Frida Kahlo sneak peek at COD delights Mexican consul general, others
The full scope of "Frida Kahlo: Timeless" at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn came into view Saturday at the exhibit's media preview day.
This summer exhibition devoted to the iconic 20th century Mexican artist has all but taken over the college's McAninch Arts Center. It's also the largest Chicago-area Kahlo exhibit in more than 40 years, and officially opens on Saturday, June 5, after a yearlong postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's such a privilege," said Reyna Torres Mendivil, the consul general of Mexico in Chicago, who was taking in the full exhibit. "You can really see iconic pieces of her work."
The main attractions are 26 of Kahlo's original works on loan from the currently closed Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City. These paintings, drawings and lithographs fill the 2,500-square-foot galleries of the McAninch's Cleve Carney Art Museum, which was expanded in 2019.
The works of Kahlo (1907-1954) are mainly autobiographical and full of symbolic and surrealist touches tied directly to her life.
"The Olmedo collection distinguishes itself because it has very early work, but also part of the tragic work," said Adriana Jaramillo, director of communications for the Dolores Olmedo Museum.
Several works are brutal and graphic, often representing the excruciating and debilitating pain that Kahlo endured after she had polio at age 6 and then later after surviving a deadly bus-trolley collision in Mexico City in 1925.
For example, "The Broken Column" is a Kahlo self-portrait depicting a fractured Roman column as her spine while multiple nails pierce her torso.
"'The Broken Column' is the crown jewel of the Olmedo collection," Jaramillos said. "It is one of Frida Kahlo's most iconic works."
But the full "Frida Kahlo: Timeless" experience encompasses 10,000 square feet of the McAninch Arts Center. Also on loan from Mexico are more than 100 photographs documenting the artist's life.
And unique to College of DuPage are other ancillary Kahlo-inspired exhibits, documentary videos, a garden area and even an architectural model of her family's "Blue House" (now a separate Mexico City museum).
For example, the McAninch lobby for Belushi Performance Hall has been transformed into an exhibit detailing the timeline of Kahlo's life. There are replicas of Kahlo's clothing, medical braces and the iconic bed where she did much of her painting.
"The work they have done with the rest of the exhibit, explaining to the public her life, the historic context to where she and (artist husband) Diego Rivera lived, and even the costumes -- the Mexican embroidery and the textiles -- it's just magnificent," Mendivil said.
The artistic and commercial legacies inspired by Kahlo are seen elsewhere, from other exhibits to the inevitable gift shop.
In the McAninch Playhouse Theater is the "Tres Fridas Project." It displays the collaborative efforts of artists Reveca Torres, Tara Ahern and Mariam Pare, who all infuse disability awareness into recreations of great artworks.
And children's book illustrator Mike Venezia's biography of Kahlo has heavily influenced a family area tied to the exhibit. It features Mexican dolls, Kahlo puppets, an animation-filled short video and small desks for kids to make their own self portraits.
"I want the young people in the Mexican American community to come and see this, but also the general public," Mendivil said. "I'm delighted that we will have this opportunity until September."
'Frida Kahlo: Timeless'Where: Cleve Carney Museum of Art at College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday; June 5 to Sept. 6
Tickets: Frida2021.org or (630) 942-4000
COVID-19 precautions: Masks required; temperatures checked at main entrance; social distancing protocols in place. The exhibit is designed for one-way traffic; advanced ticketing is required.