Frida Kahlo arrives in Denver in the form of a grand scale three-dimensional exhibition. After the grand success of the Immersive Van Gogh, Lighthouse Artspace Denver brings to life the work of Kahlo, highlighting her life, pain and unique spirit.
Immersive Frida Kahlo, which opened on March 3, invites people to submerge themselves in the life of the Mexican artist. Through music, monumental projections and the animation of her work, Kahlo comes to life in a way we may have never seen before.
The art space opens vastly as you enter. Already, Frida’s most famous self-portraits greet you – “The Two Fridas,” “Frieda and Diego Rivera” and “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace.” She is there, from floor to ceiling, portrayed in the various moments of her life. Mirrored, geometrical sculptures stand in the middle of the room. They mirror the images on the wall, showing broken, fragmented reflections of Frida’s face. One can’t help but wonder if it’s meant to symbolize Frida’s well-documented pain, both physical and emotional.
The experience lasts around 40 to 45 minutes. Throughout it, Frida’s work and life are projected semi-chronologically, from images of her life in Mexico to her time in New York City with her husband, Diego Rivera, all the way to the end of her life.
It begins with darkness, with glimpses of faces of her paintings that peek through and blend back into the dark background. They look at us as we search for their gaze. Before they reveal themselves fully, they shatter like pieces of glass and disappear.
Next, an old Mexican town emerges, sketched and colorless. The carriages and busses animate and move across the wall. Through the windows of each house, we finally see color in the form of Kahlo’s multiple portraits. The entire section is scored to a rendition of “Stand by Me,” originally by Ben E. King, which creates a strange juxtaposition between a period of time in the early 20s and a ballad composed in the 60s.
The show continues exhibiting moments of Frida Kahlo’s life, capturing an essence in chapters. Diego Rivera, her husband and famous muralist, appears throughout. We see peeks of scaffolding, pieces of his murals. He is both a cause of wonder and pain, however, the musical score indicates we should feel about him.
There are several moments that stand out. For one, there is a section that showcases the artist’s influences like her love for Mesoamerican and Aztec imagery. The entire room is enfolded in indigenous flora and fauna, a jungle weaving its way across the walls. The colors are bright and saturated, as we usually see in Kahlo’s painting.
One of the most memorable moments focuses on Frida’s anguish and chronic pain, a subject she frequently painted. From a filled tub, a woman’s toes peak out to the surface. The reference comes from Kahlo’s painting “Lo Que El Agua Me Dio” (What the Water Gave Me). The original painting has aggressive imagery reflected in the water — a volcanic explosion, a dead woodpecker, a naked and floating female with a rope around her neck. Just like in the painting, these images begin to float in the animated interpretation. The water slowly begins to rise, sinking us into a darkness that symbolizes Kahlo’s own pain that she experienced throughout her life. We see images of skulls, the metal corsets and straps she needed to use to support her spine, a painting of her own miscarriage, as the water carries us deeper and deeper into complete darkness.
The experience paints a picture of the artist’s influences and the themes that defined her life. At times, there is an air of defiance, representing her alliance with the Mexican Communist Party and the revolution. There are themes of love and heartbreak and success in Paris she finds at the end of her life. However, through all the references to her paintings and the historical context, it felt like Frida herself was missing at times. As an artist well-known for her intricate self-portraits, her own image seemed elusive from the experience. She seemed to hide and only show up briefly as a side character to her own story.
The Immersive Frida Kahlo exhibition provides a curated look into the artist’s life, tragedies and work. It brings to life a time that has gone but remains immortal through Kahlo’s paintings, which you can now see at a large scale and ever moving.
Immersive Frida Kahlo will be at the Lighthouse Denver until June 5. Tickets cost $40–$55. For more information, visit the official website immersive-frida.com.