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Thursday, July 28, 2011


Trishna Rai

The essay is divided into four sections. 1. on the margins. 2. Women art and politics. 3. The interior and the exterior. 4. The discourse of the body. Therefore, each section comprises of a thesis statement.

 THESIS STATEMENT 1: The originality scope and richness of Mexican art have been overlooked or underestimated.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Andre Breton went to Mexico, as to a dreamland, to find there that magic 'point of intersection between the political and the artistic lines beyond which we hope that they may unite in a single revolutionary consciousness  while still preserving intact the indentities of the separate motivating forces that run through them'.

KEY SENTENCE: Breton found it particularly in the paintings of Frida Kahlo, in Mexico, in 1938, work which blended reverie, cruelty and sexuality-the surrealist virtues, whose enchantment was heightened for Breton by the connection with Trotsky.

KEY WORD: Surrealist virtues.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The critic if 30/30, reviewing and exhibition of Tina Modotti's photographs in Mexico City, in 1929, described how she had found 'a clear and concrete solution' to the problem of joining art propaganda in her emblematic photographs of sickle, corn-cob and bandolier, and other combinations with guitar or the numbers 27 and 123, reffering to the aricles in the Mexican Constitution concerning the ownership of land and the rights of labour..

KEY SENTENCE: She had shown how ' we can make a social  art without giving  up pure art', how the production of a 'pure aesthetic emotion'  through plastic form can  be combined with 'revolutionary anecdotism'.

KEY WORDS: pure aesthetic emotion, revolutionary anecdotism.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The initial elan at the moment of intersection has not persisted or been generalized.

KEY WORDS: talismans, post-revolutionary years.


TOPIC SENTTENCE:  Why Mexico? And exhibition of work by Freda Kahlo and Tina Modotti automatically invites questions about 'marginality' – the status , in teams of main stream art history as presented in books and museum displays, assigned to Mexican art and  to woman's art and (in Modotti's case) to photography.

KEY WORDS: classical civilization of antiquity, 'heterogeneous'.

THESIS STATEMENT 2: The contemporary political and cultural background is essential for an understanding of Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti's work.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The second issue of marginality post by this exhibition is that of women's art.

KEY WORDS: juxtaposition, artistic practice, unjustly neglected, intrinsic interest, feminist aesthetic.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Thus the contrast, as well as the parallels, suggested by the work of both artists provides a starting-point for the exhibitions line of interest to anyone concerned with art from a feminist perspective.

KEY WORDS: radical tendencies, politically militant, high art.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Feminism has always been deeply concerned with questions about representation, with the politics of majors.

KEY SENTENCE: This concern is with the way that "women" has been used in male representation and with women's relegation to a marginal area of culture specifically excluded from 'high arts'

KEY WORDS: Male representation, women's relegation, confrontation.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Both Kahlo and Modotti worked in 'dialects' rather than the language of high art.

KEY WORDS: Radical aesthetics, contemporary movement


TOPIC SENTENCE: The relationship between the lives and work of both women raises the question of how women came to be artists.

KEY WORDS: Revolution, arbitrary elements, representation, communist party.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Their relationship to the Mexican culture background was necessarily rather different.

KEY WORDS: Foreigner, utterly changed, argument, new line of thought.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Looking at the work of Tina Modotti and Frida Kahlo side by side, with their hindsight, one is struck immediately by the contrast between them.

KEY SENTENCE: On the one hand Frida Kahlo's work concentrates primarily on the personal, the world of interior, while Modotti's looks outward, to the exterior world.

KEY WORD; recognizably, world of interior, outward, photographed, emotional relationship, feminist art, distinctions.



TOPIC SENTENCE: Two other forces are of utmost importance: that of historical heritage and that of individual accident.

KEY WORDS: necessary, contingent, exploitation, oppression.

THESIS STATEMENT 3: Thus an opposition develops between the interior and the exterior, the private female and public male as though the feminine sphere was there primarily to give meaning and public significance to its opposite.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The slogan 'the personal is political' dates back to the days when the Woman's Movement was organised around consciousness-raising.

KEY WORDS: emphatic,, assertive.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The phrase 'the personal is political' rejects the traditional exclusion and repression of the personal in male-dominated politics.

KEY WORD: individualized oppression, structure, revalued.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The political arguments also influenced feminist aesthetics and are relevant to any attempt to transform an experience of oppression into a theory of oppression.

KEY WORD: marginality, repercussions, resonances.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Benjamin omits to mention that these phantasmagorias could only exist under the management of a wife.

KEY WORDS: private citizen, distinguished, phantasmagorias, envisaged, materialized.


TOPIC SENTENCE: There is an important difference between 'femininity as such' and exploring a sphere which is not only assigned to woman in a social division of labour  but is neglected and despised by men.

KEY WORD: uncolonized, quandary, historic.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Frida Khalo's paintings emerged directly out of her life –physical suffering and her emotional suffering.

KEY SENTENCE: Her art forms a material manifestation of her interior experiences, dreams and fantasies.

KEY WSODS: material manifestations, interior experiences decorations.


TOPIS SENTENCE: Kahlo continually gives the impressions of consciously highlighting the interface of woman's art and domestic space, as though in her life 'and in  her dress' she was drawing attention to the impossibility of separating the two.

KEY WORD: stripped, pain, revealing, infidelities.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Kahlo's paintings seems  to   move through a process of stripping away layers, that of the actual skin over a wound, that of the mask of beauty over the reality of pain, than moving, like a infinite regress out of the physical into the interior world of fantasy and the unconscious.

KEY WORD: implicit rejection, psychoanalytic, vulnerability, self doubt.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Tina Modotti's gradually transformed herself from an object to beauty, used in the art of others, into a professional photographer.

KEY WORDS: Artistic apprentice, dominated, aestheticism.


TOPIC SENTENCE: These different approaches seem to reflect and comment on both the social and political division between the sexes and Tina's own position as a woman photographer.

KEY WORD: revolutionary, detachment.


TOPIC SENTENCE: In her own life she was continually on the move: and immigrant in ne country adopting the politics and culture of another, than, as an exile, travelling through Europe as a Communist Party Militant.

KEY WORD: immigrant, exile.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The fact that Khlo and Modotti's choices will not develop within a consciousness of woman's art diffuses a polemic or antagonism between them.

KEY WORD: conditions, contingent.

THESIS STATEMENT 4:  It is the discourse of the body together with its political and psychoanalytic implications,, which provides a continuity for us with Mexico between the wars.


TOPIC SENTENCE: The art of both Khlo and Modotti had a basis in their bodies: through injuries,, pain and disability in Freda Khalo's case, through an accident of beauty in Tina Modotti's .

KEY SENTENCE: Khlo's art became predominantly one of self-portraiture;Modotti's one of depiction of others predominately woman, but seeing with an eye quite different from the one that had looked at her.

KEY WORD: express, self-portraiture.



TOPIC SENTENCE: Freda Khlo had about 30 operations in the years between her accidents in 1925 and her death in 1954..

KEY SENTENCE: In some respects her painting was a form of therapy, a way of coping with pain, warding off despair and regaining control over the image of her crushed and broken body. It made possible both a triumphant reassertion of narcissism and a symbolization of her pain and suffering.

KEY WORD:  incapacitated, miscarriages, therapy, regaining, imagery.


TOPIC SENTENCE: In Henry Ford Hospital her body on the bed is surrounded by a set of emblematic objects, like those surroundings the crucified Christ in a allegory of detemption.

KEY SENTENCE: Emblems and attributes are graphic signs which carry a conventional meaning, often in reference to a narrative subtext (attributes) or a common set of beliefs (emblems)..

KEY WORD: emblem.


TOPIN SENTENCE: Another mode of representing the body which she used aws to draw a detailed imagery from anatomical text books.

KEY SENTENCE: Anatomical  organs are used as emblems- the bleeding heart of Catholic tradition, or the pelvis in Henry Ford Hospital.

KEY WORD: studying anatomy.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Beauty is another form of accident, one that is prized rather than feared.

KEY WORDS: burdens, beauty, revolutionary movement.


TOPIC SENTENCE: It is ironic in a way that this letter should have gone to Weston who did more than anyone else to promote and perpetuate the legend of Tina Modotti's beauty, both through his daybooks and through his photographs for which she was model, culminating with the famous series of her lying nude on the azotea in 1924.

 KEY WORDS: promote and perpetuate.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Weston became famous as a photographer of the female nude.

KEY SENTENCE: His particular form of voyeurism, of taking woman as an object of gaze, was justified in the terms of pure aesthetic form.

KEY WORD: formal quality, object of gaze, erotic interpretation.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Tina Modotti's photographs were not of 'beauties' but of peasant and proletarian women, marked by the condition of their life.

KEY SENTENCE: That is to say, they are represented in the process of activity and  work, rather than isolated in a pose for the camera.

KEY WORDS: represented, emphasize.


TOPIC SENTENCE: For Frida Kahlo beauty was inextricably bound up with masquerade.

KEY WORDS: expressionless, fetishism, purpose of displacement.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Throughout Kahlo's work there is a particular fetishization of nature, an imagery of fecundity and luxuriant generation which is clearly a defence against her knowledge of her own barrenness, one of the products of her childhood accident.

KEY WPORDS: modes of self- portraiture, counterpoised.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Similarly the body itself becomes a bearer of signs, some legible, some esoteric.

KEY SENTENCE: at the same time this pictographic effect de-eroticizes the imagery.

KEY WORDS: inscription, written negatively in metaphor.


TOPIC SENTENCE: Hayden  Herrera, writing about Frida Kahlo, writes of 'her nearly beautiful face in te mirror' the aptness of ' nearly' carries with it a covert recognition of the overt ruin seen in The Broken Column against which Tina Modotti, on the other hand, suffered from the inscription of beauty on her body by others.

KEY WORD: remembered.


TOPIC SENTENCE: If the art of Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti has appeared to detached from the mainstream, this by no means entails any loss of value.

KEY SENTENCE: In many ways their work may be more relevant than the central traditions of modernism, at a time when, in the light of feminism the history of art is being re-valued and remade.

KEY WORDS: re-valued, remade, relevant, modernism and feminism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the writeup, it was very helpful!