Frida’s Fashion in London
Following Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's death in 1954, her husband Diego Riviera began placing her personal effects into the bathroom of their Mexico City house, “La Casa Azul”. "The Blue House", later became the Museo Frida Kahlo. Riviera gave instructions that this room should remain sealed until fifteen years after his death and it in fact remained unopened until 2004 when the museum decided to organize and catalog the contents. Japanese Miyako Ishiuchi was invited to photograph these artifacts, over 300 unseen relics of Kahlo's life.
“Frida” is Ishiuchi's photographic record of the Kahlo's wardrobe and belongings and the title of a current exhibition of the photographs taking place in London at the Michael Hoppen Gallery. The exhibition runs from May 14th to July 12th.
See: http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com for more information.
In documenting Frida, Ishiuchi again respectfully sifts through the ephemera left behind by an individual and in doing so makes intimate revelations about one of the twentieth century's greatest artists. Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954) was an invalid throughout her life. Having contracted polio as a child she was then involved in a near fatal bus accident at the age of 18, which resulted in numerous surgeries. In the aftermath of her accident Kahlo constructed her iconic wardrobe to camouflage her physical ailments. Ishiuchi's images document the traditional Tehuana dresses that both concealed the damage to her lower body and acted as a feminist salute to the matriarchal society from which they are derived.
Many friends noted that the Kahlo's costumes became more elaborate the more incapacitated she became. Throughout her life she decorated her casts and corsets elevating them from medical necessities to visual armor. The final blow was the amputation of her leg in 1953, from which she never recovered. Even in this affliction she designed a prosthetic leg adorned with a boot covered in Chinese embroidery and a little bell. Ishiuchi's photographed these relics in natural light with a 35mm Nikon camera.
Through her photographs Ishiuchi came to recognize the parallel between these traditional garments and the kimonos of her own country. Throughout the photographs there is a particular awareness, a tenderness that is inherent to a woman looking through another woman's intimate possessions. As she painstakingly catalogs the chic of Kahlo's sunglasses, the intimacy of her darned tights and the corsets that were to be the armature by which she survived.