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Frida Leads a Mexican Invasion

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The softer side of Frida Kahlo is on exhibit at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, where an array of over 100 works by prominent 20th-century Mexican artists goes on display today.

The paintings are from the Gelman Collection, which is widely considered one of the five most important private collections of Mexican modern art, and so the exhibit is something of a coup for the Pilsen museum. "When people heard we got the exhibit they were surprised, but everyone was telling us it makes perfect sense, because we are the experts on Mexican art," said Eva Penar, marketing and media coordinator for the museum.

The exhibit includes 16 canvases by Kahlo, the largest selection of her work ever shown outside Mexico, according to curator Cesareo Moreno. Absent are the famously dark paintings that reflect Kahlo's perpetual physical pain (from a back injury) and her fascination with death and dismemberment. These self-portraits show her handsome face in contented repose--in one Kahlo is surrounded by inquisitive monkeys.

Other paintings celebrate the artist's tumultuous relationship with painter Diego Rivera. The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, I and Senor Xolotl depicts Kahlo in a flowing red dress cradling a naked, infantlike Diego as both are embraced by surreal figures representing earth and sky.

Also featured are works by Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco--known as "the Big Three" of Mexican muralism--as well as more recent works by Rufino Tamayo and Carlos Merida.

The collection is making a onetime tour of the U.S. before being permanently housed in a museum in Cuernavaca. The exhibit runs through April 27 and there is an admission charge (a first for the museum). During regular hours (Tuesday through Sunday, 10 to 5) admission is $7, $3 for students and seniors. On Wednesdays for the duration of the exhibit the museum will be open until 8; admission is free after 5. The Mexican Fine Arts Museum is at 1852 W. 19th St.; call 312-783-1503.

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