeks from Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, to Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Members enjoy access to presales, previews, and member hours. Not a member? Join today to receive future invitations to exhibition previews, discounts on programming, FREE general admission for an entire year, and much more. Learn More about Membership >>
Please note: In accordance with Denver’s new Level 3 Safer At Home status and recently re-imposed Covid restrictions current ticket holders are being offered the opportunity to reschedule their visit or to request a refund. There a lots of online materials to get you ready for your visit including a lecture series. See them HERE
“Selling exhibition tickets in two blocks is a departure from past ticketing processes,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “This approach allows us to be to be nimble with ticketing, and make any necessary adjustments to maintain a healthy museum environment for our visitors and staff.”
How to purchase tickets: Tickets to be released in two blocks to provide a healthy museum environment.
To see Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, visitors must purchase an advance dated and timed ticket by visiting www.denverartmuseum.
Tickets for adult members start at $20 and $26 for non-members. Youth tickets are $5 for ages 6 to 18, and tickets are free for children ages 5 and under. Please note the ticketing schedule is subject to change at any time due to changes in COVID-19 restrictions. Please visit the museum website for the most up-to-date information on ticketing, exhibition hours and health and safety procedures.
Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection is organized by the Vergel Foundation and MondoMostre in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBAL). The Denver Art Museum exhibition is generously supported by John and Sandra Fox, the Birnbaum Social Discourse Project, and Craig Ponzio. Additional funding is provided by the Aegon Transamerica Foundation, Lisë Gander and Andy Main, Lauren and Geoff Smart, Xcel Energy, the Kristin and Charles Lohmiller Exhibitions Fund, the Fine Arts Foundation, the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign, and the residents who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine and CBS4.