On Friday, I went to tea with Becky (Rebecca) Jennison, Mika Kobayashi and Debbie in San Francisco. Becky is here visiting from Japan. Mika is here for 3 months at MOMA working on their Japanese photograph collection. I’ve written about both of them and their involvement in Women of Japan before. We had a lovely elegant tea in the Yerba Buena Center looking out at the skyline of tall buildings over the park. It’s a lovely mixture of over one hundred years of architecture.
I thought I remembered how much I liked her work, but I was wrong. I was fortunate enough to have seen her work, including a visit to her home, the “blue house” in Mexico, before she became hugely famous. For me, it’s sometimes harder to appreciate work when it’s on every postcard. And since she’s a major Mexican and feminist artist and I live in the Mission (a Hispanic neighborhood of San Francisco), reproductions of her images are everywhere.
My appreciation of her work had indeed eroded without my realizing it. Seeing a large collection her original work was aesthetically mind blowing. It’s not just how good her work is but how consistently good it is. In all the different mediums she worked in (Oil on canvas, oil on masonite, oil on tin on steel, collage, and assemblage) and over the 20 plus years of her work.
Much of her work is self-portraiture, and much of that expresses her relationships, passions, and the experience of her body. Andre Breton said that she invented surrealism. She combined elements of Mexican traditions with surrealist imagery.
In “Small Nips” (immediately below) she does something I have always perceived to be extraordinarily difficult. She paints a shocking image and her art both encompasses and reinforces the shock rather than being diminished by it. This is something I’ve been thinking about conceptually and I plan to talk about it at greater length later.
The MOMA ticket prices are outrageous – $5 for the Kahlo show on top of the $12 admission. This pretty much insures that the audience Kahlo cared about the most isn’t going to see it. She was a communist and passionate about her Mexican identity.
But I’m going again in spite of that. See it if you can.