Eyes on a Nation

Politics runs through “Photography in Mexico.” The exhibit includes shots taken in the 1920s following the Mexican Revolution, ones documenting social injustice, and those of the border region between the United States and Mexico. Opening the show is the work of Tina Modotti and Edward Weston, who went to Mexico City in 1923, and while there were studios on every corner, photography was not considered an art form, says Jessica McDonald, the curator of this show. Modetti and Weston held exhibitions and encouraged photographers that art photography was a viable path. One person they encouraged was Manuel Álvarez Bravo, later one the most influential photographers in Mexico. Bravo, whose iconic photos include a striking worker, shot, lying in a pool of blood, was struggling to document the events in his country and find an identity. The cultural, social and intellectual movements going on in Mexico interested artists in other parts of the world. For instance, the leader of the Surrealist movement, Frenchman André Breton, a friend of Bravo's, visited Mexico City and later said that in Mexico, Surrealism — considered by Breton to be a philosophy for living rather than just an artistic movement — was a part of everyday life. “You couldn't just be an art photographer yet,” McDonald says. “To make a living, often they had to work for the established press such as Look or Life.” McDonald says crime photography, known as the “bloody news,” is to Mexico what celebrity photography is here. Gabriela Iturbide spent time with indigenous people and document their lives, while Lourdes Grobet decided to take pictures of the wildly popular Mexican wrestling, known as lucha libre. Part of the exhibit includes contemporary color photography depicting the environmental devastation, such as in Pablo López Luz's aerial views of Mexico City. Rather than document the poverty in Mexico, Daniela Rossell chose to shoot wealthy young women, many married to government officials, in their over-the-top houses in her series Rich and Famous. The show's final component is made up of photos by international photographers of the U.S.-Mexico border — focusing on the landscape as well as the experiences of the border patrol and those trying to cross into the United States. “It's an interesting dialogue with what comes before,” says McDonald about the contemporary photography. “It's like they're saying, 'This is Mexico too, for better or for worse.'”
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: March 10. Continues through July 8, 2012

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