Frida Kahlo cultural icon

Image: Yuan Tian via Flickr CC

The late Frida Kahlo is inarguably one of the most famous artists in the world. Her work is recognizable on a global level; her signature self-portraits are beloved by people from all walks of life, and have undoubtedly influenced many contemporary artists working today.

Though the immortalization of this remarkable woman through her art is significant, art critics and historians fear that Kahlo’s posthumous celebrity status is problematic. In response to ways in which Frida Kahlo has become even more of a cultural icon since her death, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) has created an exhibition to examine her influence through a strictly artistic lens. Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo at the MCA seeks to compare and examine the relationship between Kahlo’s work and that of other contemporary artists.

According to the MCA, Kahlo’s “reputation and persona have grown immensely since her death in 1954, yet posthumously she has been turned into a stereotype of Latin American art,” noting that “this predicament, along with her celebrity status, often overshadows the confrontational and boldly transgressive nature of her paintings, and ultimately undermines the revolutionary intent of her work.”

Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo features carefully curated works that are stylistically aligned with the late artist. The exhibition includes work by Margot Bergman, Sanford Biggers, Louise Bougeois, Ana Mendieta, Beatriz Milhazes, Catherine Opie, Angel Otero, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, and many others. In addition, works from Kahlo are also featured, and Unbound is centered around four themes that proved relevant in Kahlo’s work, as well as in that of her contemporaries: the performance of gender, issues of national identity, the political body, and the absent or traumatized body.

This art exhibition is vast and highly significant because of how it directly addresses culture’s influence on the dialogue surrounding contemporary artists. Learn more at

Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo

May 3 – October 5, 2014

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago