Diego Rivera. Frida Kahlo. A new exhibition at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. It feels like old ground, and yet we (and, by we, I mean museums and galleries), keep on putting new exhibitions up, re-showing the same work over and over again. Isn’t this just a curriculum which we are repeating? A monopoly set where we never get to pass ‘GO’? A dream that we never seem to be able to wake up from?
No, actually it isn’t. What we can learn from Frida and Diego, and all other artists who are being exhibited (be it once, twice, or two thousand times), is that their work is important. And we can never truly glean everything we need to know about a painting by studying it once, twice, or even two thousand times.
Art is like a pond’s reflection. The water itself stays the same, but what is reflected is always changing. In much the same way that raindrops, ripples on the surface, and the pond’s environment may change, our knowledge, emotions, understanding, and empathy for the subject and the artist are also endlessly changing.
So, the next time you are feeling dispirited, bored, underwhelmed, or excited, ecstatic, and zealous for life, head over to an art gallery or museum, and take another look at the paintings which may have already become so familiar to you. In the case of Frida Kahlo, is she scowling, or smirking in her many self-portraits? Is Diego Rivera glorifying the figure of a woman who he respects, or showing off one of his many conquests? Please, do let me know!
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri is hosting the Frida Kahlo, Diego Riviera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico exhibition until the 18th August. Be sure and visit, especially if you’ve already been! For those that are a little far from this particular museum, why not pick up a copy of Kahlo or Diego Rivera by Gerry Souter?