Just one very small, beautiful exhibit makes going to the Royal Academy’s current exhibition Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940, worth it. A Frida Kahlo self portrait*. I don’t recall ever seeing a Frida Kahlo in its flesh. If a painting that was barely a few inches tall could stun me then I’m pretty sure I would have remembered it.
Even though I studied History of Art (with Film Studies – yes, I know!), my studies in the mid 90s did not cover Mexican art. Yes, I did the American artists and the Primitives, but I never touched Mexico. It was through my Mexican friend, who introduced me to many of life’s good experiences (sipping, not slamming Tequila anyone?), that suddenly a whole new world opened up and Frida Kahlo moved into my spectrum. Indeed the most beautiful gift from this friend for my daughter’s birth was the Frida Kahlo book ‘Me, Frida‘…a beautiful picture book about finding yourself and being true to your own voice.
So having visited the RA exhibition, I made my way past a stunning Diego Rivera (Kahlo’s husband), some photo reportage from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, the brightly coloured Marsden Hartley show stoppers (that would go nicely in my home), a portrait of Oddjob (oh, a Rural Schoolteacher you say? Sorry my mistake) and was just about to leave…and the Frida Kahlo came into view. So whilst I see many critics are lamenting the omission of the gargantous Mexican muralists which sum up art of the Mexican Revolution, it was this tiny, perfect painting that entered my heart. Sometimes it’s not the big things that wow, but the small things.
* If you get the chance to see this in the flesh, please do. A photo does absolutely not do this ANY justice. ¡Salud