The largest Frida Kahlo exhibition in the United States in 10 years is taking over the Brooklyn Museum, from the walls to the menu.
“Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” opening Friday, presents more than 300 personal objects and artifacts that defined the famed Mexican artist’s life and career. Those include her signature Tehuana dresses and jewelry to the plaster medical corsets she painted fresco-style, pushing beyond the typical narrative viewers often see in Kahlo’s signature self-portraits.
Food will be an important component, too, bringing a sense of taste, smell and emotive quality to the exhibit, which explores the themes of “politics, national identity, disability, creativity and self-fashioning,” said Catherine Morris, Sackler Senior Curator at Brooklyn Museum.
“Food is not just as an amenity, but an active participant in the exhibition,” said Gary Bedigan, director of Brooklyn venues for Great Performances, Brooklyn Museum’s catering partner.
In the exhibit, food is portrayed in Kahlo’s lesser-known still lifes. For instance, corn plays a prominent role in one of her paintings, "Fruits of the Earth," an ode to her Mexican roots.
And in the museum’s restaurant and cafe, there will be inspired dishes and cocktails to enjoy over discussions of the art.
Together with Saul Bolton, chef at the museum’s on-site restaurant The Norm, five New York-based Mexican restaurants and chefs will collaborate on residencies at The Norm throughout the duration of the exhibit. They are TV food personality Sue Torres (residency from Friday-March 4); Oaxacan-born-and-raised brothers Carlos and Felipe Arellano of Park Slope’s Chela (Friday-March 4); Natalia Mendez of La Morada in Mott Haven (March 5-April 6); TJ Steele of Gowanus’ Claro (March 5-April 6); and Justin Bazdarich of Greenpoint’s Oxomoco (April 9-May 24.)
“The chefs all have completely different backgrounds, but the same passion for Mexican cuisine,” Bedigan said of the lineup. “Everyone approaches Mexican cuisine from a different background. We have voices from all over New York sharing how they articulate their love for Mexican cuisine . . . and bring the community together.”
Torres — who is serving shrimp flautas, sweet plantain and goat cheese gorditas and red snapper with achiote sauce and hoja santa during her residency — has long admired Kahlo’s work and immediately said yes to the project when Bolton invited her.
“Frida Kahlo has been a hero to me,” Torres said. “She is the Wonder Woman of Mexico. She’s fierce, powerful and courageous. She did not mince her words, and her ability to share her hardships and pain as well as joy in her paintings moves me.”
In addition to the chefs’ dishes, The Norm will be serving specials throughout the exhibition’s run, including guacamole and shrimp cocktail. There will also be Mexican-themed cocktails, such as a Kahlo-inspired old fashioned with mole bitters and flutes of Jose Cuervo tequila.
The museum also will have a special selection of Mexican goods available, with pastries from Mi Mexico Pequeño served at The Norm during weekend brunch and at the museum’s cafe during regular hours. The cafe will also serve Brooklyn Roasting Company’s Oaxacan blend coffee, a selection of traditional Mexican candies, Mexican Coca-Cola and Jarritos.
The exhibit runs through May 12 at 200 Eastern Pkwy. in Prospect Heights. For more info, visit brooklynmuseum.org.