Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Cadbury - Spots v Stripes Campaign 'launches its biggest ever marketing initative to celebrate the run up to the London Olympics'
Cadbury is taking its role of 'official treat sponsor for London's Olympic and Paralympic Games' in 2012 seriously, with the launch of its Spots v Stripes campaign to build anticipation in the run up to the games.
Based on the insight, like Gatorade's Replay, that people maintain a competitive spark no matter what level they are playing at, the campaign aims to change the fact that 30% of people in the UK claim they have no time for games.
The campaign will reignite the spirit of play through a series of playground favourites such as thumb wars, sleeping bag racing and even kiss chase, creating the biggest series of games ever. Encouraging participation is key to the campaign, so any game counts!
So - pick your team on facebook - sign up to either stripes or spots and get ready to compete at the games that are being hosted for the rival teams at festivals, universities, village fetes and sports centres around the UK.
Although the campaign is scheduled to run for the next couple of years building up to the games, Cadbury hopes that its legacy will stretch much further. Demonstrating its commitment is the fact that this is the brand's largest and most integrated marketing campaign ever - running through a TV commercial, shown above, social networks, digital, PR, events. And, a team of over 2000 Game Ambassadors will travel the country building anticipation and participation to a fever pitch.
The campaign is being managed by key agency partners including Fallon, London, PrettyGreen, Brave, Drum PHD and the charity Groundwork, who will be running a grassroots play initiative.
Although the campaign website only officially launches this week, over 5000 people have already signed up via Facebook and through the Game Ambassadors, who have been on the road since June. Opportunities about for participation, and also for the rival teams to take the campaign on and make it their own, competing in any way they see fit.
ASIA'S LEADING AND MOST COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE SHOWCASE!
8th International Exhibition on Hospital, Diagnostic, Pharmaceutical, Medical and Rehabilitation Equipment and Supplies. The exhibition will open its doors at Suntec Singapore from 15 to 17 September 2010. MEDICAL FAIR ASIA is one of Asia’s most successful events on medical and health care, attracting more than 400 exhibiting companies from 30 countries including national groups and pavilions from Australia , Austria , China , France , Germany , India , Japan , South Korea , Singapore and Taiwan . The exhibition will showcase latest solutions to the region’s healthcare providers, highlights include surgical robot, host of diagnostic, electromedical, and consumable solutions.
Singapore will play host to Messe Duesseldorf Asia's premier medical and health care platform for the 8th time. MEDICAL FAIR ASIA will provide vital access for companies penetrating both the Asian markets. The changing demographics in terms of declines in fertility, longer life expectancy and the aging population will have an enormous impact on the need for better healthcare. Where medical tourism is concerned, many of the healthcare institutions are in need of new equipment, solutions and better initiatives to serve the medical and healthcare needs.
MEDICAL FAIR ASIA will present to the region the best in the business for hospital, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, medical and rehabilitation equipment and supplies. It will serve as a platform for medical suppliers, industry professionals, government bodies, hospital administrators, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Join us in bringing global healthcare technologies to one of the most dynamic regions in the world.
10.00am to 6.00pm, 15 to 17 September 2010
Admits all involved in medical and health care by registration only.
Admission is FREE.
More information can be found at www.medicalfair-asia.com
Monday, August 2, 2010
In 2010 the Martin-Gropius-Bau is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence and the centenary of the Mexican Revolution in two exhibitions: Frida Kahlo – Retrospective and Teotihuacán – Mexico’s Mysterious Pyramid City. The exhibitions form part of the celebrations in the cultural centenary programme that Mexico is presenting abroad. Some of Mexico’s most precious national treasures are being allowed out of the country for the very first time for these exhibitions.
The Bicentenario, or 200th anniversary celebrations, reminds us of the origins of Mexico’s struggle for independence. On 16 September 1810, after almost 300 years of colonial rule,the priest Miguel Hidalgo in Central Mexico issued the call to rise up against his country’s foreign Spanish government and its privileged representatives in Mexico. Every year,
Mexican Independence Day is celebrated as the Grito de Dolores. The cry (grito) for independence and the removal of class distinctions, and for abolition of the serfdom of the indigenous population was followed by years of struggle, until 1821 when the Mexican nation finally gained its independence.
A hundred years or Centenario later, the Mexican Revolution began after the engineered reelection of the dictator Porfirio Díaz on 20 November 1910 gave rise to a widespread opposition movement. One of the fiercest struggles was between the farm-workers led by legendary heroes Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa and the great landowners. The Mexican Revolution officially came to an end in 1917 with the approval of the Constitution and finally ended with the founding of the “Institutional Revolutionary Party” or PRI, in 1929.
Frida Kahlo, who was actually born in 1907, identified so strongly with the Mexican Revolution that she changed her date of birth to 1910. By doing this she was demonstrating her solidarity with the Mexican people and presenting herself as an integral part of the country’s destiny. As a child she lived through the times of unrest: The Coyoacán district, in which the house where she was born, the “Blue House” stood, played an important strategic role in the civil war and was bitterly fought over. Frida Kahlo describes her memories of these battles in her diary.
The artist often made reference to Mexico’s indigenous culture in her work and incorporated stylistic elements and symbols of pre-Columbian art in her paintings. She deliberately dressed in traditional Indian clothes as a constant reminder of her roots. With her husband Diego Rivera she visited the excavation sites of Teotihuacán to the north of her native Mexico City.
During the Classical Epoch (100 BC to 650 AD), Teotihuacán was the first, the largest and the most influential metropolis on the American continent. When some thousand years later, in the 14th century, the Aztecs discovered the abandoned ruined city, they gave it the name Teotihuacán – “the place where people become gods” – and established their own creational myth there. Today the pyramid city is still an important symbol of Mexican identity. Every year, more than 500,000 people come to Teotihuacán to celebrate the solstice. The area is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its huge pyramids are one of Mexico’s most famous tourist destinations. The “Teotihuacán – Mexico’s Mysterious Pyramid City” exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau includes results of the most recent excavations and more than 450 outstanding artefacts from Teotihuacán provide an unprecedented insight into the art, daily life and religion of this fascinating and enigmatic culture.
Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau will be devoting an extensive retrospective to the important Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Comprising over 150 works (paintings and drawings) it is the largest Frida Kahlo exhibition ever to be shown in Germany.
The exhibition includes works never before shown or believed to be lost, such as, Frida Kahlo’s painted plaster corset, now in private hands. Other highlights include Kahlo’s last works dating from 1954. Both the self-portrait in oils as a sunflower – a work previously believed to have been destroyed – and the self-portrait drawing are being seen in Europe for the first time. Also of interest is the identification of the hitherto anonymous subject of a portrait from Kahlo’s early oeuvre, who turns out to have been the Mexican women’s rights activist Adela Formoso de Obregón Santacilia, who gained fame as the founder of the Women’s University of Mexico.
Many of the 90 drawings on show here have never been exhibited before. These hitherto unknown works raise new questions and afford new insights, such as the completely abstract series 13 Feelings (1949), inspired by the psychological studies of her artist friend Olga Costa. She uses clever verbal and visual games both to conceal and express thoughts. The enigmatic and often witty encryption of her pictures with numbers and plays on words are
elucidated in the exhibition. Some drawings are preludes to later oil paintings and are thus important for a proper appreciation, revealing as they do the evolution of her painting oeuvre. This includes the study for the painting The Broken Column.
Another section of the exhibition will be devoted to the small-format votive paintings which the artist executed in the Mexican ex voto style in the early 1930s. They express the artist’s yearnings for health, independence and fulfilment.
In order to keep the biographical details as far as possible from the work context while at the same time granting the visitor insights into her life, the exhibition will be supplemented by an extensive collection of photos belonging to her family and close friends. This section will be curated by Cristina Kahlo, Frida Kahlo’s grandniece. The photographers include Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Nickolas Muray, Guillermo Kahlo and Leo Matiz. The photos show scenes from the various phases in the life of this exceptional Mexican artist: Frida as a young girl, Frida with her husband Diego Rivera, Frida lying in bed painting her plaster corset, and various individual portraits presenting her as a fascinating woman with magnificent jewellery, traditional costume, and a confident gaze.
Frida Kahlo’s works are rare. Most collectors possess just one of her works from which they are reluctant to part. For the first time the only two major collections, that of the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum and the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art, Vergel Foundation, Cuernavaca, will be on display in toto and together. The Gelman collection has not been on public show for years because of legal disputes, but for
the exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau it has been allowed to leave Mexico. Other valuable loans have come from 30 prominent Mexican and 15 selected North American museums and private collections.
Besides many largely unknown photos belonging to the family and close circle of friends, the exhibition also shows the famous portraits made by major photographers of that period.
photographs as witnesses: frida kahlo and photography
Since its invention, the photographic image has presented a window to the world. Each time we look at a photograph, we are the participating observers of a part of history frozen in time and space. When looking at a photograph, it is as if we were looking through a window into the archives of a person’s memory or into their private world. That is why a gesture, an expression, or an occurrence registered on paper moves us. Like an enigmatic landscape, the faces transformed by the passage of time, and we meticulously search those images of it that have survived for the keys to its history. Without a doubt, photography has been an important factor in forming the myth surrounding Frida Kahlo. A well-studied and controversial person, the painter had had a close connection with photography since childhood, and she made of her photographs a logbook of her life and a testimony to her existence. Photography entered Mexico for the fi rst time in 1839 through the port of Veracruz, thanks to the French engraver, Louis Prelier, who had lived in Mexico since 1837, and returned from a trip to France with two daguerreotype cameras he had purchased in Paris.Years later, and through the same port of Veracruz, Wilhelm Kahlo Kaufmann, the father of Frida Kahlo Calderón, arrived in Mexico.
Born in Pforzheim, Germany, Wilhelm left for Mexico in 1891 without a declared profession. In Mexico, he Latinized his name, substituting Guillermo for Wilhelm, and discovered his passion for photography, particularly that of architecture. “Guillermo Kahlo, photographer. Plazuela de Juan Carbonero on the corner of Mina , México. All types of work in the field of photography. Specialty: buildings, room interiors, factories, machinery, etc. Orders are also accepted for outside the capital” This advertisement appeared in 1901 in the magazine Mundo Semanario Ilustrado, clearly revealing that he was already specializing in architectural photography. One of his principal commissions
came from José Yves Limantour, at that time Secretary of the Treasury in Porfi rio Díaz’s cabinet, for a collection of approximately 900 documentary photographs of buildings owned by the federal state. Thanks to the high level of his technical skill, he was subsequently commissioned to produce the book Churches of Mexico. This important and substantial publication became the vehicle for the wider dissemination of his photographic work.
The Kahlo Calderón family moved to the neighborhood of Coyoacán in 1904, settling in the house known today as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), located at the corner of Londres and Allende streets, which today houses the Frida Kahlo Museum. After Frida and Diego Rivera moved back into this house years later, the building underwent various transformations; a fi rst expansion in 1937, and a second one when Rivera had a studio built for his wife in 1947. The original white facade was painted blue, and since then the house has been known as La Casa Azul, as though it were one more person in the story. The Mexican Revolution brought about major political changes in the country, as well as in its values and national culture. In the words of Octavio Paz, “it was the Mexican Revolution that revealed Mexico to us. It gave us back our eyes to see it. And it gave them back above all to the painters, poets, and novelists.” Once the armed struggle was over, photography in Mexico gained recognition as an artistic form of expression. This took place within the framework of a reinvigorated cultural life, motivated principally by the nationalist passion aroused during the post-revolutionary period, and linked to the need to create new ideological structures.
The presence of Edward Weston and Tina Modotti during the 1920s brought fresh impulses into photography in Mexico. Their contact with the most renowned artists in the country, and their exhibitions in Mexico City 1924, and in Guadalajara in 1925, inspired the fi rst critiques that analyzed photography from the perspective of contemporary artistic theories. The influence of and recognition by both these artists, and a number of Mexican painters, made it possible for Manuel Álvarez Bravo (cat. 169–178) to present his works for the first time in the newly born state exhibition rooms. He and his wife at the time, Lola Álvarez Bravo, one of the first professional woman photographers ever, established a friendship with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The portraits they took of them met contemporary aesthetic values, going far beyond a pure documentary function.
During his visit to Mexico in 1938, the poet André Breton, fundamental theoretician of the Surrealist Movement, described Mexico as “surrealist par excellence.” He was fascinated by Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s photos and described Frida Kahlo as “a ribbon around a bomb” because of the expressive power of her artistic work and her personality. Álvarez Bravo was invited to participate in an exhibition that Breton organized in the Renou et Colle Gallery, where his work received as much praise as that of Frida Kahlo. Years later, Lola Álvarez Bravo was to open the Galería de Arte Contemporáneo (Gallery of Contemporary Art), where Frida Kahlo exhibited from 13 to 27 April 1953. She was already in a precarious state of health at the time and the show was to be her only solo exhibition in Mexico City. It was also Lola who photographed Frida on her deathbed, a silent farewell at the end of a friendship that had existed between them for many years (cat. 161–168).
During the twentieth century, photojournalism developed rapidly, thanks to the technical advances in photography, and the period from 1930 through 1950 came to be known as the golden age of press photography. The magazine Life broke new ground by publishing for the fi rst time a photographic image on its cover. Press photographers were constantly present in the home of Rivera and Kahlo. Some of them, such as the Columbian Leo Matiz (cat. 215–220), who worked for the Churubusco fi lm studios, or Juan Guzmán, a reporter for Time and Life, immediately integrated
themselves in the cultural circles (cat. 197–201). Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were noteworthy personalities in Mexico’s cultural world. Many photographers passed through La Casa Azul, capturing in photographs its spaces and the emotional mood of these infl uential artists. The Magnum photographer Gisele Freund was invited to give a series of talks in Mexico (cat. 196), and extended her stay in the country by two years. Soon she also joined the list of extraordinary photographers and friends who made portraits of Frida Kahlo. “Frida Kahlo’s appearance would have been shrill, if it were not for the aesthetic sense she projected,” is how Bertram Wolfe defi ned her. He and his wife Ella became friends and confi dants of Frida.
The aesthetic sense that Betram Wolfe mentions is caught by Nickolas Muray in the numerous images (cat. 221–237) he shot of Frida Kahlo on diff erent occasions over a period of ten years while he maintained a complicated love aff air with her. Muray lamented the departure of the painter in a letter of May 1939: “Dear, dear Frida. I should have written you long ago. It is a diffi cult world we live in, you and I.” Later in the same letter he adds: “When you left I knew it was over. Your instinct guided you wisely. You did the only logical thing, because I could never have transplanted Mexico to New York for you, and I learned how fundamental that was for your happiness. If I had only been born in your country with all of its
beauty and disadvantages.”
Frida answered Nick’s letter on June 13, 1939: “I received the marvelous photograph you sent me. It seems even more beautiful to me than in New York. Diego says it is as wonderful as a Piero della Francesca. To me it is more than that; it is a treasure and, moreover, it will always remind me of that morning we had breakfast together in the drugstore at Barbizon Plaza, and then went afterwards to your studio to take the photographs. This is one of them.
And now I have it here with me. You will always be wearing that magenta shawl.”
Frida enjoyed being portrayed. The act itself and the moment she was photographed representing an unrepeatable and valuable moment for her. Subsequently, she gave away the photographs of herself to her relatives and friends, writing tender dedications on them.
Frida and her father shared many personal affi nities. It was from him that she learned the value of the photographic image. She had posed for her father’s camera since she was a child. As though it were a ritual, he would photograph the family in meticulously prepared sessions. Together with her sisters, María Luisa, Margarita, Matilde, Adriana, and Cristina, Frida observed how her father carefully arranged each one of the portraits he took. Since that time, the painter posed in front of the camera with a naturalness that was captivating.
Guillermo was a good watercolorist and tireless reader, who, in addition to his documentary photographs, continually made self-portraits. Some of the extraordinary self-portraits known of him contain a great sense of humor, others are more solemn. He made a habit of dedicating and giving them away to his daughters and relatives, a habit which Frida later took up.
Another important link between them was the physical adversities they shared. Guillermo fought against the epilepsy from which he had suff ered since his youth, and Frida endured the consequences—multiple operations and convalescences—of her accident. Because of the shared affi nities and the infl uence of her father, it is not surprising that the portrait and the self-portrait made up the core of Frida’s artistic production.
Frida Kahlo broke the stylistic fashion conventions of her time. She wore huipiles (embroidered sleeveless indigenous tunics), and adorned herself with accessories from Mexican folk art. She generated her own creative aura for her self and for the Casa Azul. Each moment of life had its own setting; each morning drew back the curtain on a new day. Frida created in her own house a personal and singular universe where she co-existed with animals, fl owers, toys, pre-Hispanic fi gures, colorful Judas-effi gies, and objects from popular Mexican folk art. The little deer, the dogs, monkeys, and parakeets, which appear in the painter’s works, lived with her in La Casa Azul and were her faithful companions in the hours of solitariness. The photographs that have been preserved bear witness to those that accompanied her short life.
The conjunction of all these elements enriched her work, and awakened the interest of the large number of photographers who portrayed her during her life. One day dressed in a Yalalteca headdress, the next in a Tehuana dress, she was the subject of hundreds of portraits produced by Mexican and international artists. At the end of the 1930s, Diego Rivera received the commission to paint murals in the United States. Little known at that time as a
painter, Frida accompanied him as his beautiful and extravagant wife. And that is how she came to pose for the photographer Imogen Cunningham, confi rming the appeal of her personality. In some of the best-known images of her, we see the artist painting or posing in front of one of her self-portraits “in such a way that the real person appears as a double of the depicted person, or the latter as a rendering of the real person. Here one is not sure if art is imitating life or life imitating art.” These photographs offer us a twofold interpretation: Frida as seen by herself, and Frida as seen by the photographer.
Without a doubt, photography shaped her life to an extent, and contributed decisively to shaping the myth surrounding the uniqueness of Frida Kahlo. Innumerable photographs of her are known. The camera was a constant witness to her life in the portraits taken by photographers, who each interpreted her in his or her own manner. Other pictures like the photographs by her father Guillermo, or by her nephew Antonio Kahlo, who photographed her in the intimacy of the family, demonstrate the expressive naturalness only derived from living together closely (cat. 203–210). To these one
must add the many other photographs that have acquired additional value because of the persons portrayed in them, the passage of time, or the richness of popular artistic details, such as the advertising billboards and signboards used at that time in markets and festivals.
Berenice Kolko, a photographer of Polish origin, portrayed Frida in a moving photograph a few months before her death in 1954. Seated in a chair in the patio of La Casa Azul willingly posing for the camera, Frida’s face displays the unmistakable signs of irreversible physical decay (cat. 212). Nevertheless, with her carefully combed hair decorated with ribbons, and her hands covered with rings on her lap, Frida off ers a slight smile, and is once again the attractive
presence that captivated the cameras, and caught the eye of so many photographers.
Those of us who approach these Frida Kahlo photographs as windows to peer through are presented with a witness to her times that allows us to reconstruct a fragment of the artist’s personal history.
Three questions to Cristina Kahlo, curator of the accompanying photo exhibition:
What do the photographs in the exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau tell about the life and time of Frida Kahlo?
Photography plays an important role in Frida Kahlo’s life – first of all because her father Guillermo Kahlo (born in Pforzheim, Germany) was a photographer. A few years after he arrived in Mexico he became a photographer specializing in architecture. Apart from his architectural pictures, he used to constantly make self portraits and portraits of his family. Therefore, Frida had been used to pose in front of the camera in a natural way since she was
a child and she kept this naturalness during her whole life.
The peculiarities in Frida’s personality made her an interesting subject for many photographers who documented the life and surroundings of the painter in each their personal style. In the exhibition, this can be seen in the work of photo artists such as Guillermo Kahlo, Imogen Cunningham, Bernard Silverstein, Leo Matiz and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Looking at these photographs, the visitors will have interesting visual documents to understand Frida Kahlo’s life and time, and the importance of friends and family and her self-created surroundings at the Casa Azul, subjects later to be observed in her paintings.
Photography accompanies Frida’s life – even when she passed away, her close friend Lola Alvarez Bravo documented the last moment of Frida in her bed. The exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau also includes images of the inauguration of the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacán with the original museography done by the Mexican poet Carlos Pellicer.
Who are the photographers behind the images of Frida and under which circumstances were the photos made?
Frida was used to pose for her father’s camera, and during her life her genuineness in front of the camera was a benefit for a large number of photographers, who – fascinated by her personality – made memorable portraits of her. It is impossible to name all of them but a few who are included in this exhibition are: Manuel Alvarez Bravo and his wife at that time, Lola Alvarez Bravo, who were both personal friends of Frida Kahlo. Frida would often call them to complain about her problems with Diego Rivera. They would visit her, camera in hand, and while Frida would open her soul, they would make portraits of her.
The international interest for México’s stimulating artistic environment in the 1930s and 1940s was attracting numerous international personalities from art and culture. These travelers, including professional photographers and journalists, inevitable ended up making contact with the Rivera-Kahlo couple. Among them was the Columbian photographer Leo Matiz who arrived in 1940 and stayed in México for seven years. Gisele Freund, who worked for Life and Paris Match magazines, documented many personal moments of Frida’s life.
Nickolas Muray, who was introduced to Frida by Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias in 1931, was attracted by Frida’s personality. He had a romance with her and – over ten year’s time – did some of the most wonderful portraits of her under different settings. By the way, Muray actually began his photographic career in Berlin. Many other anonymous pictures should be added as a priceless testimony of the life of this famous creative artist.
Is it of significance to Frida’s artwork that her father was a photographer?
The fact that a large part of Frida’s artistic production is based on a biographic “story telling” through her self-portraits, can be explained in large measure by her difficulty to moving after she suffered the traffic accident. It was also difficult for her to move during the long recoveries from the surgeries later required over the years until she died in 1954. But self-portraits also came naturally to her due to the many occasions when she watched her father Guillermo Kahlo take his own self-portrait with the camera. Frida Kahlo and her father were linked in many aspects, not only photography.
Being an epileptic, Guillermo knew what it meant for his daughter to live in a body which doesn’t respond correctly or which was injured as would be the case with Frida’s. Both of them also shared an artistic clout: Guillermo – apart from his photographs – was a fairly gifted watercolor painter. He gave Frida paint and brushes as a way to cope with the recovery after the accident. Frida described her father with great admiration in a portrait painted in 1951,
which was clearly copied from some of the self portraits that Guillermo Kahlo often created.
Three questions for Helga Prignitz-Poda, curator of the Retrospective:
Are there any differences between how Frida Kahlo is perceived by Mexican and European (German) audiences?
Frida Kahlo has developed into a universal phenomenon, and she enjoys a similar level of popularity and admiration all over the world. Of course, there are some national differences: in Mexico her work is cheerfully classified as folk art, which is still actively practised there. Frida’s face is reproduced in magnificent colours on handbags, bottle caps, small wooden altars, cloth bags and coffee cups. This type of affectionate marketing in folk art is not something we are so familiar with in Germany. Instead, in Germany we have duplicated her entire oeuvre in replicas painted in China in their original format and put them on show in a purpose-built museum. All over the world there are artists who seek to approximate her work in appropriation art. In our exhibition, we are showing Yasumasa Morimura’s video as an example of this trend: “Yo soy Frida = I am Frida” (2001).
The popular image of Frida as icon, in other words the repeated similar portrayal of her own face, has also led to her work being regarded rather suspiciously by academics. This is another phenomenon that exists everywhere, both in Germany and in Mexico.
What type of art did Frida Kahlo find interesting, which artists did she model herself
To begin with she was interested in the Italian Renaissance, which was also the model for Mexican mural painting. She especially mentioned Sandro Botticelli and Agnolo Bronzino’s portraits of Eleonora of Toledo. In Mexico she was initially attracted to the Stridentists, a literary/expressive movement with links to Dadaism, a style that also characterised her own work for a short time.
But by the 1930s she had become fascinated by the mysterious mixture of surreal elements in the metamorphous figures depicting proverbs of Jan Brueghel and Hieronymus Bosch, and began to imitate these forms. The pronounced surrealism so evident in her work in the 1940s was the logical progression of their ideas. She even devoted a whole page to them in her diary. She describes Bosch as a “wonderful” painter, and writes: “Almost a hundred years later
(less) lived the wonderful Brueghel the Elder, my favourite.” She had a great many friends amongst the artistic community of the period. She became close friends with the surrealist artist Jacqueline Lamba, who was then married to André Breton. The many books, exhibition catalogues, and newspapers such as Minotaure and VVV to be found
in her library testify to her keen interest not just in surrealism, but also in the realism then practised in Mexico. She enjoyed playing the surreal children’s game Cadavre exquis (“Exquisite corpse”) with friends, a game which allows each player to paint a section of a piece of paper without seeing what was painted by the previous person. When the whole sheet is unfolded, it reveals an astonishing shape that creates a new whole out of disparate parts. Frida Kahlo based her own use of form on this principle. She liked to describe her paintings as a linen cupboard in which, when you open the door, instead of a shirt, you find a lion.
Why did she paint so many self-portraits?
Of the around 145 paintings which Kahlo painted, only 60 are true self-portraits. Occasionally,above all in her later years, she painted a still life, behind which self-portraits were hidden. That increases the number to about 80.
But mostly she painted herself, because she felt very alone. She wanted to use her selfportraits to get closer to the new owner and to the beholder, to stay with them and engage them in conversation. The dedications on the paintings testify to this. She often gave her paintings away with a note: “So that you won’t forget me...” In all her self-portraits she makes direct eye contact with the beholder, demanding that you engage in dialog with her. This inner dialog with Frida is also something that fascinates many people who see her paintings in exhibitions or in reproductions. Her gaze, which magically seems to be coming closer to us, makes almost everyone feel closely connected to her.
The Celestial Love Story and Encoded Ciphers in the Work of Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo’s dramatic and always interesting biography is for the most part well-known to the public at large. The artist has acquired the status of a canonized saint, with her pictures being compared to icons. Unfortunately, however, the familiar stories and legends are for the most part merely repeated like a mantra. As long-lasting as myths, these stories persist and cloud the view of the works. It has often gone unnoticed that research in the last few years
has corrected various points in the biography—beginning with the now well-known fact that Frida Kahlo herself repeatedly made false statements, including about her age. Her father’s origin has also been wrongly reported, for he was not Jewish but Protestant and came from a family of jewelry traders in Pforzheim. Likewise, Frida did not attend the German School in Mexico City, but a primary school in Coyoacán before she transferred to the next level of schooling, the Preparatoria. Just as unverified is Frida’s supposed bout of polio during her childhood, as it is neither
confirmed by the Mexican physician Henriette Begun nor by Frida’s closest confi dant, Dr. Eloesser. He diagnosed many of her problems with her leg as being caused by an undetected spina bifi da occulta, which he considered the cause of all her later health affl ictions. Pablo Picasso’s remarks about Frida Kahlo similarly belong to the realm of fi ction, since they were invented by Diego Rivera and cannot be verifi ed. Surprising corrections and additions to the biographic details have come to light in recent years thanks to the opening of an archive in the long-locked bathroom of the Casa Azul (Blue House), which, according to Diego Rivera’s testament, was to remain closed for ten years after Frida Kahlo’s death. Little by little, these treasures are being studied and published. The contents of the clothes closet were published first, then a small address book, and now researchers are concentrating on the correspondence with Frida’s doctor and the publication of the private photo album. The fascinating psychological evaluation of Frida Kahlo by Olga Campos has been discovered and published by Salomon Grimberg. All inall, since the 100th anniversary of Frida Kahlo’s birth, a whole series of biographical facts have had to be re-evaluated, and consequently many established and cherished ideas about her reconsidered.
The iconization of her works must likewise be modifi ed. For even though Frida Kahlo does make herself the subject of every picture, each time it is in another context, with another background, and in another role. No detail is repeated and no brushstroke is without signifi cance. This means that none of her pictures is easy to decipher, and just as only certain points of her biography have been unmasked, many secrets continue to lie concealed in her works behind seemingly innocuous, encrypted façades.
Her dressing in various types of folk costume is widely known,whether as a Tehuana or a doctor from Yalalag, as Kali or Parvati, or as Malinche, and sometimes even as a saint in a fl owing robe. In addition to the theatrical changes of costume, she also employed the encrypted iconography of emblems. And lastly, her pictures also contain as yet completely undiscovered aspects, humorous images, satires, and caricatures. Occasionally, she provoked people who had commissioned paintings or the friends portrayed by such veiled allusions. The fact that some of her pictures were returned to her shortly afterwards testifi es to the sensitivity of her clients. This applies, for example, to the painting for the dining room of the President of the Republic, in which Kahlo depicted a hollow pumpkin. This amounted to a veiled insult to the offi ce of president, since in Spanish a hollow pumpkin means a jackass. The perfectly painted picture was not rejected because its artistic execution was unsatisfactory, but rather because the allusion was regarded as inappropriate. In my interpretations of individual works in this catalog, I have aimed to decipher similarly concealed, humorous secrets in those works. Kahlo encrypted her works in order to challenge or even to mislead the viewer who attempts to understand her pictures. Similarly it was her intention that anyone browsing through her diary besides herself should fail to comprehend what was written on the pages.
In order to free Kahlo’s pictures from the rigidity of their iconization, I would like to draw attention in the following pages to several new clues that help to decipher her encryptions. Their very nature makes it necessary to examine closely these hidden details. Therefore, I beg the reader to be patient when my descriptions sometimes become very detailed.
The Love Story of the Heavens
Myths from all periods and peoples are concerned with events in the heavens, centering on the sun and the moon, the celestial pair apparently destined for one another. The sun is seen as the man, the glorious hero, and the moon as the woman, beautiful but fickle. Both love each other, but higher powers prevent them from being happy together. For it is during the full moon, when the moon goddess is at her most beautiful and the sun’s desire for her is strongest, that she is farthest from him at the opposite side of the earth. When she fi nally does approach him after 14 days, she
has become the new moon and is once again invisible. She can only be with him at the cost of submission. Frida Kahlo used the sun and moon in a number of her paintings to depict this classical love story and, through it, her relationship to Diego Rivera. It has been repeatedly stated that the sun and moon in her pictures demonstrate
how strongly her conception of the world was pervaded by dualism. That is not entirely wrong, but it is also not entirely correct. For the most part, she is only directly stating with these ciphers how close or how far apart she and her husband were at that moment.
One must keep in mind that Mexico is considered the land of the sun and moon. The Aztec creation myths recount extensively how the gods once gathered in Teotihuacan to create the sun and the moon. According to this myth, the sun was from then on dependent on human sacrifi ces to keep it from falling down to earth and destroying it.
Kahlo begins her diary on the fi rst page with the words “No, Luna, Sol …” She immediately delineates in this manner the arc of the plot of her diary. Everything centers around the great love story of the heavens and her own with Diego Rivera, but also around its negation: the large number of their aff airs and lovers. Diego Rivera was her sun. Just like the sun, which moves in a course across the heavens marked by great calmness and serenity despite the turbulent fl uctuations of its surface, Diego Rivera embodies the great calmness and certainty of doing everything immutably
right, while on his surface numerous love aff airs create turbulences.
In contrast, Kahlo sees herself as the moon with a cold, rigid surface and yet with an extremely changeable, irregular course. Her rigid, apparently serene mask hides the torn and inconsistent core inside. In her paintings, she makes the impossibility of the union of sun and moon her subject and above all her awareness that it is futile to want to infl uence the course of the sun with any type of sacrifices. The three pages from her diary pages for example, reveal how in the beginning she conceived herself as a disintegrating being, ready to make sacrifi ces in the attempt to halt the sun in its course. On the second page she notes: “Now? Everything is reversed. Sun and moon, feet and Frida.” Like the dying Buddha, she lies on her side on the ground. The moon has set and the sun could fall directly on her; as though the sacrifice of the one foot which was to be amputated were not enough to appease the sun. In on of the figure in her dairy page, she depicts how the sun has actually fallen on a pyramid, leaving behind it only ruins, the sad concession of her own supposed failure. It is a melancholy image in which Frida Kahlo admits that Diego Rivera is not satisfi ed with her, that she has failed in her efforts to win him. The representations of the sun and moon in her oil paintings also clearly and heartbreakingly depict how Frida Kahlo was consumed by her love for this sun and ultimately gave up the struggle.The first time that Frida Kahlo represented this celestial pair of lovers was in the Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the USA, painted in 1932 shortly after her wedding with Diego Rivera. Sun and moon are still naively portrayed here with human faces, yet the enormous tension and contrariety is evident in the thunder and lightning already exploding between them. In her painting Portrait of Lucha Maria, Girl from Tehuacán, the sun and moon have already lost their human countenances. Kahlo presents the cosmic celestial bodies from the perspective of a distanced astronomer and shows how the girl has fallen into the role of the victim. The ambivalence of the sun’s energy fi nally can be seen in the painting Moses or Solar Core from 1945. It is life-giving, and yet its magnitude makes it absolutely deadly for the germinating fetuses and the abandoned child—a symbol for the miscarriages and abortions that Frida Kahlo had to suff er, because Diego Rivera did not want to have any children. In Without Hope from the same year and in Tree of Hope, Remain Strong painted shortly thereafter, the full moon and the sun appear together in the sky; this in itself is impossible. The attempt to prevail against the facts is apparent. In one picture Frida resists the lies and stories Diego attempts to feed her, and fi ghts against his cheating and aff airs. In another, she is sitting at the edge of an abyss confronted by her own lamentable psyche, trying to defy reality itself. The simultaneity of the sun and moon prove that she is aware of the irreality of her desires; she also knows that Diego Rivera will continue to betray her and she will not regain her health.
The sun is portrayed in a completely diff erent manner in Sun and Life, 1947. Here the sun has already set and impregnates the germinating life during its course through the underworld. This is an old mythological idea of the sun’s activity in the underworld. Kahlo’s version of it is represented by the changing cycle of love: Diego Rivera’s steady course through the world that always led him back to her, even if it was only at night. That masterpiece of 1947, The Embrace of Love of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Me, Diego and Señor Xólotl, once more reveals the desire to reconcile opposites and to conquer the heavens together. The monstrous dream of having the celestial bodies of the night and the day in the sky simultaneously determines her own downfall. The moon would be consumed by fi re. Frida Kahlo already has bleeding arms in the picture, since she carries Diego as a child in her arms. As the Indian God Shiva, he singes the immediate surroundings with his third eye and with his life’s flame because he has been torn from his meditation by Parvati’s embrace.
The moon no longer appears in Frida Kahlo’s fi nal pictures, nor in the recently re-discovered Self-Portrait Inside a Sunfl ower. The sun has triumphed. A moon-less darkness prevails for the sun has distanced itself, and the earth’s shadow rests on the moon. Frida Kahlo sees her energy dwindling; the burden of bodily life has fallen over her as a shadow.
Frida Kahlo found in the art of abbreviating names an even smaller, even more concealed symbolic language with which to encrypt secret thoughts. She learned this technique from her father, who liked to occupy himself by creating artful monograms for the members of his family. This art of interweaving a person’s initials ornamentally had at one time been popular and useful as an identifying mark on diverse household objects or, as embroidery, to personalize clothes and textiles. The father’s monograms were passed on to his daughters in the form of gifts. Kahlo subsequently employed this monogram technique in diff erent ways in her pictures. If one follows the patterns of individual branches, twigs, or the veins of leaves, then further monograms can be discovered among them. Let us look at just three examples: In an early and unknown work by Kahlo, The Cuchachas (before 1927), which has unfortunately been lost, a woman is shown from behind wearing an unusual cap. We can recognize the same rear
view of the woman in a sketch from the collection of Father Ruben in Tlaxcala signed by Frida’s school friend, Miguel N. Lira. Frida, however, did not simply copy the fi gure onto the oil painting, but slightly modifi ed the cap by joining and inserting the monogram AZ. In this manner we can identify the woman shown from behind as Frida’s schoolfriend, Adelina Zandejas. Kahlo reveals this woman’s name in a circumspect, almost conspiratorial manner by adopting an audacious shape for the collar below the nape of the neck that, like a crude drawing on a school bench, is a caricature of a very intimate part of her friend’s body. Kahlo likewise depicts other details quite candidly that were probably discussed in the group of friends represented in the painting. Further examples of Kalho’s monogram art can be seen in one of her most famous works, the incomparable What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me. Not one but two monograms are buried here. The strangely-formed tree on which a dead bird lies on its back, together with the tree’s body of roots extending far to the left, first alerted me to the possibility that a monogram could be involved here, since the calligraphic flourish is not merely part of the tree’s roots. It is also the continuation of the line of the letter “K” (Kahlo), with which she has connected the “W” from her father’s first name (Wilhelm). With the monogram concealed in the tree, she thus relates her father to this episode of the picture. The tree namely appears in the painting dealing with the story of Odysseus’s wanderings that Frida Kahlo associates with her afflictions, in the episode concerned with the Cyclops. Representing the father as the tyrannical ruler of the Kahlo family is something
the artist would not have normally dared. Yet encrypted and encoded in a monogram, ideas emerge that she did not want to express openly.
Very little is known about Frida Kahlo’s two half-sisters from her father Wilhelm’s fi rst marriage. His fi rst wife, Maria Cardeña, died during the birth of the second child. Wilhelm married Frida’s future mother shortly thereafter, and the two sisters were sent to a Catholic boarding school. Occasionally they visited the family, but were never really part of it and remained in the position of outsiders. Frida Kahlo makes their painful biographies, for which she otherwise found no words, the subject of the painting What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me, by linking the half-sisters with the episode of the Odyssey where Odysseus is forced to confront the Sirens. The two Sirens, the two young naked women on the sponge, were friends of Persephone and were playing with her on the beach when Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld, in other words, when she died. The two girls were then accused by Persephone’s mother of having been careless and of having allowed Persephone to disappear. As punishment they were transformed into half-human, half-animal beings forced to live in the ocean. Their task was to lure sailors to their destruction by means of their seductive singing. Similarly, the sirens in Kahlo’s painting are not good swimmers. They cling to the sponge as though it were a life raft. The two young women resemble the half-sisters Maria Luisa and Margarita Kahlo Cardeña. The strange positioning of the arms and legs reveals, when we apply the art of calligraphy, the double monogram MMCK. Kahlo again portrayed the two young women the following year in the painting Two Nudes in the Forest or The Earth Itself (1939). The peculiar positioning of the arms and legs appears here once again almost unchanged, resulting in the same monogram. By depicting Margarita and Maria Luisa in her painting, Frida Kahlo demonstrates her sympathy for these two outcasts and grants them a place as Sirens in the odyssey of her own tragic life. clocks, eyes, and numbers as codes The encrypting of secret messages has a long tradition, with numerous possible methods of doing it. A childishly simple variant is to replace letters by the numbers corresponding to their position
in the alphabet, i.e., A=1, B=2, C=3 and so on. Kahlo employs such codes in several paintings and above all in her drawings, in order to signify the initials of her friends, lovers, or husband. Clocks serve this purpose by having their hands point to diff erent hours, thus alluding to the changing love aff airs. Frida, of course, principally uses the Spanish alphabet in which “F” is the 7th letter and “K” the 12th. According to the Latin alphabet, which she also occasionally uses, “K” is the eleventh letter.11 Thus, in the Self-Portrait Time Flies (1929), painted shortly
after her marriage as a melancholy retrospect of her childhood in which a clock appears for the fi rst time, the hands point to her baptismal name, Frida Carmen (7 minutes to 3). In the drawing, All-Seeing-Eye! (1934) the clock indicates the pair of lovers, Frida and Diego (7 and 5 = F and D). In the drawing Fantasy (I) (1944) the clock’s hands point to 7 minutes past 11 (F K), thus signifying her own monogram. Then other mysterious letters begin to appear. In Fantasy (II) (1944, cat. 104, fi g. 10) they are 12 minutes to 11 (K J). Here the clock’s hands only make sense if we assume Kahlo had already met and fallen in love with José Bartolí in 1944 and wanted to unite herself and José with this monogram. A drawing made only shortly afterwards and recently found in the Casa Azul, Second Eye (fi g. 11), shows the sun and moon as reconciled and three clock hands pointing to 397. This series of numbers will be explained below when we consult the Cyrillic alphabet. They refer to the lover José Bartolí. Two remarkable objects in the Frida Kahlo Museum, which unfortunately can never be exhibited outside of it and have therefore remained for the most part almost unknown, consist of two ceramic clocks, which are partly broken and allude to the major break in her relationship with Diego.
The label of the clock on the left explains its background: “In September 1939 the hours broke—Diego Frida.” Two crossedout clock hands point to Frida’s numbers/initials. The hand indicating Diego (5) is likewise crossed out. Only Cristina’s number (3) is clear and not crossed out, denoting—unsurprisingly— her sister, Cristina, as Diego’s lover and the cause of the destruction of their love.
The second clock is labeled “In San Francisco on 8 December 40 at eleven o’clock—Diego Frida,” a reference to the second wedding and the attempt to “glue” the marriage back together. The handle of this clock, however, has been broken off . Frida reveals to us in this way that some things cannot be glued back together. A definite crack demonstrates here that something was irreparably destroyed. Yet the hands of the broken clock, the one meant to represent the new marriage, show a hand pointing to 4 = D (in the Latin alphabet), a small hand to 12 = K and a crossed-out, larger hand to 3 = C. Now Cristina is crossed out. Frida Kahlo has triumphed, more or less, but has not come out of the aff air undamaged. Frida apparently enjoyed complicating her images with the aid of numeric cryptography and she employed it repeatedly and with pleasure. russian characters, foreign languages as secret codes, 379 A substantial number of foreign language dictionaries in the library of the Casa Azul—Greek, German, French, Russian, and even Esperanto—testify to Frida Kahlo’s interest in foreign languages.
Her involvement with other languages allowed her to refine cleverly the game of concealment that she liked to play. Her knowledge of English was improved primarily during her stay in the USA. Frida, however, had already very happily made use of a large number of Anglicisms in her letters. In contrast, she never learned to speak German in spite of her eff orts. One page of her diary is nevertheless completely written in German. In memory of her German lover, Heinz Berggruen, whose fi rst name is crossed through at the edge of the page, she quotes the famous verses from the first Moritat from Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera: “Undder Heifisch, derhat Zähne ” (And the shark, he has teeth). However, when she writes “Heifi sch” instead of “Haifi sch,” it is neither an unconscious mistake nor a spelling mistake. She alludes here once more to Heinz Berggruen, who admired her passionate lust for life and who spent a wild month with her in Manhattan.12 Subjects that were particularly intimate, however, were written in an even more encrypted manner in the Cyrillic alphabet.
Frida Kahlo was relatively familiar with the Russian language since Leo Trotsky had lived with her. She later also had a number of Russian friends, and kept a substantial number of Russian books in her house, including language books. As I was able to ascertain,13 she mixed the Cyrillic with the Latin alphabet and, moreover, employed the numerical sequence of the Russian alphabet. 379, the number which has long remained a mystery and appears in several drawings and in the diary, can be deciphered thus: The third, seventh and ninth letters of the Russian alphabet sound like B. José when pronounced in Russian, denoting, therefore, her lover, José Bartolí. Appearing repeatedly in connection with him, as well as with the numerical sequence 379 that designates him, is the Russian word “Sadja,” which has been misunderstood as meaning “Carma.”
On on of her diary page we can observe how Frida hesitated in rendering the Russian “zh,” since the pronunciation of the numerous Russian “zh” sounds are diffi cult to transcribe. Carma—which she used to paraphrase her fi rst given name Carmen14—in reality thus means Sadja. This word, not even very common in Russian, denotes a partridge (in Spanish, perdiz) and is also a term of endearment.
Kahlo employed it occasionally to sign letters or paintings; for example, in the wonderful painting The Wounded Deer, where it expresses her feelings of acute loneliness and alienation. In the world of Aesop’s fables, with which Frida was familiar, the partridge was considered to be an animal hunted by other animals. It is constantly harried and driven away by the hens in the farmyard and always feels alien and abandoned. The partridge consoles itself at the end of the fable with the words, “I shall no longer distress myself at being struck at by these animals when I see that
they cannot even refrain from quarreling with each other.” Since this fable, the partridge has been a symbol for the poor, persecuted animal that feels lonely and misunderstood. How appropriate this metaphor is that Frida chose for herself. Moreover, she certainly recognized the similarities of the words “Sadja” and “Carma” and liked to incorporate the possibilities of their being confused as part of her game of concealment. For it cannot be denied that a connection to concepts of reincarnation can also be found in the mysterious painting, The Wounded Deer, in which Frida Kahlo visualizes the tragic love story of Dido, the beautiful queen of Carthage, and links it to her own desperate desire for love, thereby elevating it to myth.15 The word “Sadja/partridge” mutated in Kahlo’s New York years into one of her favorite words. She signed letters and pages from her diary with it and also placed it on drawings from the 1940s.
Once alerted to the use of Cyrillic, one can then discover more Cyrillic letters in her diary. An unusually written “H” on pages 110 and 131 is in fact a Cyrillic “N” and marks the corresponding entries concerning Nickolas Muray. Two further Russian words can also be deciphered. On page 110 is the penetratingly divided self-portrait with a green background alluding to the famous photograph by Nickolas Muray, Frida on White Bench, New York, 1939 (cat. 226), and placed beside it is his “N” (in the Cyrillic “H”). After repeatedly crossing out and erasing the portrait, she writes the cryptic letters: mdera 379. Likewise, “mdera” is written in Cyrillic. Although the word does not make sense in Russian, it does—as do the numbers 379—in Spanish when the Russian letters are pronounced in Spanish. “Te
de se a” (i.e., “she desires you”) 379, meaning José Bartolí. On another page of her diary Kahlo writes, “Ya veremos, ya aprenderémos. Siempre hay cosas nuevas, Siempre ligadas a las antiguas vivas.” She signs this with “Sadja, Yrenaica, Frida.” Various Cyrillic letters are interwoven in this signature. While “Sadja” denotes the term of endearment, the word “Yrenaica” in Russian means female pupil, the (female) learner. “We shall see, we shall learn. There is always something new. Always tied to the ancient existence. The learning Frida.” Just as Frida Kahlo’s diary reads in parts like the classic Rail Fence Cipher,16 with deliberate gaps between the words to conceal what could be between them, she often inserts words afterwards that additionally mislead. In her paintings she proceeds in a similar manner. Her diverse role playing, in which she transforms herself into a variety of diff erent mythological fi gures, demonstrates her vast erudition and poses great challenges to the viewer.
The more details that come to light from the archives and in her pictures, the more multifaceted the great artist, Frida Kahlo,becomes for us, the learners.
Source: Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
Mexico Year / Press Kit