In Mexico, photography has been closely associated with the photojournalistic sensibility of the artist Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002). Bravo, a founder of modernist photography, is often considered the main representative of this art form throughout Latin America. His style of straightforward black-and-white photography developed in the mid-1920s and prevailed in Mexico for more than six decades, influencing many contemporary photographers including his student Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942). In recent months, ten magnificent examples of Iturbide’s work were donated by photography collectors Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser in honor of MCASD’s long-time Trustee Murray A. Gribin. The gift provided the opportunity to more broadly examine photography in Mexico in the Museum’s holdings.
This exhibition, comprised of 35 works from the Museum’s permanent collection, focuses on the powerful impact of Bravo’s legacy on both Mexican and international photographers. The photographers featured here offer a sophisticated look into the cultural patrimony of Mexico by exploring a range of potent subject matter, from the impact of colonization to the revolution that transformed the nation’s socio-economic landscape. Images address the deeply Catholic yet eclectic and rich history of the country while delving into issues of identity, spirituality, and the current state of Mexican society.
Beginning in the 1970s and continuing into the ‘90s, proponents such as Iturbide and Gerardo Suter (Argentinean, b. 1957) began to question their mentor’s legacy and Mexico’s nationalistic iconographies by presenting a stylistic shift that incorporates myth and memory. In the images Cayo del Cielo, Chalma, Mexico/Fallen from the Sky, Chalma, Mexico (1990) by Iturbide and Travesia/Journey (1996) by Suter, the women and the titles evoke a suggested narrative of other worldly moments in life and death. Additional artists represented in the exhibition that have contributed to the evolution of photography in Mexico are Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b.1962) and Alex Webb (America, b. 1952), who incorporate irony and a sense of immediacy to reflect on the realities of Mexico. The younger generation of artists, of which Yvonne Venegas (American, b. 1970) is the best known representative, often refers to issues surrounding the international border or the state of the developing nation. These photographers emphasize the need for greater social equality, the dignity of the individual, and the value of the natural world.