Frida Kahlo: Arte Popular

Frida Kahlo: Arte Popular

The first-ever Kahlo exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular highlights the artist’s respect for Mexican folk art. Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) avidly collected traditional Mexican folk art aptly named arte popular. She like many of her compatriots at the time saw it as a celebration of Mexican national culture. Deriving inspiration from objects, and seizing on their political significance after the Mexican Revolution. Continuously incorporating their visual and material qualities into her artwork.

Kahlo’s work as an artist remained relatively unknown until the late 1970s. However, the rediscovery of her work was carried out by art historians and political activists. By the early 1990s, she became a recognized figure in art history. Chicanos, the feminist movement and the LGBTQ movement saw Kahlo as an icon. While her renown has been on the rise for decades, she is an internationally celebrated artist. Her work is an emblem of Mexican and indigenous traditions. As a result, popularizing the polarizing subject.


Dos Mujeres, Frida Kahlo

Debuting in 1921, the term arte popular links art and politics. It constructs patriotic histories and images uniting Mexico’s divided peoples. Following a devastating civil war, government officials and artists played overlapping roles. However, Kahlo herself was not a folk artist. However, she includes ceramics, carvings and other handmade objects made in rural communities in her work. She like other artist and intellectuals alike lionized the works of arte popular.  While synonymous with the mexicanidad, or Mexican national culture. The arte popular movement, therefore, promoted the celebration of Mexico’s indigenous and working-class people. Exploring some of the social and political ideas of the post-Revolutionary period. The exhibition contextualizes both Kahlo’s paintings and arte popular. While focusing on the dialogues between the two. Highlighting the issues of the day, using art as its voice.

MFA Exhibit

Arte Popular
Máscara de tigre (Jaguar Mask). Mexican Artist (active Guerrero)

This is the MFA’s first exhibition on Frida Kahlo. It focuses exclusively, on Kahlo’s lasting engagements with arte popular. Focusing on her passion for embroidered textiles and devotional retablo paintings. Shining new light onto Kahlo as a clever and ambitious, painter. The exhibition creates the opportunity to discuss the influences of anonymous folk artists on famed modern painters.

Bringing together the exhibition is eight Kahlo paintings some on loan from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, there are approximately 40 representative examples of arte popular, on loan from the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). As well as photographs and important illustrated publications from the period.

A representative of Layla Bermeo, Assistant Curator of American Paintings, says “While many exhibitions focus on the artist’s biography and interpret her paintings as direct illustrations of life events, our exhibition brings fresh attention to Kahlo as an ever-evolving and ambitious painter, who actively responded to arte popular.”

Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular” is on view through June 2019, at the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing.

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