The same image of Frida Kahlo is repeated several times followed by several times the same image of Andy Warhol. But the repetition is subverted: each link of the chain is a formal and conceptual variation. Andy’s portraits have been painted using symbols of the life and works of Frida, and viceversa, Kahlo’s portraits are embodied in Warholian surfaces or ideas. Moreover, the mechanical reproduction so characteristic of Warhol’s creative processes is both summoned and displaced by old and painstaking hand-crafted techniques. The resulting images are full-fledged hybrids: unsettling yet accessible new Andies and Fridas, quite different from the commodified icons we are so familiar with.

Though independent paintings, the Crossportraits have been conceived also as pieces of an installation of a more encompassing and powerful meaning. Its structure is flexible both in form and in content. This enables the work to adapt to the available space as well as to the market. It can be displayed with its pieces side by side in a long line; in two lines in two different walls converging in a corner; in rectangles and the like. The installation can include all of the portraits (which would certainly be the most compelling presentation) or it could be set up in smaller yet very effective arrangements. On the other hand, there is no fixed sequence, no linear story. Thus, a piece can be replaced by another version of the same idea or even by an idea sharply dissimilar, and the overall concept remains intact. It’s an open oeuvre, capable of transforming itself through various exhibitions. Last but not least, the series culminates in another group of portraits, this time of the couple that Andy and Frida form only in my paintings, as if they had never been apart.

Why this odd couple that stands out for its striking arbitrariness and factual impossibility? Why this unabashed crossing of cultures, genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, styles, works of art, temporalities, personal and national identities, Third World and the First? The Crossportraits are allegories, images whose literal, immediate sense refer to other meanings. In the Crossportraits, Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo —both neat, emblematic icons of distant, seemingly opposite backgrounds— cross many borders between them, are plunged and stirred together in a relentless process of complementation. The outcome is that, no matter the price, each one is nourished —not betrayed— by way of a pervading otherness. Through the engendering powers of painting they become defiantly impure, like heroes of a fragile balance seldom accomplished in our present world.

Alberto Jorge Carol

Back to Paintings