Journey Into The Dark Recesses And Relentless Spirit Of Frida Kahlo Through TASCHEN’s Sumptuous Monograph

Journey Into The Dark Recesses And Relentless Spirit Of Frida Kahlo Through TASCHEN’s Sumptuous Monograph

Nine arrows impale a hybrid creature, depicted as a young stag bearing the antlered head of Frida Kahlo, struggling to survive in a forest of snags and severed branches. In the distance, lightning pierces the clamorous pale cerulean sky crowning pristine turquoise water, conjuring a duality of apprehension and yearning.

Kahlo painted The Little Deer, also known as The Wounded Deer (El venado herido) between April and May 3, 1946, after spine surgery failed to ease her debilitating back pain that amplified her emotional torment. Close inspection of the canvas reveals the word “CARMA” (Spanish for the Hindi and Buddhist term describing the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence which determine their fate in future existences) scrawled by her signature in the lower left corner. 

The diminutive painting reveals the magnitude of Kahlo’s emotional trauma and perseverance during a prolific career marred by tragedy. Kahlo, who kept many animals as dear companions and sources of comfort to alleviate the agony of never being able to bear children, modeled the figure in this visceral self portrait after her pet deer “Granizo.” 

Kahlo’s 152 paintings, along with rare photographs, diary entries, letters, and an illustrated biography, comprise this resplendent TASCHEN XXL monograph available now. The 11.91 pound-, 624 page-, 11.4-inch-by-15.6-inch, hardcover tome bears the weight of Kahlo’s equally immense triumphs and struggles. Frida Kahlo. The Complete Paintings is a collaborative culmination of research, scholarship, and curation by: Luis-Martín Lozano, an art historian specializing in the study of different aspects of modernism in Mexican and Latin American art; Andrea Kettenmann, a freelance art historian who has contributed to numerous exhibitions and catalogues; and Marina Vázquez Ramos, an art historian specializing in modern Mexican art, university professor, researcher, and exhibition curator.

Critics speculate on Kahlo’s intended message conveyed by The Little Deer, whether it’s directly correlated with her botched operation, a sweeping overview of her life perspective, or a narrative about her riotous love affairs. On May 3, 1946, she gifted the painting to her friends, Arcady Boytler (born Arcady Sergeevich Boytler Rososky), a Russian producer, screenwriter, and director best known for his films celebrating the golden age of Mexican cinema, and his wife Lina (born Lina Grosman Abolonikova), an actress starring in his films. Kahlo shared a nebulous insight through an accompanying note: “I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.”

A starkly different persona emerges from Self-portrait (Time Flies) (circa 1929), as a late-20-something Kahlo dons a traditional Mexican costume. Painted around the first time she married Diego Rivera, Kahlo represents the archetypal images and colors repeated throughout his murals. The literal is a vehicle for intense impact, with a clock on a pedestal to her right and a small plane fluttering above her head. Absurdity seeps into the quotidian, as her elongated neck evokes a regal escape from oppressive, retrograde cultural norms.

Less than a decade before her death at age 47 on July 13, 1954, tenebrosity grew ubiquitous  through foreboding imagery and a blunt title. Without Hope (1945) reveals the debilitating impact of unsuccessful surgeries and complex illnesses. Relegated to bed rest, the petite artist battled severe weight loss and malnutrition, compelling her doctor to prescribe a feeding tube. FIsh heads, sausages, and various bloody meats, along with a miniature, adorned human skull, symbolizing the grotesque purée of high fat foods, are forced down her throat through a funnel balanced on an easel. 

The harrowing self portrait is set in a desolate Mexican landscape where the sun and moon coexist. “Not the least hope remains to me . . . Everything moves in time with what the belly dictates . . .” she inscribed on the back of the canvas mounted on masonite.

Explore the scope and verisimilitudes of Kahlo’s wide array of creation through her revolutionary images and words, carving deeply into her volatile and fascinating political and personal life. Few themes are left unexplored in this intimate journey which invites indulgence in every facet of her fierce and influential legacy. There is a wellspring of vibrancy and joy that erupts from the rubble of her excruciating existence which is deftly chronicled through this comprehensive survey.

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