lundi 20 février 2012

Frida Kahlo, the Ultimate Man Repeller

Update: this is a post I have not dared to publish, it is about 2 years old. 

1000 years after everyone, I ended up stumbling upon the Man Repeller blog, that features fashion trends that are loved by women and hated by men. I find this concept to be quite interesting because it reminds me of how society will naturally follow this process:
 a.look down or ignore or label as ugly or underground
b. promote it and make it mainstream and ultimately, sell it.

With the exponential growth of the fashion market, the gap between phase a. and phase b. is now shorter than ever, if not zilch. Coutos to Leandra Medine for finding the perfect formula to describe it. Women try something new even if it goes against the traditionial aesthetics of beauty and elegance. Then BOOOM! Other women follow until the number of followers has reached such a number that it is not ugly anymore it is just normal.

(click here for a definition of the concept by Man Repeller blogger Leandra Medine).

The first artist that comes to my mind for her independant and rebelious ways both in her sense of personal aesthetic and for her art is Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. 

VUP - Very Ugly Portrait

Wearing colorful traditional mexican gowns, displaying, even exaggerating facial hair on her painting- I guess she was just a very early adopter of the mustache trend... Independant enough to refuse to be considered a surrealist even when Andre Breton claimed she was one of them, the lady definitely knew how to make a statement. And I don't even need to remind you the numerous appearances of bloody organs and foetuses she uses to represent her whimsical inner world, strongly influenced by the physical pain and tumultuous love life. 

The woman who made a self-portrait she named "Very Ugly" in 1933 just knew how to take things to the next level when it came to going against the usual standards, either for art or for a woman.   

Very Ugly Portait

Diego on my mind

Keen on expressing "the burdens that weighed upon her soul", lady Frida had her share: When she was 18 years old Kahlo was in an accident which left her back broken and had her go through constant pain until her last days. She had a tumultuous wedding with painter and womanizer Diego Rivera. She divorced him after he had an affair with her sister Cristina (they later remarried). 

Look at one of her paintings, The two Fridas (1939) coming true in this winning picture by Claire Ball for the Remake Project on Boooom. In this tableau, Frida pictures two of herselves, holding hands. This was aimed at representing the separation from her husband Diego Rivera, with one Frida loved by her husband dressed in a Mexican Tehuana dress, while the other Frida is dressed as a European woman.


I remember going to the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the MOMA in Philadelphia in 2008, which was rich of 354 pieces

What I didn't expect to be as "rich" and colorful was the store, this room that has become so essential in the maze that constitutes an exhibition. It was full of "derivated objects". The face of the woman who had shocked her generation, the leftist who thought art should be for the Mexican people and who rejected European bourgeois manners and cultural life and America's capitalism including in her own paintings was now featured on magnets, play cards, pens and bags. 

A much more touching and personal hommage was found in a cafe on the road to San Luis Obispowhich featured dozens of naive paintings of an artist who was obsessed with Frida and Diego and had them as his only subject.

Autoportrait The Frame 1938

Autoportrait aux cheveux coupés, 1940

In fashion, lady Frida is considered to have revealed and democratized the beauty of the Mexican woman by the way she posed proudly on pictures and paintings. Her taste for head garments, statements necklaces, colorful prints, dressing like a boy definitely makes her an avant-garde woman.

Her Broken Column (which represent the pain linked to her accident) does resonate with some Jean-Paul Gaultier / Lady Gaga gowns and bustiers, doesn't it?

Art and fashion now completely acknowledges Frida's talent and influence in what Mexican calls the Fridamania and on the way they have also taken her world into the spiral of consumerism, like this beautiful Vogue Mexico photoshoot inspired by Frida Kahlo (featured in Republic of Chic) 

In the next article: Yayoi Kusama, her polka dots and phallic ornated jackets.

Pictures: Stickers and Donuts