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TO AUG. 27
The most striking thing about the photographs of Frida Kahlo and her muralist husband, Diego Rivera, currently on display at the Mexican Cultural Institute is how much Kahlo looks like her self-portraits. Then again, there isn’t a single candid moment in any of the 96 photographs, for Kahlo and Rivera surely understood framing and composition as well as the seminal photographers (such as Edward Weston, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Tina Modotti, and Nickolas Murray, whose work is pictured) who made them say cheese. If the photographs reveal anything, it’s the degree to which the two artists constructed public images of their private life together. The level of cooperation necessary for this kind of staging is best evidenced by a print of Rivera kissing Kahlo in her hospital bed; she’s wearing satin roses in her hair, lipstick, jewelry, and a hammer and sickle on her chest. There are also several photos of the couple hanging out with the pet monkeys and tiny native dogs that tend to show up in Kahlo’s paintings. In almost all of the photographs, Kahlo is serene, graceful, and bedecked in brilliant Mexican garb. Rivera is squat and vital; the storminess of Kahlo’s relationship with her “lovable monster” has been tucked out of sight. But those who’ve consumed the couple’s biography (the curators helpfully provide a video biography in the gallery, as well) will appreciate the pictures’ sanguinity. The show is on view from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, to Friday, Aug. 27, at the Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW. Free. (202) 728-1628. (Bidisha Banerjee)