Paris exhibition reveals how Frida Kahlo built her identity through fashion – WWD

Paris A new exhibition in Paris offers a glimpse into Frida Kahlo’s personal life, featuring paintings of the Mexican artist from her traditional Tawana dress to her orthopedic corsets, and personal effects including bright pink Revlon lipstick.

“Frida Kahlo, Beyond Appearances” After making stops in 2012 at Casa Azul in Mexico City, Kahlo’s birthplace, and in London, New York City, the Paris City Hall-backed fashion museum, Palais Galliera, opens on Thursday. and San Francisco in various iterations.

The show, which runs until March 5, includes more than 200 items from the Museo Frida Kahlo, including clothing, accessories, letters, cosmetics, medicines and orthopedic aids, including the prosthetic leg with a red leather boot that she started wearing after her lower leg. A year before her death, her right leg was amputated.

“This exhibition explores her construction of identity through disability, ethnicity, gender identity and political views,” said Circe Henestrosa, head of the School of Fashion at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore and the exhibition’s curator and designer.

After Kahlo’s death in 1954, many of the items were packed away and saw the light of day only half a century later. Miraculously, many of her clothes survived intact and can be seen alongside photographs, including a series of famous color portraits by Nicholas Murray.

“While I was looking through her wardrobe, I was looking at photographs and paintings to understand her style and how she handled these materials,” says Henestrosa, whose great-aunt gave Kahlo traditional clothing from the Oaxaca region. Favor.

“I immediately saw how all these materials interacted and spoke to each other. There are no hierarchies in curatorial decisions, so clothing is as important as painting, painting as photography, photography as orthopedic equipment,” she continued. “This is not an art show, but a show that shows all the creative processes in one big narrative.”

The exhibition in the museum’s basement galleries is a large documentary of Kahlo’s formative years, including her traumatic events as an artist: she contracted polio at age six, lost one leg shorter than the other, and survived a tragic tram accident at 18 that left her with multiple injuries that required lifelong treatment.

But the influence of her parents was very important. From her mother Matilde Calderón y González, who is of Spanish and indigenous origin, she draws her connection to traditional Mexican clothing, while her father, who was born in Germany, Guillermo Kahlo, taught her the power of the image.

“Her first act of self-expression was when she stood in front of her father, who was a photographer, and we noticed how she expressed herself after polio,” said Ganit Ankori, professor of art history and theory at Frida Kahlo. and worked as a content consultant on the exhibition. “Then she has that serious, intense look that you see in her self-portraits.”

After her accident, Kahlo, who was studying medicine, began to paint. One of her paintings from that period clearly shows the scene of the accident, with Kahlo lying in the rubble, hovering over the scene.

“What you’re showing here is another Frida, a second self, from the outside, and it’s like dissociation or dissociation, a psychological phenomenon, when something terrible happens to you, you separate the head from the body. Ankori

“It’s a recurring theme throughout her life that she portrays the two Fridas, or double selves,” she says.

Photographs taken the following year show Kahlo dressed in a three-piece suit and a black knee-length satin dress. “You see how she chooses to present herself, she strives to present different aspects of who she is and she’s showing gender fluidity before that word was invented,” Ankori said.

After marrying Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in 1929, Kahlo grew into her own persona. She takes traditional clothing as an expression of her Mexican identity, but also as a way to better cope with her disability.

“The geometry of the composition of the Tehuana dress allows her to adjust herself, because all the ornaments are focused from the ceiling,” says Henestrosa. “She hides her body under those beautiful fabrics, but reveals it clearly with her art.”

When Kahlo and Rivera arrived in America in the 1930s, she captivated photographers such as Peter Julie and Imogen Cunningham with her style. “His attitude toward her was patronizing, but she was also fascinating,” Ankori said. Film footage from the period shows Rivera climbing down scaffolding as she works and makes drawings of herself.

A piece created for the Paris exhibition focuses on her trip to the French capital in 1939, where she participated in a group show titled “Mexico” by Surrealist poet André Breton. Although her marriage to Rivera was in trouble, letters and photographs show, Kahlo formed a close friendship during her time in France.

This section includes never-before-seen items such as a passport, address book and a cruise line ticket to Normandy. But the highlight of the exhibition is a display of Kahlo’s personal effects, including a necklace made of pre-Columbian jade beads; A bottle of Chanel No. 5 lotion, and several Revlon makeup items, including a tube of everything pink lipstick.

“I met her for the first time when I went through her personal belongings and found a very complex person,” said Henestrosa.

On one wall is a collection of bone corsets that Kahlo hand-decorated. In Florence Arquin’s photograph, she proudly lifts her huipil shirt to reveal a plaster body with a hammer and sickle drawn across her chest and an unborn child in her womb.

“For me, it’s important to emphasize that she dealt with her disabilities creatively, she didn’t allow herself to be defined by these disabilities, but expressed her identity through her own expression,” explained Henestrosa. “It’s beautiful how these corsets are extensions of her body and works of art in their own way.”

On the floor of the museum, a capsule exhibition that will last from Thursday to December 31, Kahlon’s influence on modern designers, including Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Jean Paul Gaultier, Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.

The French fashion house, which is exclusively sponsoring the exhibition, said it inspired Kahlo Lagerfeld’s spring 1993 ready-to-wear campaign and a March 2010 editorial for German Vogue, both featuring Claudia Schiffer. The images displayed in a slideshow at the entrance to the exhibition are sure to spark debate.

“It’s an interpretation. “It’s going to be controversial for some people, because she’s a white model, and it’s exploitative,” Henestrosa said. “But the materials are there. The materials are going to be interpreted by the public.”

Known for her wicked sense of humor, Kahlo may have relished the idea of ​​a giant German model made in her likeness, simply because it shows the staying power of the myth she created.

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