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The Rivera Murals
The Casa Azul
The Trotsky Museum
Rain on canvas
The Anthropological Museum
Life is a miracle
Turtles Can Fly
Luis Barragans house
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Yesterday we visited the Rivera/Kahlo houses; two houses (his a deep pink, hers blue) built side-by-side with an aerial stairway linking the two buildings across the rooftops. The houses were built in 1931 of reinforced concrete, designed to meet the two artists’ individual needs. In the first, (Rivera’s house) there is a huge studio, two and a half stories high; with floor to ceiling windows overlooking tall trees. It has an incredibly peaceful, untroubled, productive atmosphere. The floors of the house are painted yellow (as in the ‘Casa Azul’) which reflects the light in a sunny, happy way. I sit on the floor for ages, marveling at the feeling of a space exclusively dedicated to an artist’s work. There is no more exciting space for me; be it a dancer’s studio, a writer’s attic, or indeed a shooting-stage, it has some of the peace one associates with a church, or temple; work as the religion of the atheist.
There is a small bedroom off to one side of Rivera’s studio, his suits and shoes still in the cupboard. As in Trotsky’s house, I am struck by the ghost-like presence left in someone’s clothes; you can feel the imprint of the body; in Rivera’s case the shape of his ample belly in his tweed jackets; his weight sculpted in the shape of his well-worn slippers. Up a flight of concrete stairs is a small office, with a desk empty except for a telephone, and a view out onto a terrace, with a terrifyingly open cantilevered staircase leading into Frida Kahlo’s house.
There is no bathroom or kitchen in Rivera’s house. All signs of domestic life are in hers. And where is her studio? There doesn’t seem to be one. She worked, apparently, in the small room leading off the kitchen. The space feels cramped, the world of miniatures. His studio is an expression of his body; large, expansive; the space of a prolific mural painter, a public persona. Even in her building she looks inward; apparently, due to her constant physical pain, she often painted in the bath. The bathroom is sculpted in concrete, polished to look like stone, and beautifully minimalist. The guardian of the house gives permission to open a small recessed mirrored cupboard in the bathroom; there lies a small yellow-ochre toothbrush; a small lonely trace of Frida Kahlo’s mouth.
Everything in both houses (which are surrounded by a “fence” of cacti) has a solid, functional feel; the spaces are airy and uncluttered. The houses must have been bold, brave architectural statements at the time and still feel fresh and new.
The two houses
Staircase into the Rivera house
Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated