Patrick A. Bradley October 3, 2008 Mod. & Contemp. Art Prof.

Zarobell Frida Kahlo; Surrealism For Everyone Else There exists an urge in art theory directly inherited through traditional analytical philosophy that the ideas embodied in a single movement should be taken not by superficial characteristics such as place, time, medium, etc. but by the essence within the ideas present, for instance two paintings would so naturally be both considered abstract art despite one being painted in oils in American during the 1950’s and the other from Europe with acrylic paint during the 1990’s. Some times it is difficult to decide whether a particular painter must be logically included within an art movement despite contrary superficial details. This calls in to question whether the art movement itself is, in part, defined by these characteristics. This form of confusion exists between the work of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and the Surrealism movement. Ask an art historian whether he considers Frida Kahlo’s art surrealist and you might likely hear him confirm that assessment, yet ask a Frida Kahlo biographer or historian and they might be more resistant. In 1934, Andre Breton, the so-called pope of Surrealism, came to Mexico to meet Frida Kahlo and praised her work as exemplifying the tenants of Surrealism of which he and his fellow European Surrealists followed. However, according to art historian Janice Helland, Frida Kahlo never considered herself a Surrealist and

the connection between the two worlds occurs under the soil beneath Frida Kahlo as she stands in between them. the idea of Frida Kahlo’s art being Surrealist is not an entirely outrageous claim. it is all of these things converging within the representations of Frida Kahlo’s own desires and anxieties. and one can tell there is more than a realistic representation. In painting it this one.became disillusioned by the movement. Kahlo’s “Self Portrait on the Border between Mexico and the US” is just as much a political treatise not dissimilar to Diego Rivera’s murals yet instead of the rural. This is understandable doubly so considering Frida Kahlo’s political concerns both with a disdain for Colonialism and passion for the protection and continued development of a Mexican cultural aesthetic in which she certainly viewed herself. Aztec people shaking hands and working with the industrious US side. Once glance upon Frida Kahlo’s work. there is a sense that this connection is within Frida Kahlo and is more complicated or conflicted. to call Kahlo’s work all Surrealist might lose something in translation of her work. which is suggested in Kahlo’s own history of unease toward the industrial nature of the United States. or an emotional impression being depicted. Instead. However. However. Frida Kahlo’s paintings are always representational. yet. an intellectual experiment. which is to say that she paints understandable objects which is in contrast to more classic . This is understandable considering that there have been many artists throughout history who have been identified with a movement and. still had reservations to the categorization of their own art. For example.

and other present-world concerns. One could perhaps say that Frida Kahlo is so in tune with her own subconscious mind that there is no distinction but only that made by the other. . for her. but for Kahlo the inner self is not one of dreams and psychoanalysis but of political conviction. the art-appreciating stranger. There is no mystery as to why the great majority of her paintings are selfportraits and the “surreal” qualities of her paintings only serve to break past a superficial rendering of her image and to provide different avenues to portray inner herself. then. the paintings appear surreal in as much as we are not her and the connections are not as natural to us. There is a sense that the meaning behind each of Frida Kahlo’s pieces has an intentional subject of depiction in mind that is self-contained. Kahlo’s work does not consider the question of realism that Surrealism is involved with it. This. ancestral heritage. thus. to us. This suggests that Frida Kahlo’s art is not influenced so much as Dali by the nonsense Dada or the Cubist movements which preceded and. explains how Frida Kahlo would find her own paintings difficult to be called surreal because. The idea of Frida Kahlo painting an inner self is the grounds in which an argument for her work to be called Surrealist could be founded. distorted objects or even figures that are border on the fringe of being an object or not.Surrealist art such as Salvador Dali who often paints manipulated. the paintings are very real and without hidden meanings yet.

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