Frida Kahlo Travels to Philly; Curator Leaves Politics & the Mexican Communist Party Outside the Main Event
On the way from Mexico City to Philadelphia, Frida Kahlo celebrates her 100 birthday [1907-2007] with a great exhibition of her art and personal commitment to life. The exhibition of her paintings and personal photos is a collection well worth seeing. But, left in the margins of this exhibition is her commitment to the Communist Party of Mexico and her comrades, including her husband, Diego Rivera. The gallery book assembled for the event gives a more complete and accurate understanding of her personal, art, and political convictions and commitments
The presentation's oral hand held device's explanation, free of charge after spending $20 to attend [$17 for seniors], carefully describes over 30 of these paintings and the selected great personal photos that are on display for the first time.
In the hand held devices where you press each button to correspond to the paintings in front of you, there is the opportunity to press another button to find out more about the paintings and Kahlo's life. It is only if you press that additional button that find out the Kahlo and Rivera are "committed communists." The statement was almost a back handed attempted to avoid criticism for not putting her life and art within that context.
In the much talked about Rockefeller Center mural by Rivera, which are quickly described, the viewer is informed that Rockefeller had the mural destroyed due to the "communist influences." They put that phrase in quotes.
In Kahlo's painting, "Moses", done in 1945, she counter poses on the left of the painting, Karl Marx, VI Lenin, Josef Stalin and other left political leaders; and, on the right side religious leaders and also Napoleon and Hitler. In the oral explanation, the narrator gives a very muddled explanation of this important painting. If you see the painting, the oral curator explanation has more to do with birthing than politics.
In short, the exhibition is well worth the visit, but be sure to see the gallery book on Kahlo and other books, which more accurately described her life.
Her bravery is not just limited too overcoming very difficult physical, family and other personal problems, but also, being a political activist with militant Communist Party credentials.
Picasso Museum in France, Same Direction
The treatment of the Kahlo exhibit is following the example of the continuing depoliticalization of Pablo Picasso in France. There, the Picasso museum was inaugurated with an accurate description of Picasso's life including his full French Communist Party activity and affiliation. Now, years later, that same museum focuses almost exclusively on his artistic life. His strong activities for peace within the context of the French Communist Party are almost completely deleted.
In our country there is a similar effort to convert the great Paul Robeson's political life into an almost exclusively cultural context. That has meant removing Robeson from the US Communist Party and his unflinching support for the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. His passport was removed for those activities, not his great cultural achievements.
In short, it is no accident that there is an active attempt to downplay, if not eliminate, the influence of the Communist Party from the lives of mass cultural figures in the United States and elsewhere.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's cultural achievements and personal lives were all achieved within the context of being communists and activists.