Kolkata's Range Gallery and ArtExposure celebrates Mexican icon Frida Kahlo
After the tribute show Painted Face last year — 13 artists celebrated Frida Kahlo through self-portraits — art curator Aban Desai’s Range Gallery and Uma Mitra’s ArtExposure Gallery are back celebrating the 112th birth anniversary of the Mexican icon with My Own Muse, a take on culture as an identity. The 10-day show that will begin from July 6 will see 17 artists taking inspiration from Frida’s paintings to create an eclectic mix of works that speak of their own culture, as Indians, as artists and as global citizens.
“Apart from the paintings, there will be fibre-glass Frida-heads decorated by different folk artists, ceramics and glass artworks, and some contemporary art in mixed-media,” informs Aban. “Frida Kahlo painted for herself. Her art transcended her pain and became her visual diary. Hauntingly surreal, her paintings are a figurative fusion of fantasy, folklore and personal narrative,” says Uma Mitra, who owns ArtExposure.
Kahlo prided herself on being a ‘mestiza’ — a mixed-race woman, with German, Hungarian, Spanish and indigenous Tehuana blood — and flaunted her identity with her sartorial choices that were a wild mix of Western and traditional dresses. Using her clothes and ‘rebezo’ scarves as a metaphor for her unique ethnic identity, she addressed the issues of culture, nation, race and feminism through her art, and put the Mexican identity onto the world stage. Frida often sketched in the style of traditional Mexican ex-voto paintings. Delving into the indigenous Mexican culture, she used bizarre colours, fantastical symbolism, and often harsh and gory content rendered in a simple format, turning the rich history of Mexico fashionable.
Kahlo was heavily influenced by Mexicanidad, a romantic nationalist movement aimed at taking pride in one’s indigenous cultures. Kahlo’s artistic ambition was to paint for Mexico, and “to be worthy, with my paintings, of the people to whom I belong and to the ideas which strengthen me”. Her numerous self-portraits, which she called her ‘visual diary’, speak of her hybrid identity through a unique way and she combined pre-Columbian and Christian symbols and Aztec mythology in her paintings using symbols as diverse as monkeys, skeletons, hearts, and blood.
Yet her own life, her courage and her unyielding determination to carry on, reflects her strong Germanic roots and her discipline which she owed to her German father. “As she famously said ‘I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better’, in this show, she plays muse to 17 artists who take pride in their diverse cultures,” adds Aban. The participating artists include Aditi Saraogi, Anjumit Nobis, Atish Mukherjee, Avijit Mukherjee, Bhaskar Chitrakar, Deepak Kumar Saw, Phalguni Bhatt Sanghvi, Gopal Chandra Naskar, Harendra Kushwaha, Papri Ghosh, Radhika Agarwala, Ram Kumar Manna, Srila Mookherjee, Subir Dey, Tapos Das, Viraag Desai and Vitesh Naik.
My Own Muse will be inaugurated by Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Michael Feiner. On till July 6 to 15, 12 pm to 8 pm at Art Exposure (Sundays closed).