Frida Kahlo is an icon -- as an artist, as the inspiration for the 2002 Academy Award winning biopic starring Salma Hayek, as the center of a cult of personality.
Amidst all the "Fridamania", and the countless key chains and trinkets that her paintings grace, the pioneering aspects of Kahlo's art can get somewhat lost. But she was a pioneering female artist, breaking new ground for women to use their own life experience as legitimate subject -- and a new book called Face to Face: Frida Kahlo, published by Prestel, seeks to put her work into that perspective.
Written by the artist Judy Chicago, along with art historian Frances Borzello, this lavishly illustrated book considers Kahlo's entire ouevre without, as Chicago writes, constantly referring to Kahlo's biography. It's a surprise to realize, for instance, that only one-third of Kahlo's paintings are self-portraits.
Face to Face includes essays by Chicago and Barzello, and then several sections where the two have a conversation in print about various aspects of Kahlo's work. They draw connections between the art that inspired the self-taught Kahlo, as well as showing Kahlo's influence on artists that came after her. And unlike other books on art with serious intent -- or, for that matter, wall text in many museums -- you don't feel like you need an advanced degree in art criticism to understand what Chicago and Barzello are saying. If you know what the phrase "picture plane" means, you've got all the lingo you need to appreciate this book.
The book may be a little heavy to tote along if you're planning to hit the Frida Kahlo highlights on your next trip to Mexico City. (See the gallery below.) But if you're a fan of Frida, I'd say it's essential pre-trip reading.
Gallery: Frida Kahlo's Mexico City Highlights