Retrato de Irene Bohus (1947) is a parodic and seemingly vengeful portrait. It refers to Irene Bohus, a painter active in Mexico and with whom Diego Rivera had a love affair upon returning from New York and divorcing Frida in 1939. Nickolas Muray, the photographer Kahlo was infatuated with between 1937 and 1939, was probably who introduced them to this other Hungarian native and also to Paulette Goddard, Charlie Chaplin’s ex-wife with whom Rivera also had an affair. In 1940 Diego declared that Frida’s best works were sublimations of her anguishes; Kahlo does indeed appear to use representation as a means of airing the issues she finds both with herself and with her subconscious. In this parody of Bohus, she ridicules her fake plait and Oaxacan headdress before ceremoniously engendering a character with phallic extensions in the place of its upper limbs, covered in protuberant tongues and hairs and whose vagina, crowned by a little devil or succubus, drips urine that collects in a bucket reading: “I beg from you / I ask you”.
The other effigy, Objeto parcial (Partial object) bears a clear iconographic resemblance to the poetic-surrealist technique of the exquisite corpse that Kahlo had been playfully developing along with Lucienne Bloch since 1933. In this case however, the line is traced and finished using just one hand with a specific intention in mind: the figure emulates a deity, seemingly constructed as an altar and reminiscent of a pre-Columbian sculpture, or perhaps a maternal goddess of sacrificial nature whose body is fragmented (evoking Coatlicue). The caricature has an exorcising effect, and is offered up as a tabernacle or retablo to this end. In a gestalt-like effect, infinite tits, cocks, tongues, mouths, vaginas and other indistinguishable orifices first form a face and then the genuflected character itself. Both drawings draw on the popular Mexican tradition of a device rooted in Catholicism and the colonial era: the ex-voto. These small votive offerings recount a specific traumatic anecdote or event in the life of the creator artist. They serve to reconcile the protagonist with the horror experienced. In painting them, the person can give thanks to God or a saint for their intervention and aid. Oaxacan poet Andrés Henestrosa used to say that José Clemente Orozco, Dr. Atl and Frida Kahlo were the “shining lights of mutilation” of Mexican art history. These two sketches clearly show how, in tearing apart the hard to digest actors of her emotional life and dissecting the drama of her own existence into episodes, Frida Kahlo performed, by her own hand, the psychoanalysis she so deeply needed.
Carlos A. Molina, PhD.
"Probably some people expect of me a very personal, “feminine,” anecdotal portrait…perhaps they hope to hear from me lament about “how much one suffers,” living with a man like Diego. But I do not believe that the banks of a river suffer for letting the water run, or that the earth suffers because it rains, or the atom suffers discharging its energy…”
—Frida Kahlo, 1949
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.