An XXL-Edition Compiles All of Frida Kahlo’s 152 Artworks in an Extensive Celebration of Her Life and Work
An enormous new book from Taschen explores the life and work of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954). Widely recognized as a groundbreaking figure in contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality, Kahlo’s now iconic image—particularly derived from her more than 50 self-portraits showing her bold brow, braided hair, and range of floral adornments—has secured her legacy as one of the most influential and profound artists of the 20th Century.
Spanning 624 pages and weighing nearly 12 pounds, Frida Kahlo. The Complete Paintings compiles all 152 of her works paired with diary pages, letters, drawings, an illustrated biography, and hundreds of photos taken by Edward Weston, Manuel and Lola Álvarez Bravo, Nickolas Muray, and Martin Munkácsi that glimpse moments from Kahlo’s life with her husband and muralist Diego Rivera and of the Casa Azul, her home in Mexico City. Many of the pieces included haven’t been exhibited publicly in more than 80 years.
Edited by Luis-Martín Lozano with contributions from Andrea Kettenmann and Marina Vázquez Ramos, the volume contextualizes Kahlo’s paintings by offering an intimate and wide-reaching exploration of her oeuvre that was so profoundly impacted by her experiences with a lifelong disability and an unending need to question politics and notions of identity. Lozano describes her unparalleled contributions in a conversation with It’s Nice That:
Her uniqueness in art history is not only based in a feminist agenda as it has been stressed out in recent years, but mostly in her capacity to engage in ideological and aesthetic discussions of her time and contemporaries, in subjects such as public art and surrealism, and make them part of her core as an artist.
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More than two decades ago, Noah Kalina started taking a daily self-portrait, a ritualistic practice that’s culminated in a few timelapses collating the images as part of his Everyday project. His most recent manifestation in that ongoing series melds together photos from the last 7,777 days in a striking two-minute compilation that vividly shows how he ages over the 21-year period.
A collaborative effort with sound designer Paul O’Mara and programmer Michael Notter, the timelapse uses five of Kalina’s facial features—his eyes, nose, and corners of his mouth—that Notter aligned in all of the photos to ensure smooth transitions from one to the next. Not all 7,777 portraits make it into the final video, though, because they opted to use the average of 60 faces in each frame, meaning Kalina ages two months every second.
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Distorted Figures Navigate the Aftermath of Environmental Destruction in Portraits by Stamatis Laskos
Fantastically tall figures with elongated limbs and torsos inhabit the distorted, mysterious realities painted by artist Stamatis Laskos (previously). The highly stylized artworks, which extend upwards of six feet, imagine a universe marred by unknown destruction: an elderly man wades through waist-high water while fire burns in the background, a woman retrieves a human skeleton from a flood, and a self-portrait shows the artist shielding his eyes with detached hands. Working with Earth tones and an implied dim light, Laskos shrouds each scene with shadow, which obscures the figures’ faces and casts an eerie tension over the degraded environments.
At once distant and deeply personal, each painting draws on ideas of collective unconscious and Jungian archetypes, whether portrayed through wise figures, an apocalypse, or the unification of opposing forces. “Giving them the necessary deformation, my archaic protagonists carve out incompatible and irreconcilable trajectories,” Laskos says. “The unconscious and the hidden memories are framed by colors, shapes, and situations that complement my compositions in such a way that each work is a page from my diary, always reminding me how and why it was created.”
Laskos is currently based in his hometown of Volos, Greece, and some of his works on canvas are on view through June 25 at Lola Nikolaou Art Gallery in Thessaloniki. Later this summer, he’ll be painting a larger mural in Athens focused around a theme of environmental ruin, and you can follow his progress on that piece on Behance and Instagram.
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Studies show that people are inclined to adopt canine companions that resemble themselves or family members, a psychological impulse that Misato Sano (previously) flips on its head. Rather than carve a pack of doggy doubles, the artist creates textured wooden sculptures of curly-haired poodles and acrobatic pugs imbued with different aspects of her own personality. Encompassing multiple breeds, expressions, and physical traits, each work is a self-portrait. She explains to Colossal:
For me, using the form of dogs is the most appropriate, highest-resolution method to materialize what I think of my inner self. Materializing myself in various states is about having an honest, direct dialogue with myself. In facing myself, I would like to be passionate, free, and loving, like a dog. My works are also about myself looking at myself. In that sense, I might have been making an existence that is sometimes beside myself, a little distance in other times, watching over myself.
Sano is based in the Tohoku region of the Miyagi prefecture and spends her summers creating the lively creatures with fur chiseled in visible gouges. As the weather turns cold, she shifts her practice to embroidery and conveys the adorable faces in plush tufts of thread.
You can see Sano’s carved characters as part of a group exhibition running August 14 to 29 at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, California. Otherwise, check out her Instagram for glimpses into her process and to see some of the real-life pups that inspire her works.
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Lahore, Pakistan-based artist Omar Aqil (previously) digitally assembles technology, 3D objects, and textured masses into figurative collages for his series Self-Portraits 2050. The futuristic characters all sport a pair of glasses but are otherwise distinct, sometimes conveyed through sleek geometric shapes stacked into facial features and others sprouting whimsical florals and various organic elements. Experimentation and play are at the heart of this new series—which Aqil refers to as “profile pictures”—and his practice overall, resulting in an eclectic collection of self-portraits rooted in the current digital era.
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In her salient text, In The Wake: On Blackness and Being, scholar Christina Sharpe delves into the multiple definitions of “wake,” which span from “the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, (to) coming to consciousness.” “In the wake,” Sharpe writes, “the past that is not past reappears, always, to rupture the present.” Largely focused on conversations around anti-Blackness and continued violence, the book is rooted in the afterlife of slavery and what sentiments, practices, and memories linger into the current moment, questions that similarly ground the work of artist Nastassja Swift.
Through fiber-based figures often arranged in large gatherings, Swift explores various narratives tied to Blackness, particularly those that relate to water and ancestral presences. “I’m interested in taking those things as starting points and imaging a space or happening that involves my sculpture and allows me to think through a hypothetical rooted in that memory or history,” the Virginia-based artist says. She derives these stories from texts like Sharpe’s, discussions with friends, and in one instance, a conversation with an older Black woman at a Toni Morrison film screening.
While there are multiple narrative threads in each of her pieces, Swift doesn’t strive to disclose each one, preferring explicit gaps in the connections. “I love knowing that there’s more to what’s being made and imagining other characters or continued happenings around what’s being made,” she says. “That’s not something I’m attempting to convey, rather information that I’m okay not sharing.”
Many of the faces evoke imagined subjects, not relatives Swift has met or seen in photographs, but rather somewhat of “an ancestral presence that allows my hands to make the face in any particular moment without my mind being aware of it.” She always begins with the supple shape of the face and then sculpts the facial details and hair from dyed wool and felt, a process that’s intimate and that’s evolved with two more recent works.
“With ‘Passage, when momma lets my braids flow down my back’ (2021) and ‘Your Banks are Red Honey Where the Moon Wanders-Self Portrait’ (2020), everything changed,” Swift says, describing the shift in the process to that of a ritual. The first of these two works, “Passage,” is a bubblegum pink figure sporting a collar marked with smaller heads arranged in a gradient. Long braids descend down the torso and pool on the floor. Second is Swift’s self-portrait, which features a calm face shaped in deep red wool that’s silhouetted by braids and figurative tendrils. Both interpret specific subjects as West African masks and sculptural forms in order to question “what it means to worship someone, and how that word could be reshaped to allow us to honor those around us,” the artist says.
Swift will have a satellite exhibition titled Canaan: when I read your letter, I feel your voice at the Contemporary Arts Network in Newport News from June 5 to July 3, 2021. Thanks to the Art as Activism Grant from the Black Box Press Foundation, the pieces will then travel for a stay at the Galveston Arts Center. The artist sells some felted dolls and other goods in her shop, and head to Instagram for glimpses into her studio and a larger collection of her sculptures.
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Editor's Picks: Design
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