When it was initially announced last November, the latest show at the Lighthouse ArtSpace inside the Germania Club Building was titled “Frida: Immersive Dream.” But organizers clearly decided that there's a certain amount of brand recognition after the success of “Immersive Van Gogh,” recently renaming the Frida Kahlo show to fall in line with the established “Immersive [INSERT ARTIST NAME HERE]” template. As it turns out, the initial “Immersive Dreams” descriptor was very appropriate, considering the often surreal nature of the show's source material. This set of projections celebrating Kahlo's work manages to harness the emotional and sometimes political nature of her work—in many ways, it makes better use of the experiential format than the Van Gogh display.
If you attended the aforementioned Van Gogh show in Chicago, you're already familiar with the venue within the Germanic Club Building where the display is presented. I didn't notice any major changes in the space itself, which comprises two larger rooms, a pair of smaller rooms and a balcony that overlooks the largest room. No matter which room you choose to stand it, you'll see some of the same images on display, though the projections look most impressive where they're spread across the 35-feet-tall walls of the two larger rooms. The two best places to immerse yourself in the projections are still from the floor of the largest room or from the balcony that overlooks it.
Admittedly, it's been more than a year since I viewed “Immersive Van Gogh,” but the new Kahlo show seems to take a slightly different approach to the artist work. Whereas the Van Gogh projections mostly focused on the artist's iconography, the Kahlo show delves deeper into the artist's life in various abstract and incredibly on-the-nose ways. The show makes use of archival photos and video footage to develop a narrative that runs in tandem with Kahlo's career—from photos of her family home in Mexico City where she spent most of her life to flashing images of hammers and sickles representing her involvement in the Mexican Communist Party.
As with the Van Gogh projections, there's not much in the way of context, but those with some knowledge of Kahlo's career will be able to extrapolate the story that's being told (even though I still don't fully grasp the show's final scene). Of course, many of the projections spread Kahlo's vivid imagery across the walls and floors, including parts of the 35-minute program that turn "Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States" into a kinetic industrial scene and a version of the 1943 self-portrait "Roots" that places viewers in a vast desert. It's all accompanied by a score by composer Luca Longobardi's that bounces between folk music, Spanish balladry and atmospheric electronic tracks, embracing Kahlo's deep connection to Mexico and heightening the otherworldly ideas that filled her canvases.
Aside from an incredibly creepy sequence involving a projection of "The Wounded Deer" retrofitted with a three-dimensional head, the only major complaint I can lodge against “Immersive Frida Kahlo” is the price. Ticket start at $40, but admission at that price level only seems to be available during mornings, afternoons and some weekday nights—if you want to see the show in the evening on a Friday or Saturday, you'll pay upwards of $70 for the privilege (there's even a date night package that starts at $200). I recommend keeping an eye on the schedule and opting for the cheapest tickets available. “Immersive Frida Kahlo” is an impressive experience that strikes a different tone than the previous set of projections presented in this space, but it's not worth paying a price equivalent to several museum tickets for a chance to see a roughly half-hour show.
Tickets for “Immersive Frida Kahlo” are currently on sale for dates through May 28. If the year-long run of “Immersive Van Gogh” is any indication, the show will likely stick around throughout much of 2022.