This exceptional collection captures the multifaceted character of an intriguing artist, by turns playful, sensual, vulnerable and defiant. This exhibition coincides with Making Herself Up; the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition of clothing and personal artefacts belonging to Kahlo (from 16 June). The photographs on view at ATLAS, coinciding with this celebration of the artist, also serve to highlight how Kahlo expressed (through clothing and jewellery) a fierce connection to her Mexican heritage. A 1931 portrait by Imogen Cunningham, for example, shows the artist wearing one of her treasured necklaces dating from Mexico's pre-Colombian era, along with earrings from the country's colonial period.
These photographs also bear traces of the hardships Kahlo endured - Florence Arquin's 1951 portrait shows Kahlo lifting her blouse to reveal a body-cast beneath, meeting the viewer's gaze boldly with a quizzical expression. A near-fatal traffic accident at the age of 18 left Kahlo subjected to years of pain and repeated surgery, often confining her to a hospital bed. Pelvic injuries are also thought to have caused her repeated miscarriages. Stoic and determined, Kahlo continued to paint from the confines of her bed and decorated her casts. In Arquin's photograph we see painted symbols on the artist's plaster-encased torso - a Communist hammer and sickle, and a foetus in a womb - reflecting motifs, both personal and political, which recur in Kahlo's work.
Also among the works on display are several portraits by Kahlo's long-time friend and lover Nickolas Muray, whose on-again off-again affair with Kahlo spanned ten years. Muray's carbon pigment prints--the only works featured in the exhibition in colour--with their rich yet muted hues, underscore how strikingly current these images feel, though the earliest was taken 80 years ago.
Kahlo's own artistic legacy includes numerous self-portraits, often fascinatingly stylised and rich in symbolism. This collection of photographs reveals the insight of those who were able to get close to her, to capture intriguing glimpses into her inner life.
The exhibition features portraits by Florence Arquin, Lucienne Bloch, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, Héctor García, Fritz Henle, Leo Matiz, Nickolas Muray and Bernard Silberstein.