The prolific and influential Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, drawn together by their visions for Mexico’s future, Marxist politics, and artistic expression, shared a volatile relationship. Their famous relationship is the subject of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s new exhibit “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting”, which opened on October 20. Mexican music and an enlarged black and white photo of the couple greet visitors to the exhibit. The rest of the exhibit, compiled by guest curator Dot Tuer, comprises over 80 works by Frida and Diego. Over 60 photographs and one video of the couple deepen the viewer’s understanding of Frida and Diego’s life together. Both artists were heavily influenced by the Mexican Revolution (which took place from 1910 to 1920) and the 1917 Russian Revolution; they shared the same vision for Mexico. But they differed greatly in how their art expressed their ideas, and themselves. Rivera, influenced by his friendship with Pablo Picasso, started with cubism and  moved on to murals, portraits, and landscapes. All of them focussed on Mexico: the indigenous culture, the people, and his vision of Mexico as a socialist country. Frida was drawn to self-portraiture, using her art to put into perspective her battle with illness—she contracted polio at six and was in a bus accident, and both incidents later caused numerous miscarriages—as well as her Mexican and European heritage, her love of animals, her fascination with nature, and her painful on-again, off-again relationship with Rivera. Rivera achieved acclaim internationally; his frescoes influenced various art movements, including Mexican muralism. Frida’s critical acclaim only came after her death in 1954. Her popularity grew in the 1970s when her work was noticed by the feminist movement. Feminists saw her work as a depiction of the liberated modern woman. It is refreshing to see these awesome artists exhibited together. They have been very influential in their different ways; presented together, a wonderfully complex story of turbulence in personal and political life unravels. “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting” runs from October 20 to January 20 at the AGO. On December 6, the AGO will host a lecture entitled “Frida Kahlo: Her Life and Art” from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

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