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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:37

Video transcript

Modern art helps us understand not only the artist, but also, ourselves. This video is called Art & Identity, a theme will explore using three works. Since their marriage in 1929, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo had been Mexico's most well-known couple. While Diego was a painter who was famous for his large murals, Frida was a painter who was famous for being his wife. But in 1938, Frida's paintings were starting to get attention. So she takes her first solo trip abroad. She has her first solo shows in Paris and London. Her style was unique.Was it Mexican Folk Art? was it Surrealism? When asked, Frida simply said: I paint my own reality. Picasso gives her earrings. The Louvre buys a painting. Both shows are a success. She returns home, divorces Diego Rivera and paints "Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair." Her art had always been in response to her life. I would imagine that it would be a process that was sometimes very hard for her. She used her artistic process as sort of an outlet. She marries her love Diego Rivera and she paints this. She divorces her love Diego Rivera and she paints this. She was determined not to simply be the ex Mrs. Rivera. Diego had loved her long hair and her colorful dresses. Frida painted herself without either. She's seated in this chair with a pair of shears in one hand and a piece of her long hair in the other. She seemed to reveal a lot about herself as an artist. She was willing to kind of go to those places that not everybody is willing to go. In 1940, this is how Frida saw herself. In 1993, Glenn Ligon asked ten friends how they saw him. Ligon instructed his friends: Imagine that I've gone missing and how would you describe me as a missing person. Get straight to the point. What are the essential details. Here's what they said. A black man. 5' 8" Very short haircut. Nearly completely shaved. Stocky build. 155-165 lbs. If you read it, the information is about me, but also, it's not about me. He takes those descriptions and prints them beneath 19th century images of slaves. He called it "Runaways." The series was made up of ten prints. Now part of the point in doing this is to try to get at the ways that slavery and the language around it continues to be important to us today. They read and looked very similar to the real thing. We always imagine that slavery is something in the past and that we as a society have gotten over it. It's sort of gone. But we still feel its effects. A reminder that his identity was still shaped by that past. Marilyn Monroe's identity, however, was shaped by the public. In 1953, this is how America saw her. One of many publicity photos for the film, Niagara. She was about to become one of the most famous people alive. A decade later she dies of a drug overdose. Within a few months, Andy Warhol takes that publicity photo and creates this painting. The tabloid culture as we know it took off in the 1950s. The American public was no longer satisfied by this. They wanted this. After Monroe's death, everyone is trying to tell her story. Paint the definitive portrait. Who was she really? "Who wants to truth? That's what show business is for. To prove that, it's not what you are that counts, it's what they think you are." Warhol takes the publicity photo and creates this. A silkscreen of a photo. A reproduction of a reproduction. Against gold. "I don't know where the artificial stops and the real starts." It was Warhol's definitive portrait of Marilyn Monroe, the tabloids and the public. How America saw Marilyn Monroe in 1962, how Glenn Ligon's friends saw him in 1993 and how Frida Kahlo saw herself in 1938.