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"Frida" by Ishiuchi Miyako - Michael Hoppen Gallery, London

14 May 2015 | 12 July 2015

Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako (2013) is a photographic record of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's wardrobe and belongings.

Following Kahlo's death in 1954 her husband Diego Riviera began placing her personal effects into the bathroom of their Mexico City house, "The Blue House", which 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 organise and catalogue the contents. Ishiuchi Miyako was invited to photograph these artefacts, over 300 unseen relics of Kahlo's life.

In documenting Frida, Ishiuchi Miyako 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 surgical interventions. In the aftermath of her accident Khalo constructed her iconic wardrobe to camouflage her physical ailments. Ishiuchi Miyako'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. * Through her photographs Ishiuchi came to recognise the parallel between these traditional garments and the kimonos of her own country, an "ephipany" that is evident in the images themselves. 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 catalogues 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.

Many friends noted that the more incapacitated Kahlo became the more elaborate her costumes. Throughout her life she decorated her casts and corsets elevating them from medical necessities to visual armour. 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. Captured in natural light with a 35mm Nikon, Ishiuchi Miyako's portrayal of these objects can seem deceptively simple. Reviewed together however these relics become a composite "portrait", an insight into a woman who used fashion to channel her physical difficulties into a courageous statement of identity, strength and beauty.

taken from the Michael Hoppen Gallery website, read the complete article at the link below