Posts Tagged ‘Mexican identity

20
Jul
19

Exhibition: ‘Under the Mexican Sky: A Revolution in Modern Photography’ at the Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 28th July 2019

 

Edward Weston. 'Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches

 

Shown with Modotti are Federico Marín, who was Diego Rivera’s brother-in-law and physician, and Jean Charlot, who is here seen making a sketch on Tina’s back.

 

 

If there is one period and two countries that I love more than anything else in the history of medium, it is the avant-garde photography of the interwar years in France and the photography of Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s.

American, French and Italian photographers were drawn like bees to a honey pot to the blossoming artistic scene in Mexico City and the country in general. They soaked up the unique Mexican culture, its atmosphere of work, religion, beauty, death, poverty, and sensuality – its churches, religious icons, sculptures, festivals, pottery, and people – the land, the mountains and the inhabitants all photographed in this dazzling light. They photographed in an “international modernism” style (the supposed revolution in modern photography named in the title), expatriate photographers in a hospitable but impoverished land. But this was not their land, for this was not their country.

While Strand “modified his 5×7 Graflex camera, adding a special prism extension that enabled him to clandestinely shoot a subject at a 90° angle from the front of his camera”, surreptitiously making portraits as he had done in his New York subway portraits; while Weston documents the murals of Mexican culture at a distance, the clay pots as an abstract composition, and the traditional art and craft Tehuana dress as idealised icon; while Modotti comes closer with her political statements and constructed still life; it is only the Mexican artist Manuel Álvarez Bravo that steals my heart.

His work exudes the spirit of the country through its sensitivity and connection to the earth from which he was born. The light and form in Bravo La Siesta de los Peregrinos; the light and form in Retrato de lo Eterno. I have studied his work quite thoroughly. He is the blessed one. Through his music, he captures the light and life of Mexico, the spirit of the eternal, “the sunlight [as] a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.” His work is the art of the People.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Hands in the Water of the Mind

The water of the mind     has filled with forms.
Come, come closer now,    elusive as
an anemone or a jellyfish     a criminal, a saint;

dip your hand in and pull    from the tormented water
angles and profiles,         an incessant music,

the murmur of the sky,     the mouth of the earth,
the crown of the breeze,     the rings of fire,

the bodies of the lynxes,     the wings of the bat,
the glasses and the pillow,     the brightness of hunger.

David Huerta

.
Many thankx to the Palmer Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), expatriate photographers flocked to the blossoming artistic scene in Mexico City. Los Angelino Edward Weston reinvented his approach to the medium during three years there in the 1920s. In exploring the development of international modernism into the next decades, this exhibition features rare photographs by Italian Tina Modotti, New Yorkers Helen Levitt and Paul Strand, French master Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Mexico’s own Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

 

 

“For six months I worked at still photographs of Mexico, made about sixty platinum prints, completed and mounted them. Among other things I made a series of photographs in the churches, of the Christs and Madonnas, carved out of wood by the Indians. They are among the most extraordinary sculptures I have seen anywhere, and have apparently gone relatively unnoticed. These figures so alive with the intensity of the faith of those who made them. That is what interested me, the faith, even if it is not mine; a form of faith, to be sure, that is passing, that has to go. But the world needs a faith equally intense in something else, something more realistic, as I see it. Hence my impulse to photograph these things, and I think the photographs are pretty swell.”

.
Paul Strand

 

“At first the brilliance of technique is commented on. Laymen say: What reality! How three-dimensional. Photographers say: What texture! What a scale of values! What print quality! This is a first reaction and the least significant one. All this virtuosity is at the service of what Strand has to express, the felt idea behind the photograph.”

.
Leo Hurwitz

 

“Popular Art is the art of the People. A popular painter is an artisan who, as in the Middle Ages, remains anonymous. His work needs no advertisement, as it is done for the people around him. The more pretentious artist craves to become famous, and it is characteristic of his work that it is bought for the name rather than for the work – a name that is built up by propaganda. Before the Conquest all art was of the people, and popular art has never ceased to exist in Mexico.”

.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo

 

 

Charles Betts Waite. 'The Iguana' 1901

 

Charles Betts Waite (American, 1861-1927)
The Iguana
1901
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 x 7 7/8 inches

 

 

In this playful study, the shadows dominate: the bowl of vittles atop the man’s shadow suggest a sombrero shielding a sleeping man’s face during an afternoon siesta.

[Waite] traveled to Mexico City and in May 1897 established a photography studio there, during the Porfirio Díaz government. He became part of Porfirian society, taking photographs of many in the ruler’s circle. He was among a group of expatriate photographers (such as Winfield Scott and fellow San Diegans Ralph Carmichael and Percy S. Cox) working in Mexico in the first decade of the 20th century. Waite traveled throughout Mexico, exploring archaeological sites and the countryside.

[Waite’s life] corresponds with that of adventurers, brave explorers with romantic spirits and materialistic outlooks, who toured the hitherto unknown world, discovering their riches and inventing paradises.” ~ Francisco Montellano, author of C. B. Waite, fotógrafo

His works were published in books, travel magazines, and on post cards, having contracted with the Sonora News Company. He also worked for several Mexican newspapers, and he documented United States scientific expeditions in Mexico. The images often included scenic Mexican images and the country’s native residents. Many of Waite’s photographs depict railroads, parks, archaeological sites, and business enterprises.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Tina Modotti. 'Experiment in Related Form' 1924

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Experiment in Related Form
1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 3/8 inches

 

 

This is one of only two known photomontages by Modotti, in which a single image of six wine glasses is enlarged and cropped and then superimposed onto itself.

 

Edward Weston. 'Ollas de Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ollas de Oaxaca
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 x 10 inches

 

 

An olla is a clay pot or jar. Weston wrote that his first thought of Oaxaca “is always of the market, – and the market means first of all loza – crockery! I bought and bought – dishes, jars, jugettes, – of the dull black or grey-black ware, and of the deep green glaze ware… Very well do these people reproduce, make use of the essential quality of the material, – splendidly do they observe and utilise to advantage the very essence of a form. A race of born sculptors!”

 

Edward Weston. 'Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

 

“I was fascinated by the stone mosaics at Mitla, for besides a variation on the Greek fret, there was a unique pattern – oblique lines of dynamic force – flashes of stone lightning, which remain my strongest memory.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I.

 

Edward Weston. 'Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two clay pitchers' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two clay pitchers
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches

 

 

These studies of pre-Columbian and folk-art statuary and pottery, done for Anita Brenner’s Idols Behind Altars project, taught Weston the art of the table-top still life. As such, they were the direct precursor to the iconic shells, peppers, and cabbages that occupied him immediately upon his return to Los Angeles in December 1926.

 

Edward Weston. 'Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 8 ¼ inches

 

 

The Tarascan people flourished from 1100 A.D. to 1530 A.D. After the Spanish Conquest, missionaries organised the Tarascan empire into a series of craft-oriented villages. Their artistic traditions survive today in the Lake Pátzcuaro region.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Jean Charlot' 1923

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Jean Charlot
1923
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Anita Brenner and Tina Modotti remained friendly rivals in Mexico City’s close-knit artistic expatriate community throughout the 1920s. Their intertwined social life revolved around the French-Mexican painter Jean Charlot, who had been a principal assistant to Rivera. Charlot was Weston’s closest friend in Mexico as well as Brenner’s paramour and professional collaborator. In a diary entry in 1927, Brenner made a three-column table captioned “Actively Friends; Actively Enemies; and Actively Both.” Modotti’s name appears in the third column.

This sensitive Modotti portrait is inscribed by Charlot to Brenner, “You are bad tempered / I am worst tempered / Does that explain the sweet / Hours we passed together”

 

Tina Modotti. 'Elisa Kneeling' 1924

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Elisa Kneeling
1924
Vintage palladium print
8 7/8 x 6 5/8 inches

 

 

The power of Modotti’s portrait of her young chambermaid is due to the contrast between her beatific face and her coiled hands, which suggest a lifetime of hard manual labor.

 

Edward Weston. 'Anita ("Pear-Shaped Nude")' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Anita (“Pear-Shaped Nude”)
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

“I was shaving when A[nita] came, hardly expecting her on such a gloomy, drizzling day. I made excuses, having no desire, no ‘inspiration’ to work … but she took no hints, undressing while I reluctantly prepared my camera…. And then appeared to me the most exquisite lines, forms, volumes – and I accepted, – working easily, rapidly, surely…

Reviewing the new prints, I am seldom so happy as I am with the pear-like nude of A[nita]. I turn to it again and again. I could hug the print in sheer joy. It is one of my most perfect photographs.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

 

Edward Weston. 'Excusado' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Excusado
1926
Gelatin silver print, 1930s
10 x 8 inches

 

 

“‘Form follows function.’ Who said this I don’t know, but the writer spoke well! I have been photographing our toilet, that glossy enamelled receptacle of extraordinary beauty. It might be suspicioned that I am in a cynical mood to approach such subject matter… My excitement was absolute aesthetic response to form… I was thrilled! – here was every sensuous curve of the ‘human form divine’ but minus imperfections.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

Weston was particularly amused when his chambermaid placed a bouquet of flowers in the bowl, in a well-meaning effort to create a more fitting subject for her employer’s lens.

 

Edward Weston. 'Casa de Vecindad' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Casa de Vecindad
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 ½ inches

 

 

A casa de vecindad or “neighborhood house” was a community home or tenement. This one had once been “a fine old convent,” wrote Weston. “The light was made perfect by the collective noise of cats and dogs, children laughing and crying, women gabbling and vendors calling.”

 

Edward Weston. 'Arches, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Arches, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Guadalajara, Barranca de los Oblatos: Rocky Trail' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Guadalajara, Barranca de los Oblatos: Rocky Trail
1925
Vintage palladium print
10 x 8 inches

 

 

Mexico City in the 1920s-30s was the scene of one of the great artistic flowerings of the twentieth century. Like Paris in the aftermath of World War I, Mexico City after the decade-long Mexican Revolution served as a magnet for international artists and photographers. Foremost among the expatriate photographers was the Los Angelino, Edward Weston, who embedded himself in the artistic milieu surrounding the muralist painters Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. Weston reinvented his approach to picture-making during his three years in Mexico, 1923-26. The soft-focus painterliness that had characterised his studio portraiture in the ‘teens melted away under the brilliant Mexican sun, to be replaced by crystalline landscapes as well as evocative still life that prefigured his later shells and peppers. Meanwhile his paramour and protégée, the Italian silent film star Tina Modotti, created photographs that would place her in the pantheon of great photographers of the era. This exhibition features rare vintage Mexican masterworks by both Weston and Modotti from the 1920s, as well as stellar photographs from the 1930s by the New Yorker Paul Strand, the Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson, and by Mexico’s own self-taught master of the camera, Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Already in the first two decades of the 20th century, immigrant photographers had played an outsize role in Mexican photography. German-born Hugo Brehme published picturesque views of Mexican life and landscape in local and international tourist magazines, including National Geographic. Brehme’s fellow German émigré, Carl Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, meticulously photographed Mexico’s colonial architecture; his daughter Frida would marry Diego Rivera and become a legendary painter and personality. A third talented immigrant photographer was the Californian C.B. Waite, who moved to Mexico City in 1897 and opened a photo studio. At their best, as in The Iguana from 1901, seen here, Waite’s genre studies prefigure by a quarter century the exotic Surrealism that would characterise the work of Modotti, Álvarez Bravo, and Cartier-Bresson.

In 1923, C.B. Waite left Mexico and retired to Glendale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Coincidentally, within a few months, Glendale’s leading photographer, Edward Weston, would make that same journey in the opposite direction. Weston sought to escape from the personal and professional distractions that he felt were deterring him from an aesthetic breakthrough. His love affair with Tina Modotti made him realise that he would never be a conventional husband. In August, 1923, Weston left the port of Los Angeles and sailed to Mexico on the S.S. Colima, accompanied by Modotti, who agreed to run his studio in exchange for photography lessons.

The Weston-Modotti home in Mexico City became a gathering place for writers, painters and photographers. This was the time of the Mexican Renaissance, a cultural movement that celebrated the country’s modern artists as well as its popular and indigenous arts. Under the presidency of Álvaro Obregón, the education minister José Vasconcelos sponsored an ambitious program of progressive public art, most notably the mural movement which was led by Diego Rivera, who was in all ways a larger-than-life character.

While Weston never second-guessed his decision to give up the steady income from studio portraiture, he and Tina faced constant money problems during their three years together in Mexico. Financial salvation came in the unlikely guise of a brash 19-year-old anthropology student, Anita Brenner. Born to a mercantile family with roots in both Texas and Mexico, Brenner befriended Weston and Modotti in Mexico City and hired them to furnish 400 photographs for her book, Idols Behind Altars. This was to be the first serious art-historical treatise on pre-Columbian art, Spanish Colonial architecture, and contemporary Mexican folk art. Weston and Modotti rose to the task with gusto, criss-crossing southern Mexico from Oaxaca to Guadalajara in search of prime examples of these genres.

Weston was first introduced to pulquerías, or working-class bars, by Diego Rivera, who was writing an article on pulquería mural painting for Mexican Folkways magazine. Weston was impressed by the vitality of these anonymous murals, writing:

“The aspiring young painters of Mexico should study the unaspiring paintings – popular themes – popular art – which adorn the humble pulquería… brave matadores at the kill – white veiled ladies, pensive beside moonlit waters – an exquisitely tender group of Indians … and all the pictured thoughts, nearest and dearest to the heart of the people.”

When Modotti left Mexico in 1930, she gifted her large-format view cameras to her close friend and protégé, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. With a seven-decade career, he is considered Mexico’s greatest photographer. “I was born in the city of Mexico, behind the Cathedral, in the place where the temples of the ancient Mexican gods must have been built, February fourth, 1902,” he wrote, invoking the magical realism that infuses his most iconic photographs. As a teenager he studied painting at the Academia San Carlos, the same art school that Rivera and Orozco had attended. “Interested since always in art, I committed the common error of believing that photography would be the easiest,” he confessed. In addition to Modotti, another important early mentor was the painter Rufino Tamayo, who counselled Álvarez Bravo against the “surface nationalism” of political art, such as that of Rivera, Orozco, or indeed Modotti herself: “Art is a way of expression that has to be understood by everybody, everywhere. It grows out of the earth, the texture of our lives and our experiences.” Tamayo’s words became Álvarez Bravo’s touchstones.

In 1934, Álvarez Bravo befriended the young painter-turned-photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had come to Mexico to spend the year photographing in the brilliant natural light not often found in his native Paris. At a technical level their approach to photography diverged: Álvarez Bravo, like Weston and Modotti, favoured traditional large-format view cameras, while Cartier-Bresson, the progenitor of the “decisive moment,” was an early proponent of the hand-held 35mm Leica camera. Yet their common interest in capturing the “accidental theater of the street” outweighed these differences. “Cartier-Bresson and I did not photograph together but we walked the same streets and photographed many of the same things,” Álvarez Bravo recalled. They exhibited together in 1935 in a show entitled Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photographs, first at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and then at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. This seminal exhibit was the first time that “street photography” had been placed in a serious fine art setting. Reviewing that show, poet Langston Hughes wrote: “In a photograph by Cartier-Bresson, as in modern music, there is a clash of sunlight and shadow, while in Bravo, the sunlight is a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.”

Text from the Palmer Museum of Art

 

Edward Weston. 'Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Charrito, pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Charrito, pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two children with pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two children with pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 6 ¾ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

 

“Few had seen this church of Tupátaro, far from tourist tracks. The ceiling was entirely lacquered, even the beams – a notable achievement in colour, design and craftsmanship. That was a hard day of work. Exposures were prolonged to even fifteen minutes with additional flash light, the while I must remain quite still upon a rickety balcony for fear of jarring the camera, which was real torture with more fleas biting and crawling than I ever knew could jump from a few square feet of space.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

 

Brett Weston. 'Tin roofs, Mexico' 1926

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Tin roofs, Mexico
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 9 ½ inches

 

 

Edward Weston’s son Brett joined him in his final year in Mexico. Brett was himself a child prodigy photographer, as evidenced by this sensitively balanced and exquisitely printed abstract masterwork, taken when he was fourteen years old.

Theodore Brett Weston (December 16, 1911, Los Angeles – January 22, 1993, Hawaii) was an American photographer. Van Deren Coke described Brett Weston as the “child genius of American photography.” He was the second of the four sons of photographer Edward Weston and Flora Chandler.

Weston began taking photographs in 1925, while living in Mexico with Tina Modotti and his father. He began showing his photographs with Edward Weston in 1927, was featured at the international exhibition at Film und Foto in Germany at age 17, and mounted his first one-man museum retrospective at age 21 at the De Young Museum in San Francisco in January, 1932.

Weston’s earliest images from the 1920s reflect his intuitive sophisticated sense of abstraction. He often flattened the plane, engaging in layered space, an artistic style more commonly seen among the Abstract Expressionists and more modern painters like David Hockney than other photographers. He began photographing the dunes at Oceano, California, in the early 1930s. This eventually became a favourite location of his father Edward and later shared with Brett’s third wife Dody Weston Thompson. Brett preferred the high gloss papers and ensuing sharp clarity of the gelatin silver photographic materials of the f64 Group rather than the platinum matte photographic papers common in the 1920s and encouraged Edward Weston to explore the new silver papers in his own work. Brett Weston was credited by photography historian Beaumont Newhall as the first photographer to make negative space the subject of a photograph. Donald Ross, a photographer close to both Westons, said that Brett never came after anyone. He was a true photographic equal and colleague to his father and “one should not be considered without the other.”

“Brett and I are always seeing the same kinds of things to do – we have the same kind of vision. Brett didn’t like this; naturally enough, he felt that even when he had done the thing first, the public would not know and he would be blamed for imitating me.” Edward Weston – Daybooks – May 24, 1930.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias were early promoters of traditional Mexican art and craft; their extensive collection now resides at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum. This striking portrait of Rosa in traditional Zapotec dress was appropriated by Diego Rivera for his painting Tehuana Woman, 1929.

Born in Los Angeles, Rosa Rolanda was a dancer with the Marion Morgan dance troupe and the Ziegfeld Follies. She married the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, who was the leading caricaturist of the jazz age. While Rosa and Miguel were accompanying Edward and Tina on one of their trips for Anita Brenner, they taught Rosa the basics of photography. Later, Man Ray would teach her his technique of cameraless photograms. With such tutelage, it is no surprise that Rosa became a gifted photographer in her own right.

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 6 3/4 inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Palma Bendita' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Palma Bendita
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

The branches of the palma bendita, or “blessed palm,” were believed to have been strewn on the road before Christ during his entry into Jerusalem and are blessed on Palm Sunday, an important Mexican holiday.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Campesinos (Workers' Parade)' 1926

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Campesinos (Workers’ Parade)
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 3/8 x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Modotti’s iconic Campesinos has the same formal structure – circular forms filling the picture frame – as Weston’s Olla Pots of Oaxaca made the same year. But Modotti’s picture adds a political dimension that Weston would by nature recoil from. Modotti’s increasingly fervent politicisation contributed to the dissolution of her relationship with Weston, who was fundamentally apolitical. Weston returned to Los Angeles at the end of 1926; Modotti would remain in Mexico another four years.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn, Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn, Sickle
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 ¾ x 7 ½ inches

 

 

This politically-charged still life, and its companion piece Bandolier, Corn and Guitar, were made the year Modotti formally joined Mexico’s Communist Party. At the time she was modelling for Diego Rivera, a fellow traveler. Modotti’s likeness appears in several of Rivera’s most famous Revolutionary murals; she would also be blamed for the break-up of his marriage to Lupe Marín.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn and Guitar' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn and Guitar
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

Tina Modotti. 'Women of Tehuantepec' 1929

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Women of Tehuantepec
1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 7 ¼ inches

 

 

This is one of Modotti’s final masterworks. The following year she would be expelled from Mexico for sedition, due to her work on behalf of the Communist Party. She settled in Russia, giving up photography for relief work with International Red Aid. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, she joined the fray. She returned to Mexico under a pseudonym in 1939, and died of a heart attack three years later, at age 45, her life the stuff of legend.

 

Manuel Álvarez. 'La Siesta de los Peregrinos' (the siesta of the migrants) 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Siesta de los Peregrinos (the siesta of the migrants)
1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 9 3/8 inches

 

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (February 4, 1902 – October 19, 2002) was a Mexican artistic photographer and one of the most important figures in 20th century Latin American photography. He was born and raised in Mexico City. While he took art classes at the Academy of San Carlos, his photography is self-taught. His career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s with its artistic peak between the 1920s and 1950s. His hallmark as a photographer was to capture images of the ordinary but in ironic or Surrealistic ways. His early work was based on European influences, but he was soon influenced by the Mexican muralism movement and the general cultural and political push at the time to redefine Mexican identity. He rejected the picturesque, employing elements to avoid stereotyping. He had numerous exhibitions of his work, worked in the Mexican cinema and established Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana publishing house. He won numerous awards for his work, mostly after 1970. …

Álvarez Bravo’s photography career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s. It formed in the decades after the Mexican Revolution (1920s to 1950s) when there was significant creative output in the country, much of it sponsored by the government wanting to promote a new Mexican identity based on both modernity and the country’s indigenous past.

Although he was photographing in the late 1920s, he became a freelance photographer full-time in 1930, quitting his government job. That same year, Tina Modotti was deported from Mexico for political activities and she left Alvarez Bravo her camera and her job at Mexican Folkways magazine. For this publication, Alvarez Bravo began photographing the work of the Mexican muralists and other painters. During the rest of the 1930s, he established his career. He met photographer Paul Strand in 1933 on the set of the film “Redes”, and worked with him briefly. In 1938, he met French Surrealist artist André Breton, who promoted Alvaréz Bravo’s work in France, exhibiting it there. Later, Breton asked for a photograph for the cover of catalog for an exhibition in Mexico. Alvarez Bravo created “La buena fama durmiendo” (The good reputation sleeping), which Mexican censors rejected due to nudity. The photograph would be reproduced many times after that however.

Alvarez Bravo trained most of the next generation of photographers including Nacho López, Héctor García and Graciela Iturbide. From 1938 to 1939, he taught photography at the Escuela Central de Artes Plásticas, now the National School of Arts (UNAM). In the latter half of the 1960s he taught at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Retrato de lo Eterno' (Portrait of the Eternal) 1935

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 3/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'The Spider of Love, Mexico City' 1934

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
The Spider of Love, Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
6 ½ x 9 ¾ inches

 

 

“I was very lucky. I had only to push the door open. It was so voluptuous, so sensual. I couldn’t see their faces. It was miraculous – physical love in all its fullness. Tonio grabbed a lamp, and I took several shots. There was nothing obscene about it. I could never have got them to pose – a matter of decency.” ~ Cartier-Bresson

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City' 1934

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
9 1/8 x 13 ¾ inches

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Niña con Leña' (Girl with Firewood) 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Niña con Leña (Girl with Firewood)
1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 x 9 5/8 inches

 

 

Helen Levitt’s photographs of Mexico City, taken in 1941, are a notable exception to her otherwise exclusive focus on New York City during her long career (1930s through 1970s). But the principal subject matter of Levitt’s work was the same in both metropolises: the lives of children in working-class neighbourhoods. In this evocative image, the children’s play is undeterred by their poverty, which is evidenced by their bare feet, the dirt road, and the dilapidated buildings. Levitt studied with the noted photographer Walker Evans; her work was also influenced by the other artists in the present exhibition: like Cartier-Bresson, she favoured the hand-held Leica camera; like Paul Strand, she used a secret sideways lens that enabled her to photograph surreptitiously.

Levitt printed her Mexican photographs only after returning to New York, where they added to her blossoming reputation. Her first one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art included sixteen photographs from Mexico, including a variant of this image (below).

 

Helen Levitt. 'Mexico City' 1941

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
Mexico City
1941
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ¼ x 9 5/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Mexico' 1963

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Mexico
1963
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ¾ x 6 ½ inches

 

 

Paul Strand

Paul Strand achieved early recognition as a protégé of Alfred Stieglitz, the New York photographer and gallerist. In 1917 Stieglitz devoted the final two issues of his Camera Work magazine to Strand’s high modernist photography, which was heavily influenced by avant garde artists such as Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso. Stieglitz praised Strand’s work as “brutally direct” and “devoid of all flim-flam.”

By 1932, when Strand drove his Model A Ford from Taos to Mexico, his style had evolved dramatically. Abstraction had given way to humanism, reflecting the influence of his high school photography teacher, the eminent social documentarian Lewis Hine. Strand was now concerned with how people lived, and especially with those aspects of life that “make a place what it is.” Mexico was a logical destination for Strand, whose political concern for the common man intersected with the proletarian goals of the Mexican Revolution.

Over the next several months Strand photographed people and places in rural small towns across southern Mexico, from Michoacán in the West to Oaxaca in the East, unconsciously retracing Edward Weston and Tina Modotti’s footsteps from the 1920s. Strand’s work in Mexico set the tone for the photographic journeys to out-of-the-way destinations in Europe and Africa that would occupy the rest of his long career.

For these Mexican portraits, Strand modified his 5×7 Graflex camera, adding a special prism extension that enabled him to clandestinely shoot a subject at a 90° angle from the front of his camera. The subjects of these portraits, absorbedly watching the Yankee photographer at work, were unaware that he was actually aiming his camera at them. Strand had pioneered this technique as a young photographer on the streets of New York.

Strand originally printed his Mexican photographs as platinum prints. The prints shown here are hand-pulled photogravures created for a 1940 portfolio Photographs of Mexico. In his introduction to the portfolio, Strand describes the prints as “a step forward in the art of reproduction processes,” attributing their quality to the production team’s combined two centuries of experience.

 

Paul Strand. 'Near Saltillo' 1932

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Near Saltillo
1932
Vintage photogravure
5 x 6 3/8 inches

 

 

“When you leave the Texas border for about 70 miles – flat desert, it could still be Texas. Then suddenly appear the mountains of the North around Monterrey and Saltillo – amazing mountains. They are a continuation of the American spur – our Rockies I suppose – but how different – utterly fantastic shapes, like mountains in fairy books. And I never saw the forms within each individual mountain – defined – come right at you as those in the North.” ~ Paul Strand to painter John Marin

 

Paul Strand. 'Gateway - Hidalgo' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Gateway – Hidalgo
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/8 x 8 inches

 

 

“What have come to be known as ‘Strand clouds’ – heavy, lowering shapes holding rain and threat of storm – appear in a great many of his photographs. A friend of Strand’s remembers him cursing under his breath whenever fluffy, cottony cloud formations, which he referred to as ‘Johnson & Johnson,’ took over the sky; they never appear in his prints.” ~ Calvin Tomkins

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Hidalgo' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy – Hidalgo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 3/8 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Man with Hoe - Los Remedios' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man with Hoe – Los Remedios
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ¼ x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Plaza - State of Puebla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Plaza – State of Puebla
1933
Vintage photogravure
5 x 6 3/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Church, Cuapiaxtla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Church, Cuapiaxtla
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 3/8 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Man - Tenancingo' 1933 

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man – Tenancingo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Girl and Child - Toluca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Girl and Child – Toluca
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Uruapan' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy – Uruapan
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/8 x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 x 8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo with Thorns - Huexotla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo with Thorns – Huexotla
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Tlacochoaya - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Tlacochoaya – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Virgin - San Felipe - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Virgin – San Felipe – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 1/8 inches

 

 

Palmer Museum of Art
The Pennsylvania State University
Curtin Road
University Park, PA 16802

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Saturday
10.00 am to 4.30 pm
Sunday
Noon to 4.00 pm
Closed Mondays and some holidays

Palmer Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

10
May
19

Exhibition: ‘Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 19th January – 12th May 2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Desierto de Sonora, México' 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Desierto de Sonora, México
1979
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 35.4 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

From a different world

There’s something consistently awesome about Mexican photography that is so grounded, so essential, and yet at the same time so spiritual.

One of my favourite photographic artists of all time is Manuel Alvarez Bravo, he of the lyrical narrative, the sensual body, the assassinated worker. Iturbide seems to be cut from the same cloth – she was his assistant for two years; he her teacher about photography and life – and his influence is telling in Iturbide’s imaginative and sometimes incongruous images, such as the skull in Mexico… I want to get to know you! (1975, below) or Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico (1979, below).

Life, death, violence, sacrifice, beauty, identity and place, mixed with daubs of Surrealism, are constant themes of Mexican photography and this symbology can be seen in Iturbide’s unusual urban geometries and her eye for the unexpected. She is a visionary ethnographer who paints in black and white a story of magical literary realism… seeing through her camera something different than she sees with her eyes directly. She sees, and then feels, a different world.

Octavio Paz, the great Mexican poet, writing about the great Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, said that, “Reality exists, but it is more real in black and white.” And so here. Iturbide feels that black and white is more real than colour – and that reality is in black and white. It is in this tonal space that Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico pictures a place of beauty and contradiction, a place of transformations and interstitial spaces (intermediate, indeterminate spaces), an amalgamation of Indigenous and Spanish traditions. “I always shoot what surprises me,” she says. “My eyes see them, and my heart shoots them.”

Gracia Graciela, oh Graceful Beauty, for your gift to us.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Photography is also like life, right? … I think in my case, taking photos as therapy has a lot to do with death with everything I do, with Frida Kahlo, because I like to photograph things in therapy, things that are healing, which is powerful, right?”

.
Graciela Iturbide

 

 

Hear from the Artist | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Mexico City' 1969

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Mexico City
1969
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Chalma' 1974

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Chalma
1974
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Casa de la Muerte, Ciudad de México' 1975

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Casa de la Muerte, Ciudad de México
1975
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Volantín, San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico' (Merry-Go-Round, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico) 1976

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Volantín, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico (Merry-Go-Round, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico)
1976
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Mujer ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México' (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Mujer Ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Pedro Meyer. 'Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide, Coyoacán (Mexico)' 1983

 

Pedro Meyer 
Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide, Coyoacán (Mexico)
1983
Gelatin silver print

 

When I went to study at the university he was teaching at the university as well and I attended one of his courses; that’s how I got to know him. Then, after a couple of weeks I became his assistant. At that time he was not that famous in Mexico, he was very famous in Europe and the United States. He was known in Mexico but he was not really a big star. So, what I really need to make clear is that he was not just a teacher of photography; he was a teacher about life for me. Because he taught me about everything, he talked about literature, cinematography…so he was more of a teacher of life… he never said this picture is good or this picture is bad, he would never say that flat out. Instead, he would always say something to guide you in the right direction. Yet he would never say, “This is good or this is bad”.

With Álvarez I went to certain little towns but I was only his assistant for two years. After that I made the decision to cut the umbilical cord and make my own way.

Extract from Munem Wasif. “An Interview with Graciela Iturbide,” on the Chobi Mela website, November 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 06/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Festival del Lagarto' 1985

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Festival del Lagarto (Lizard Festival)
1985
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Dance, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Dance, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Pajaros en el poste, carretera a Guanajuato, Mexico' 1990

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Pajaros en el poste, carretera a Guanajuato, Mexico (Birds on a post, road to Guanajuato, Mexico)
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cayó del Cielo, Chalma, México' 1989

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cayó del Cielo, Chalma, México
1989
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'La danza de la cabrita, antes de la matanza, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico' (The Little Goat's Dance, Before the Slaughter, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico) 1992

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
La danza de la cabrita, antes de la matanza, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico (The Little Goat’s Dance, Before the Slaughter, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico)
1992
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

A way of life, a way of seeing

The photographs of Graciela Iturbide not only bear witness to Mexican society but express an intense personal and poetic lyricism about her native country. One of the most influential photographers active in Latin America today, Iturbide captures everyday life and its cultures, rituals, and religions, while also raising questions about paradoxes and social injustice in Mexican society. Her photographs tell a visual story of Mexico since the late 1970s – a country in constant transition, defined by the coexistence of the historical and modern as a result of the culture’s rich amalgamation of cultures. For Iturbide, photography is a way of life and a way of seeing and understanding Mexico and its beauty, challenges, and contradictions.

This is the first major East Coast presentation of Iturbide’s work, featuring approximately 125 photographs that span her five-decade-long career. Organised into nine sections, the exhibition opens with early photographs, followed by three series focused on three of Mexico’s many indigenous cultures: Juchitán captures the essential role of women in Zapotec culture; Los que viven en la arena (Those Who Live in the Sand) concentrates on the Seri people living in the Sonoran Desert; and La Mixteca documents elaborate goat-slaughtering rituals in Oaxaca, serving as critical commentary on the exploitation of workers. Thematic groupings highlight Iturbide’s explorations of various aspects of Mexican culture, including fiestas, death and mortality, and birds and their symbolism. Her more recent work is presented in two series related to Mexico’s cultural and artistic heritage, featuring plants – mainly cacti – in “intensive care” at the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Gardens, as well as El baño de Frida (Frida’s Bathroom), depicting personal belongings in Frida Kahlo’s bathroom at the Casa Azul that had been locked away for 50 years after the artist’s death.

Iturbide’s powerful and provocative photographs are anti-picturesque, anti-folkloric. Her work embodies her empathetic approach to photography and her deep connection with her subjects, asking questions through its capacity for imaginary associations. Drawn primarily from Iturbide’s own collection, “Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico” also includes the Museum’s recent acquisition of 37 works by the artist, as well as loans from museums and private collections throughout the US and Mexico. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website [Online] Cited 05/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cementerio de Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, México' 1978

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cementerio de Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, México (Cemetery of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, México)
1978
Gelatin silver print
11.3 x 11.3 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Jardín Botánico, Oaxaca, México' 1998-1999

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Jardín Botánico, Oaxaca, México
1998-1999
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Jardín Botánico de Oaxaca, México' 2002

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Jardín Botánico de Oaxaca, México
2002
Gelatin silver print
35.7 x 32.8 cm
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México' (Frida's Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City) 2005

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México (Frida’s Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City)
2005
Gelatin silver print
35.7 x 35.5 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México' (prosthetic leg against wall) 2006

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México (Prosthetic leg against wall, Frida’s Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City)
2006
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México' (Frida's Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City) 2006

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El Baño de Frida, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México (Frida’s Bathroom, Coyoacán, Mexico City)
2006
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

Nearly 140 Images in Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico Portray Photographer’s Native Country through Her Eyes

Throughout a five-decade-long career, photographer Graciela Iturbide (born 1942) has focused on capturing and understanding the beauty, rituals, challenges and contradictions of her native Mexico. Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico is the first major East Coast presentation of the artist’s work, featuring nearly 140 photographs that tell the visual story of her country since the late 1970s. Going beyond documentary photography, Iturbide’s work reveals Mexico’s complexities through her personal explorations. Focused on the tensions between urban and rural life, human presence and nature, and indigenous and Spanish cultures, her photographs have contributed to Mexico’s visual identity while calling attention to the rich syncretism, diversity and inequalities of Mexican society. The exhibition is drawn primarily from Iturbide’s own collection and also highlights a recent acquisition of her photographs, the first major group of works by the artist to enter the Museum’s collection – 35 purchased by the MFA and two donated by Iturbide. Loans from museums and private collections throughout the U.S., Mexico and France are also included. On view from January 19 through May 12, 2019 in the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery, the exhibition features interpretation in English and Spanish, as well as a documentary video of the artist, produced by the Museum and shot at Iturbide’s studio in Mexico City. Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications, which features more than 100 striking tritone reproductions of evocative photographs alongside essays that invite readers to share in Iturbide’s personal artistic journey. This beautiful volume with a three-piece cloth and printed binding with foil stamping teases out key ideas and visual relationships across different moments in the photographer’s storied career. The exhibition is supported by the Leigh and Stephen Braude Fund for Latin American Art, The Bruce and Laura Monrad Fund for Exhibitions, and the Diane Krane Family and Jonathan and Gina Krane Family Fund. Generous support for the publication was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Publications Fund.

“I am thrilled to present Graciela’s groundbreaking images to our global audiences, and it has been a pleasure and honour to work closely with her in preparation for this exhibition,” said Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Curator of Photographs. “Her work has successfully and beautifully brought to the forefront the many untold stories of Mexican culture and history – from the eyes of an insider.”

The exhibition is organised thematically into nine sections and opens with early photographs. One of her first works, Zihuatanejo, México (1969, Collection of Les and Sandy Nanberg), is a pensive portrait of a young girl that marks the beginning of Iturbide’s forays into photographing the diverse peoples of Mexico. Shot during the same year, Mexico City (1969, Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser) portrays a sex worker in what appears to be a cantina or pulquería. In fact, the subject is a figure in a wax museum. The photograph’s graphic background – a mural of a large skull painted on a wall – alludes to both Mexico’s long history of muralism and the country’s fascination with death. Works such as Little Bull / Torito (1982, Collection of Galeria Lopez Quiroga) and Juchitán (1975, MFA) reveal Iturbide’s attraction to unusual urban geometries and her eye for the unexpected. Together, these early images attest to the photographer’s keen observation of Mexican contemporary culture in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The next three sections of the exhibition focus on Iturbide’s deep commitment to photographing different populations throughout Mexico. One of her early projects was to document the way of life of the Seri Indians, a formerly nomadic group of fisherfolk living in the Sonoran Desert in northwestern Mexico. In 1978, Iturbide and anthropologist Luis Barjau immersed themselves within the community, staying for a month and a half on their first trip and another month on the second. The result of their collaboration was the 1981 book Los que viven en la arena ( Those Who Live in the Sand) and a selection of additional photographs that Iturbide printed and exhibited years later. The exhibition features two prints of one of Iturbide’s most well-known works, Angel Woman / Mujer ángel (1979, Collection of Elizabeth and Michael Marcus and Collection of Galeria Lopez Quiroga ), an ethereal image that captures a woman in traditional dress carrying a boom box as she heads down to the empty desert plain. The photograph exemplifies a theme running through the series: the impact of capitalism on the Seri people’s otherwise minimalist culture. This early project confirmed Iturbide’s interests in working thematically, raising her awareness of Mexico’s diversity and building close relationships with her subjects.

Over the course of a decade beginning in 1979, Iturbide traveled regularly to Juchitán, a city in southern Oaxaca. Juchitán is home to the Zapotec culture, in which women are known for their economic, political and sexual independence. Iturbide’s iconic photograph Our Lady of the Iguanas / Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas (1979, Brooklyn Museum) portrays a woman, Zobeida Diaz, wearing a wreath of iguanas on her head as she makes her way to sell them at the market. The iguana has historical importance in Zapotec society, both as a gastronomic delicacy and as an animal believed to have healing properties. Our Lady of the Iguanas, reproduced today on everything from municipal offices to highway signs and murals, has become a symbol for the community of Juchitán and for Zapotec womanhood. Original contact sheets displayed alongside the photograph show a cinematic sequence of Diaz interacting with Iturbide as she poses for the camera. She appears to be overtaken by laughter at certain points – an indication of the artist’s empathetic way of connecting with her subjects. Yellow grease-pencil marks also reveal Iturbide’s working method and creative process, highlighting the image she had chosen to print and how she envisioned cropping it. In her final selection, the iguanas themselves appear to be posing for the camera – an idea that corresponds to Iturbide’s search for the unexpected and the symbolic.

In addition to highlighting the importance of women in Juchitán, Iturbide also captured the society’s openness to muxes – men who dress as women, sometimes referred to as a Zapotec third gender. Her photographs of a muxe named Magnolia – Magnolia with Mirror / Magnolia con espejo (1986, J. Paul Getty Museum) and Magnolia with Sombrero / Magnolia con sombrero (1986, MFA) – demonstrate her ability to connect intimately with the community. Immersing herself in Zapotec culture, Iturbide also recorded the enduring legacy of native traditions – from an annual two-day festival and pilgrimage celebrating an alligator deity to el rapto, a premarital ritual practiced by those in lower and middle classes. Her strong and poetic images of Juchitán not only gained her international recognition, but also became a point of departure for a new vision of Juchitec society that has since been integrated into Mexico’s identity.

Following the Juchitán section are Iturbide’s photographs of the annual goat-slaughtering ritual in the Oaxacan region of La Mixteca, in south-central Mexico. The tradition dates back to colonial times, when Spanish landowners contracted Mixtec workers to butcher animals for sale, and carries on today. Tens of thousands of goats are killed during the month-long festival, which involves ritualistic aspects such as saving a lone animal every year as an act of repentance before the slaughter. Iturbide’s photographs from this series also highlight the exploitation of workers in one of Mexico’s poorest regions, who have created a ritual out of their harsh working conditions as a way of coping with the violence and pain. This experience had a tremendous impact on Iturbide, marking a personal turning point. Her wrenching experience in La Mixteca became the last time she spent extended amounts of time with an indigenous community.

The next three sections focus on themes that recur throughout Iturbide’s oeuvre: fiestas, death and birds. Since the mid-1970s, Iturbide has traveled throughout the country, including Chalma, Oaxaca and Tlaxcala, to observe and record a variety of fiestas – lavish and visually stimulating celebrations, which often include elaborate costumes or disguises. Death is another dominant element of Mexican culture, and Iturbide’s photographs related to the subject reflect both a personal experience and larger cultural manifestations. Her works range from depictions of signs of mortality in everyday life, as seen in the early photograph Mexico…I want to get to know you! / México…Quiero Conocerte! (1975, MFA), to representations of surreal-like funerary rituals and celebrations like the annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Iturbide’s fascination with birds is intimately linked to her own emotional journey toward overcoming a personal loss. Her photographs of the subject – ranging from spectacular and sublime skies full of birds to close-up portraits of birds in trees and even self-portraits with birds – show her interest in the rites and cycles of the natural world, while also evoking the spiritual world.

In 1998, Iturbide was invited by Francisco Toledo to photograph the newly opened Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca. By design, the garden tells the story of the relationship between the people of Oaxaca and their native plants, which are arranged by ecological and cultural themes. The next section of the exhibition presents these photographs, particularly of cacti undergoing therapeutic treatment. The images, published in her 2004 book Naturata, reflect the caretaking aspect of the garden. A startling view of the tops of several columnar cacti in Botanical Garden / Jardín Botánico (1998-99) shows them with bundles of newspaper padding and wooden boards as splints, all bound around the plants with rope. In another photograph, Botanical Garden / Jardín Botánico (2002) a thorny treelike plant receives an intravenous treatment as two bags of a cream-coloured liquid drip into lines connected to its limbs.

The final section features the most recent series in the exhibition, El baño de Frida (Frida’s Bathroom), which will be on view from February 27, 2019 through June 16, 2019 in the Museum’s Art of the Americas Wing, alongside another MFA exhibition, Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular. In 2005, Iturbide was commissioned to photograph personal belongings in Frida Kahlo’s bathroom at the Casa Azul, which had been locked away for 50 years following the artist’s death. Iturbide’s stark images provide an emotional narrative about the intimate space within the “Blue House,” where Kahlo was born and died, and the mystery of the objects. Iturbide’s photographs focus primarily on objects related to Kahlo’s pain – from a box of Demerol, an opioid pain medication, to a prosthetic leg. In one photograph, a hospital gown – stained by blood or paint – hangs ominously against the tiled wall, serving as a reminder of Kahlo’s many operations. In another, a self-portrait that depicts Iturbide’s bare feet in Kahlo’s bathtub, the photographer puts herself in the artist’s place and evokes one of Kahlo’s famous paintings, What the Water Gave Me (1938). Iturbide’s images reveal a side of Kahlo that is dramatically different from the colourful magical realist portrayed by her clothes and paintings. In photographing Kahlo’s private space, Iturbide grapples not only with the cultural and symbolic legacy of the painter, but with her own legacy as well. The series reveals a silent dialogue between the two women, two artists of Mexico, who have seen their art as a form of therapy and escape from everyday life.

 

About Graciela Iturbide

Iturbide was born in 1942 in Mexico City. In 1969, at the age of 27, she enrolled at the film school Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to become a film director. However, she was soon drawn to the art of still photography as practiced by the Mexican modernist master Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who was teaching at the University. From 1970 to 1971 she worked as Bravo’s assistant, accompanying him on various photographic journeys throughout Mexico. In the early half of the 1970s, Iturbide traveled widely across Latin America – in particular to Cuba and Panama. In 1978, she was commissioned by the Ethnographic Archive of the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico to photograph Mexico’s indigenous population. Iturbide decided to document and record the way of life of the Seri people along the country’s border with Arizona. In 1979, she was invited by the artist Francisco Toledo to photograph the Juchitán people who form part of the Zapotec culture native to Oaxaca in southern Mexico. This series resulted in the publication of her book Juchitán de las Mujeres in 1989. Between 1980 and 2000, Iturbide was invited to work in Cuba, Germany, India, Madagascar, Hungary, France and the U.S., producing a number of important projects. She has enjoyed solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou (1982), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1990), J. Paul Getty Museum (2007), MAPFRE Foudation, Madrid (2009), Photography Museum Winterthur (2009) and Barbican Art Gallery (2012), among others. Iturbide is the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Foundation Award (1987); the Grand Prize Mois de la Photo, Paris (1988); a Guggenheim Fellowship for the project Fiesta y Muerte (1988); the Hugo Erfurth Award, Leverkusen, Germany (1989); the International Grand Prize, Hokkaido, Japan (1990); the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie Award, Arles (1991); the Hasselblad Award (2008); the National Prize of Sciences and Arts in Mexico City (2008); an Honorary Degree in photography from Columbia College Chicago (2008); and an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute (2009).

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website [Online] Cited 05/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Señor Enmarcado, Ciudad de México' (Framed Man, Mexico City) 1970

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Señor Enmarcado, Ciudad de México, (Framed Man, Mexico City)
1970
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) '¡Mexico, Quiero Conocerte!, Chiapas, Mexico' (Mexico... I want to get to know you!) 1975

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
¡Mexico, Quiero Conocerte!, Chiapas, Mexico (Mexico… I want to get to know you!)
1975
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Los Pollos, Juchitán, México' (Chickens, Juchitán, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Los Pollos, Juchitán, México (Chickens, Juchitán, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

“For her, the camera is an instrument of sharing, making visible what, to many, is invisible,” Ms. Gresh said. Ms. Iturbide’s photos, she added, provide “a poetic vision of contemporary culture informed by a sense of life’s surprises and mysteries.”

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, México' (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, México (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Iguanas, Juchitán, México' 1984

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Iguanas, Juchitán, México
1984
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds donated by John and Cynthia Reed, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Barbara M. Marshall Fund, Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography, Francis Welch Fund, and Jane M. Rabb Fund for Film and Photography
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Serafina, Juchitán, México' 1984

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Serafina, Juchitán, México
1984
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Magnolia with Mirror, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Magnolia with Mirror, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Magnolia (2), Juchitán, México' (Magnolia with Sombrero / Magnolia con sombrero) 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Magnolia (2), Juchitán, México (Magnolia with Sombrero / Magnolia con sombrero)
1986
Gelatin silver print
30 x 47.2 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

“The dark ballast of Iturbide’s photography is a deep knowledge of predation: how humans prey on animals; how multinational corporations subsume developing economies; how modern industry exploits a largely indigenous underclass; how artists wrangle life from their subjects in the name of creation. In one haunting early photograph, a young Cuna woman walks through an open field in Panama, Pepsi-Cola’s logo embroidered on her shirt. The pernicious creep of capitalism, yes, but also its corollary: a vivid reminder that indigenous people, often relegated to an imagined antiquity, are full participants in contemporary life. …

In 1979, the painter Francisco Toledo invited Iturbide to visit his native Juchitán, in southeastern Oaxaca, a town known for its fierce independence and long-standing leftist sympathies. She returned frequently over the next decade, chronicling the public and private life of its largely Zapotec population. As a perpetual guest, Iturbide became a master of the threshold, of doorways and frames, storefront windows and cemeteries, masks and carnival, of the moments preceding and following transformation.

Contact sheets enclosed in glass vitrines accompany select images, often annotated with grease pencil. According to Iturbide, there are – pace Cartier-Bresson – two “decisive moments” in photography: “One, when you take the photo; and two, when you discover it in the contact sheet, because you often think you took one photo, and another comes out.” In the sheet for Magnolia with Mirror (1986, above), a livewire thread of intimacy is palpable in the sense of giddy experimentation between artist and subject. In the proofs for Our Lady of the Iguanas, Zobeida Díaz shakes the hand of a passerby, adjusts her crown of iguanas, suppresses laughter. The sheets underscore the contingency and providence of any image’s origins, how a slightly upturned lip or shifted frame catapults one into the pantheon while another slips into obscurity.”

Extract from Christopher Alessandrini, “Graciela Iturbide, Visionary Ethnographer,” on The New York Review of Books website [Online] Cited 06/04/2019

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Novia Muerte, Chalma, Mexico' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Novia Muerte, Chalma, Mexico
1986
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 20.5 cm (12 x 8 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cuatro Pescaditos, Juchitán, México' (Four Little Fishes, Juchitán, Mexico) 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cuatro Pescaditos, Juchitán, México (Four Little Fishes, Juchitán, Mexico)
1986
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El gallo, Juchitán, México' 1986

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El gallo, Juchitán, México
1986
Gelatin silver print
32 x 47.8 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'El sacrificio, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, México' 1992

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
El sacrificio, La Mixteca, Oaxaca, México
1992
Gelatin silver print
35.9 x 64.3 cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Torito' (Little Bull) 1982

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Torito (Little Bull)
1982
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Galeria Lopez Quiroga
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Graciela Iturbide

 

 

Iturbide studied photography at universities in Mexico, where she met her mentor, the teacher, cinematographer, and photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Inspired by Bravo, she developed her particular interest in the daily life of Mexico’s indigenous cultures. Iturbide has photographed things and people found in Mexico City, in her native Juchitán, in Oaxaca, and on the Mexico-U.S. border. Her camera lens often traces Mexico’s rich life of religion and rituals. Torito represents an assemblage of a bicycle frame and a cow’s skull and horn, found in Mexico City, and shows the photographer’s exploration of the relationship between the individual and the broader culture.

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 5 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 10 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

04
Jul
12

Exhibition: ‘Photography in Mexico: Selected Works from the Collections of SFMOMA and Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 8th July 2012

.

.
“There is no one ‘Mexican photography,’ but one strand that runs throughout is a synthesis of aesthetics and politics. We see that with Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and we still see it in work made decades later.”

Jessica S. McDonald

.

.

One of my early heroes in photography was Manuel Alvarez Bravo whom I rate as one of the best photographers that has ever lived, up there with Atget and Sudek. His photograph Parabola optica (Optical Parable, 1931, below) lays the foundation for an inherent language of Mexican photography: that of a parable, a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Many Mexican photographs tell such stories based on the mythology of the country: there are elements of the absurd, surrealism, macabre, revolution, political and socio-economic issues, also of death, violence, beauty, youth, sexuality and religion to name but a few – a search for national identity that is balanced in the photographs of Bravo by a sense of inner peace and redemption. This potent mix of issues and emotions is what makes Mexican photography so powerful and substantive. In the “presence” (or present, the awareness of the here and now) of Mexican photography there is a definite calligraphy of the body in space in most of the work. This handwriting is idiosyncratic and emotive; it draws the viewer into an intimate narrative embrace.

Two famous photographs by Bravo illustrate some of these themes (Apollonian/Dionysian; utopian/dystopian). When placed together they seem to have a strange attraction one to the other:

.

.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Obrero en huelga, asesinado (Striking Worker, Assassinated)
1934
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 23.8 cm

.
Manuel Alvarez Bravo
La buena fama durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)
1939
20.3 x 25.4 cm

.

.

Unlike most Australian documentary photography where there is an observational distance present in the photographs – a physical space between the camera/photographer and the subject – Mexican documentary photography is imbued with a revolutionary spirit and validated by the investment of the photographer in the subject itself, as though the image is the country is the photographer. There is an essence and energy to the Mexican photographs that seems to turn narrative on its head, unlike the closed loop present in the tradition of Australian story telling. The intimate, swirling narratives of Mexican photography could almost be termed lyrical socio-realist. The halo of the golden child of Yvonne Venegas’ Nirvana (2006, below) menaced by the upturned forks is a perfect example.

Some of the themes mentioned above are evidenced in the photographs in this posting. Not the placid nude or heroic pyramid of Weston but the howl of the masked animal and surrealism of Our Lady of the Iguanas demands our close engagement. I only wish Australian photographers could be as forthright in their investigation of the morals and ethics of this country and our seemingly never ending search for a national identity (other than war, mateship, the beach, sport and the appropriation of Aboriginal painting exported as the Australian art “identity”).

.
Many thankx to SFMOMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

.

.

Pablo Ortiz Monasterio
Y es plata, cemento o brisa
c. 1985
Gelatin silver print
8 9/16 in. x 12 3/4 in. (21.75 cm x 32.39 cm)
Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

.

.

Oscar Fernando Gómez
Untitled from the series The Windows
2008 – 2010
Inkjet print
17 1/4 in. x 24 in. (43.82 cm x 60.96 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Oscar Fernando Gómez

.

.

Enrique Metinides
Rescate de un ahogado en Xochimilco con público reflejado en el agua (Retrieval of a drowned body from Lake Xochimilco with the public reflected in the water)
1960
Gelatin silver print
13 3/4 x 20 3/4 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Anonymous Fund purchase
© Enrique Metinides

.

.

Paolo Pellegrin
USA. El Paso, Texas. May 17, 2011. Two men, who illegally attempted to enter the U.S., run across the dry Rio Grande river back to Juarez, Mexico after being spotted by the US Border Patrol
2011
Inkjet print
15 3/16 in. x 22 3/4 in. (38.58 cm x 57.79 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Paolo Pellegrin

.

.

Yvonne Venegas
Nirvana from the series Maria Elvia De Hank
2006
Inkjet print
19 1/2 in. x 24 in. (49.53 cm x 60.96 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Yvonne Venegas

.

.

“From March 10 through July 8, 2012, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present the exhibition Photography in Mexico: Selected Works from the Collections of SFMOMA and Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. Exploring the distinctively rich and diverse tradition of photography in Mexico from the 1920s to the present, the exhibition showcases works by important Mexican photographers as well as major American and European artists who found Mexico to be a place of great artistic inspiration.

Organized by SFMOMA Assistant Curator of Photography Jessica S. McDonald, the selection of more than 150 works draws from SFMOMA’s world-class photography holdings and highlights recent major gifts and loans from collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. The presentation reflects the collections’ particular strengths, featuring photographs made in Mexico by Tina Modotti, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston, along with works by key Mexican photographers including Lola Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Héctor Garcia, Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Enrique Metinides, Pedro Meyer, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, and Mariana Yampolsky.

The exhibition begins with the first artistic flowering of photography in Mexico after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and goes on to look at the explosion of the illustrated press at midcentury; the documentary investigations of cultural traditions and urban politics that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s; and more recent considerations of urban life, globalization, and issues particular to the U.S.-Mexico border region. Rather than attempting to define a national style, the exhibition considers the range of approaches and concerns that photographers in Mexico have pursued over time. As McDonald notes, “There is no one ‘Mexican photography,’ but one strand that runs throughout is a synthesis of aesthetics and politics. We see that with Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and we still see it in work made decades later.”

As arts and culture flourished in Mexico after the Revolution, many European and American artists were drawn to the country. Among them were Edward Weston and Tina Modotti, who arrived in Mexico in 1923. Inspired by what they saw there, Weston and Modotti in turn motivated Mexican photographers to pursue the medium’s artistic possibilities; their influence helped “give Mexican photographers confidence that art photography was a viable path,” says McDonald. Hence, the exhibition opens with a selection of works made in Mexico by Modotti, Weston, his son Brett Weston, and Paul Strand during the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the Mexican photographers encouraged by Modotti and Weston was Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who went on to become one of the most influential photographers and teachers in the country’s history as well as a key figure in the broader international history of the medium. The exhibition features a substantial number of major works by the photographer, many of them donated or loaned to SFMOMA by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. In considering Alvarez Bravo’s career, the exhibition illuminates the birth and development of a tradition of art photography in Mexico. The presentation also includes a selection of works by Alvarez Bravo’s first wife, Lola Alvarez Bravo, an important photographer in her own right who established a successful commercial and artistic practice.

In mid-20th-century Mexico, as in the United States and Europe, earning an adequate income as an art photographer was an unlikely proposition. Instead, many photographers made a living through photojournalism, contributing to the numerous illustrated publications in circulation during this period. In the decades following the Revolution, there was great interest in traditional ways of life and in defining what it meant to be Mexican. Some photographers, such as Manuel Carrillo, created images documenting the nation’s traditions and celebrating its common people. Others, like Hector Garcia and Rodrigo Moya, rejected this sentimental approach, focusing instead on contemporary concerns and the political and social turbulence that continued to influence post-revolutionary Mexican life.

The late 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of critical theory and a new interest in investigating the nature of photography as a medium; in Mexico as elsewhere, there were more opportunities to study photography and to pursue noncommercial projects. A number of Mexican photographers, such as Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Pedro Meyer, and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, created extended documentary series. Iturbide lived among indigenous people and recorded the details of their daily lives; Grobet focused on wrestling and the cultural concept of the mask; Ortiz Monasterio captured gritty, dystopian views of Mexico City. The exhibition draws extensively on gifts from Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser to represent directions in Mexican photography of the 1970s and 1980s.

Since the 1990s, the attention of many Mexican photographers has turned away from cultural traditions and rural landscapes and toward the cities and suburbs where many Mexicans now live. Works by Katya Brailovsky, Alejandro Cartagena, Pablo Lopez Luz, Daniela Rossell, and Yvonne Venegas reflect this interest in the changing social landscape, looking at issues of wealth and class, urbanization and land use, and the effects of the globalized economy. The exhibition closes with contemporary international photographers’ perspectives on U.S.-Mexico border issues. Images by Mark Klett, Victoria Sambunaris, and Alec Soth consider the border as landscape, while works by Elsa Medina, Susan Meiselas, and Paolo Pellegrin document the experiences of migrant workers and people trying, successfully or unsuccessfully, to cross into the United States.

.
List of Photographers Included

Katya Brailovsky, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Alejandro Cartagena, Eduardo del Valle and Mirta Gomez, Pia Elizondo, Dave Gatley, Oscar Fernando Gomez, Héctor Garcia, Lourdes Grobet, Graciela Iturbide, Geoffrey James, Mark Klett, Pablo Lopez Luz, Elsa Medina, Susan Meiselas, Enrique Metinides, Pedro Meyer, Tina Modotti, Rodrigo Moya, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Paolo Pellegrin, Antonio Reynoso, Daniela Rossell, Mark Ruwedel, Victoria Sambunaris, Alec Soth, Paul Strand, Yvonne Venegas, Brett Weston, Edward Weston, and Mariana Yampolsky.

.
About Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser

Based in Los Angeles, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser have a deep and longstanding interest in Mexican photography, which they have been collecting since 1995. The photography department at SFMOMA has benefited greatly from their generosity: they have donated more than 175 works to the museum over the last six years. Their recent major gift of Mexican work, including over 50 photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Graciela Iturbide, and others, has created an ideal opportunity for SFMOMA to present this exhibition exploring photography in Mexico.”

Press release from SFMOMA website

.

.

Edward Weston
Pirámide del Sol, Teotihuacán
1923
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 1/2 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern art, gift of Brett Weston
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

.

.

Alejandro Cartagena
Fragmented Cities, Juarez #2 from the series Suburbia Mexicana
2007
Inkjet print
20 x 24 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Alejandro Cartagena

.

.

Lola Álvarez Bravo
Los gorrones
c. 1955, printed later
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 in. x 11 3/4 in. (24.45 cm x 29.85 cm)
Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© 1995 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation

.

.

Edward Weston
Tina Modotti, Half-Nude in Kimono
1924
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 x 4 11/16 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Albert M. Bender Collection, Albert M. Bender Bequest Fund purchase
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

.

.

Lourdes Grobet
Ponzoña, Arena Coliseo
c. 1983
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Jane and Larry Reed
© Lourdes Grobet

.

.

Graciela Iturbide
La Nuestra Senora de las Iguanas, Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitan, Oxaca, Mexico)
1979
Gelatin silver print
17 5/16 x 14 7/16 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of the artist
© Graciela Iturbide

.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Parabola optica (Optical Parable)' 1931

.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Parabola optica (Optical Parable)
1931
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (24.77 cm x 18.42 cm)
Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Colette Urbajtel / Asociación Manuel Álvarez Bravo

.

.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street (between Mission + Howard)
San Francisco CA 94103

Opening hours:
Monday – Tuesday 11.00 am – 5.45 pm
Wednesday Closed
Thursday 11.00 am – 8.45 pm
Friday – Sunday 11.00 am – 5.45 pm

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

Join 2,522 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Lastest tweets

July 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Archives

Categories