Sunday, April 25, 2021

Musings on an Exhibition

We just made our first trip out of Santa Fe in a year plus.  Our journey was a mere hour drive to the Albuquerque Museum to see, “Frida Kahlo – Diego Rivera & Mexican Modernism – From the Collection of Jacques & Natasha Gelman”.

In one carnation or another the Gelman exhibition has been showing around the country for many years now but every museum can put their own spin on it.  In the case of the Albuquerque Museum, they have amplified the Gelmans’ works with photographs from Throckmorton Fine Art gallery.

At the beginning of the show, we get to see Frida’s masterpiece. “Diego on My Mind”, 1940. I particularly like the photographs of Frida  and Diego together.  Here is a photo by Bernard Silberstein taken while Frida was painting “Diego on My Mind” with Diego watching.

Hung next to that painting  is one of Diego’s most famous paintings of The Calla Llly Vendor (1943).  In this the vendor all but disappears behind the wall of lilies he holds; see his hat upper center.

Flowers figure in many of Diego’s paintings and further on in the show we get his “Sunflowers” where children are playing in front of a huge vase of the over-sized  blooms.  Now, may I disagree with the curator of the show? Sure, I can. That is what art is all about, losing oneself in a picture and making up your own stories.  Clearly the boy on the right is choosing among two masks, which one will he pick for his costume?  To me the individual on the left looks like a girl while the label says it’s a boy and my immediate thought was that having made the two dolls (one is completed under the tree) she is now taking them apart.  Isn’t that what all young kids do, first they put things together and then enjoy destroying them again?

Did you ever wonder how an exhibition is funded?  There is a lot involved beyond hanging the pictures.  A curator and possibly the director, as well, must see the collection that they wish to show no matter where that may be.  Then shipping back and forth plus insurance must be paid. There is a lot more than that, but we can leave it there.  Although most museums charge for special exhibition tickets, which most museums do, they still need to apply for grants which are often not easy to come by because there is so much competition. There may be what my father called, a “sugar daddy” who for one reason or another may decide to fund a major part of the costs of the show.

Then there is another way; increasingly venues ask individuals to sponsor a picture or two.  We are fans of the Albuquerque  Museum and when we were asked to be a sponsor we decided on a few photographs as well as a painting my wife picked. It is a self-portrait by the muralist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, painted in 1930.  The dark, powerful painting shows the character of the artist who was what we would call today an activist. A Communist to boot, he was arrested for being a labor organizer and spent time in prison.

A photo we sponsored was by the Mexican Modernist photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo, called the “Dream of the Drowned”, circa 1945.  My wife having been a former ballet dancer, of course, loved this picture. It is actually a composite work put together with images of dancers from the Mexico City Ballet.

The Gelmans wanted their portraits painted as well. This portrait of Jacques Gelman from 1945 was painted by Angel ZĂ„rrga.  Here Jacques is seen as the confident movie producer he was, on a set, the movie light, cables and camera giving him the image he had of himself.

This portrait of Natasha was commissioned from Diego by Jacques, in 1943, where his wife looks as if she is a star in one of his films.  I would guess it was loved by the Gelman’s and snickered at by their guests behind their backs!

I think a fitting way to close this Missive is with a more serious portrait by Rafael Cidoncha showing her as a life-long collector, seated in front of one of her prize Frida self-portraits. It was painted in 1996, just  two years before Natasha passed away.

There is so much more to see, and the show is well worth the visit.  There are only a few more days to see it in Albuquerque as it closes May 2  and you will need to book a reservation. 

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