STANKO ABADŽIC, MANUEL CARRILLO, JACKO VASSILEV
VERVE Gallery of Photography is pleased to present work by Eastern Europeans Stanko Abadžic and Jacko Vassilev, both of whom have worked documenting their respective cultures in stunning black and white, gelatin silver prints. Croatian born Stanko Abadžic’s second exhibition at VERVE debuts his playful new work from Berlin, Paris and Croatia. Bulgarian artist Jacko Vassilev brings to Santa Fe, for the first time, the renowned series that documented his Bulgarian culture from 1971 until 1993, when the country was under communist totalitarianism. Lastly, VERVE will be presenting newly acquired work by the only non-contemporary artist in our stable, Manuel Carrillo (1906-1989) from Mexico City.
Stanko Abadžic brings us new images from Berlin, Paris and Croatia. Croatian-born Abadžic is a street photographer known for irony, humor and satire in his juxtapositions. This new work continues this winning formula.
Abadžic’s work is characterized by strong contrasts of light and dark, an interest in patterns and geometric forms created by long shadows, brick or cobblestone streets, intricate ironwork designs, fences, and other grid-like elements. He seeks out children playing, people on bicycles or lingering at street cafes, and has an eye for irony. There is a strong sense of nostalgia and transience running through his work, due, no doubt, to his experiences as a displaced person.
Stanko Abadžic was born in 1952 in Vukovar, Croatia. At the age of 15 he began teaching himself photography. After marriage, he worked as a reporter and photojournalist to support his family. When the Croatian War of Independence broke out in 1991, Abadžic left everything and fled with his family to Germany for what he hoped would be a brief stay. After four difficult years, during which he took few photographs, Stanko and his family were denied German citizenship and forced to leave. He moved to Prague. Abadžic’s move brought with it a rebirth as he began a new series of photographs with a medium-format camera. With this new camera, he began to develop his visual eye in earnest.
Abadžic was able to return with his family to Croatia in 2002, settling in the capital of Zagreb. He continues to photograph in Prague and also shoots along the Adriatic. Abadžic has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik, Museum of Modern Art Rijeka, Mimara Museum in Zagreb, and various galleries in Japan, Argentina Prague, Berlin, and other Eastern European cities. He is represented in the United States by John Cleary (Houston, TX), Verve Gallery (Santa Fe, NM) and Contemporary Works (Pennsylvania).
Jacko Vassilev's work gives us a compelling look at peasant life in the Bulgarian countryside during the communist regime (1971 to 1993). His images communicate to us the strength of the human spirit that endures in meager living conditions and during political oppression.
His portraits of fellow Bulgarians presents us with a full spectrum of human emotion and culture, from heartbreak to joy. Vassilev captures, with sensitivity and respect, the tumultuous history and political struggles of his people. His images of everyday people and everyday life in provincial towns throughout the rural countryside are a journey back into time.
"I really wanted to preserve all we have in Bulgaria, especially the big army of the old generation. Those people have something that the young generation does not have. Their spirit I have seen in their eyes, in their hands, and on their faces. The grand and endless expressions on their faces are so natural, so real - sometime I wish my photography could have smell and sound. At least it is something that will remain for future generations. That is why I photograph man.” – Jacko Vassilev
When Jacko was photographing this project, his darkroom was raided. He was accused by the regime of presenting the "bad" side of Bulgaria. Of this, he says, “Photography is a big art, and no one, no regimes, no party can stop the creation of it. I was keeping all my negatives and black and white art prints hidden, hoping one day my son or his children will be able to bring them out of secrecy. How blessed I am, that I have survived and I am able to show them in person. No more arrests for photographing my people, no more destroyed films and broken cameras. Today I am living in my dreams. I AM A FREE MAN. I can speak free without censoring my political vocabulary; I can travel anywhere I would like...and I am having friends from all over the world!"
Vassilev holds a Diploma from the Bulgarian Ministry of Education’s Julius Fuchik Technical School for Polygraphy & Photography. He was awarded a Diploma of Art Photography from the Ministry of Culture and the Bulgarian Photography Society in 1990. Jacko Vassilev’s photographs are included in the permanent public art collections of the International Center for Photography in New York City, and the European Center of Photography in Paris. Other prestigious museum, private and corporate collections that hold his work include: The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas; The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama; and The Bayly Art Museum in Charlottesville, Virginia. Vassilev has had numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the world including Yugoslavia, England, Germany, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Venezuela, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Australia, Estonia, France, Rumania, Canada, Holland and the United States. Vassilev’s work has been written about extensively in art and photography publications worldwide. He has published a book of his photographs entitled Bulgarians, 1994 by Contrejour Publishers in Paris.
This exhibition of Manuel Carrillo, a legendary 20th Century Mexican photographer, includes newly acquired images shown for the first time. This body of work consists of Carrillo’s historic photographic masterpieces of Mexican culture in the period between 1950 and 1970. Images in this exhibition include explorations of daily life in central and coastal Mexico that include portraits of children, laborers, fishermen, and farmers.
Manuel Carrillo’s work was inspired by the American Modernist artists of his time, such as Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and others that informed the aesthetics and politics of his photographic work.
“Manuel Carrillo’s relationship to his subject matter is a position based on his own cultural identity as a Mexican by birth and an American by processes of binational crossings that led to his induction as an honorary citizen of El Paso, Texas in 1980 by the Photographic Society of America. This position allowed him to move in and out of fixed constructs of identity that may have otherwise limited his visual interpretations.” 
Carrillo’s compassion, sensitivity and his understanding of a universal connection to the shared human experience produced stunning, poetic images of the Mexican culture that he passionately identified with as his own. “Mi Pueblo”(My People), depicting daily life in rural Mexico, was the title of his first international exhibition held in 1960 in Chicago.
Born in Mexico City in 1906, Manuel Carrillo’s destiny as interpreter of his own people would not be revealed until almost half a century later. At the age of 16, in 1922 Carrillo left Mexico for New York where he pursued several odd jobs before becoming an Arthur Murray waltz and tango champion. During this period in New York, he settled down to work for the Wall Street firm of Neuss Hesslein and Co., but in 1930 he returned to his beloved Mexico. There he began working for one of the pioneers of the Mexican tourist industry Albert L. Bravo. Carrillo later abandoned that position to become the general agent for the Illinois Central Railroad’s office in Mexico City, where he stayed for thirty-six years, until his retirement. At the age of 49, he joined the Club Fotografico de Mexico and the Photographic Society of America, thus launching his career in Photography. His first international exhibition, titled, “Mi Pueblo” (“My People”), was held in 1960 at the Chicago Public Library and depicted daily life in rural Mexico. Since 1975, Carrillo’s work has been seen in 209 individual exhibitions and 27 group exhibits in Mexico, the United States and around the world. His work has been published in a variety of photographic anthologies and journals. Carrillo died in Mexico City in 1989 at the age of 83. His archives are held at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Library.