There’s yet another immersive artist-inspired light show in town.
“Immersive Frida Kahlo” opens Saturday, March 12 at SVN West San Francisco, featuring screenings of paintings by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo accompanied by biographical presentations and original music. Like other flashy art exhibitions held outside of museums, tickets range from the surprisingly expensive off-peak price of $39.99 to a $109.99 VIP ticket that comes with an “Immersive Frida cushion” for your posterior.
For that price, “Immersive Frida Kahlo” — like “Immersive Van Gogh,” “Imagine Picasso” and “The Art of Banksy,” three other non-museum exhibits — promises a more exhilarating experience than the venerable art museum. “Discover the art of Frida Kahlo brought to life!” exclaims the exhibition’s marketing materials, promising 500,000 “cubic feet of art” – a new way to measure an exhibition.
But there’s one key difference from presenter Lighthouse Immersive’s previous van Gogh show: For “Frida,” the producers collaborated with the late artist’s family. The Fundación Familia Kahlo, which controls the license of Kahlo’s name, provided archival photographs and biographical details that it says could make the already larger-than-life Frida look a little more human.
No doubt the show will draw crowds. Kahlo, who was only 47 when she died in 1954, is the kind of artist whose legend has surpassed her work. Her almost iconic face appears on magnets, purses, posters and pins more often than her actual paintings. Lighthouse Immersive says it has sold more than 4.5 million tickets so far to “Immersive Van Gogh,” which will continue to share the SVN West venue with the Kahlo show, and expects similar interest.
For their part, Kahlo’s family says they hope the show, which will run simultaneously in nine North American cities, will be more than just entertainment.
Mara P. Kahlo and her daughter, Mara De Anda, descendants of Frida’s sister, Cristina, and officers of Fundación Familia Kahlo, told The Chronicle that they hoped “Immersive Frida” might change the public perception of their ancestor of her image of “Sufrida” (the victim) Kahlo, to a “happy, empowered woman” who was warm with her family.
Speaking to The Chronicle via a recent video interview from his home in Mexico City, De Anda expressed hope that the exhibition will be an uplifting experience for people who, whether or not they appreciate the paintings of his great-grand -aunt, can find inspiration in her life.
“We have a Frida in us, no matter what,” De Anda said. “We all have that autonomy and that strength, you know, and we just have to take it away, just like Frida did.”
Kahlo’s life certainly required endurance. The major episodes of his life, many of which are depicted in his painfully personal paintings, can be recited by people with only a passing interest in art.
She was born in 1907 to the second wife of her father, who banished Kahlo’s half-sisters from the household. A bout of poliomyelitis in her childhood left her with a pronounced limp. At 18, a cart accident impales him with an iron handrail, shattering his pelvis. Her boyfriend left her while she was recovering. Complications from the injuries persisted for the rest of his life.
At 22, she married 43-year-old Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. One of his many affairs was with Cristina Kahlo, Frida’s sister. Frida, in turn, is said to have had an affair with Leon Trotsky, whom she and Rivera welcomed to Mexico. Despite the tumult of their marriage, Kahlo wanted a child, but unfortunately had several miscarriages. She died at 47 after years of unsuccessful surgeries and a lot of pain.
The exhibition avoids these subjects. In fact, while Kevin Kopjak, publicist for Lighthouse Immersive, said that “some of the featured artwork includes his personal thoughts and experience with his miscarriages and fertility issues”, he admits that “nothing explicitly touches on these topics. “.
Still, De Anda spoke with conviction about her great-great-aunt, a woman who died years before she was born, and her feelings for the immersive experience that was created.
“It’s amazing…you can really feel, hear, see details of the artwork that you never see day to day, you know,” she said. “You can smell Frida. You can feel his heart in the exhibit.
But one has to wonder what Kahlo herself might think of the extravaganza that is “Immersive Frida.”
On the one hand, the artist was a communist. The year before her death, she painted “Marxism will give health to the sick”. His coffin was draped with a hammer and sickle flag.
And if you’re looking for Kahlo’s original work, you’ll find it intimate, small-scale like Catholic ex-votos. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has his 1931 painting “Frida and Diego Rivera,” measuring approximately 39 by 31 inches. The tiny figures in this marital portrait don’t overwhelm you as they tower 15 feet above you , as in the new exhibition, but by their extremely vulnerable personal revelation. Kahlo found the big one in the small, private ladder of her world, which was sometimes the bed she fitted with an easel when she physically couldn’t get up.
I’m not going to tell you if you should go or not. Just as the act of buying discount sour candy at the drugstore is a personal choice, buying a $39.99 ticket is up to you. (For another $15, the Lifeway Kefir Immersive Yoga “wellness experience” can be had at one of nine North American “Immersive Frida” locations.)
How much should an artist’s intention count almost 70 years after his death? Michelangelo fended off attempts to censor the nude figures in his Sistine Chapel “The Last Judgment” fresco until his death, when the prudes of the Counter-Reformation finally prevailed. But they couldn’t erase his portrait of a cardinal, who had opposed nudity, with a snake biting his genitals.
Michelangelo and Kahlo are powerless in death to determine the exhibition of their work. I have a feeling that no matter how well the 21st century can reproduce Kahlo’s paintings, their intimate secrecy will endure.
“Immersive Frida Kahlo”: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from March 12 to May 8. $39.99 to $99.99. SVN West San Francisco, 10 South Van Ness Ave., SF immersive-frida.com/san-francisco
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