Graciela Iturbide’s Photos of Mexico Make ‘Visible What, to Many, Is Invisible’

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Over the past 50 years, Ms. Iturbide has captured layers of Mexico’s diverse cultures and practices, as well as the struggles and contrasts across the nation.

The New York Times

Text by Evelyn Nieves | Photographs by Graciela Iturbide

8 January 2019

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Graciela Iturbide may be one of the most renowned photographers working today. Five decades into her journey with a camera, her work, most famously in indigenous communities in her native Mexico, has achieved that rare trifecta — admired by critics, revered by fellow photographers and adored by the public. She continues to travel, photograph and exhibit all over the world.

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But it is becoming impossible to discuss her work without mentioning the Zapotec woman wearing live iguanas on her head.

Ms. Iturbide made the photo after happening upon Zobeida Díaz at a farmer’s market while living with the Juchitán of southeastern Oaxaca in 1979. It took several tries — the iguanas kept moving around, falling off, reducing her subject to laughter — but on her contact sheet, Ms. Iturbide found her “Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas (Our Lady of the Iguanas),” an image so arresting that 40 years later, its popularity is still growing.

In Mexico, “Nuestra Señora” is on murals, posters, postcards and road signs to Juchitán, and rendered into a life-size bronze sculpture in the Juchitán town square. It covers a brick building wall in East Los Angeles. It has gone viral. Fans have taken the rich black-and-white image and recreated it into graphic art, self-portraits, YouTube videos.

No wonder Ms. Iturbide says the image “is no longer mine.”

Nor is that iconic image her only claim to fame. In a long and varied career, Ms. Iturbide, 76, has done deep dives into her beloved country. She has documented the Seri Indians of Sonora, goat-slaughter festivals among the Mixtec of Oaxaca, funeral rites, cultural practices, complex landscapes, birds, herself.

Selections from these projects, “Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico,” drawn primarily from her own collection, will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, from Jan. 19 to May 12. Some of her most recent work, on Frida Kahlo’s bathroom (opened 50 years after Diego Rivera locked it upon her death), goes on display on Feb. 27 through June 16) as part of the museum’s exhibit “Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular.”

“Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico” unpacks Ms. Iturbide’s artistic journey as she captures layers of Mexico’s exquisitely diverse cultures and practices, struggles and contrasts.

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Of course, it includes “Our Lady of the Iguanas,” on loan from the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum. It also includes “Angel Woman (Mujer Angel),” arguably Ms. Iturbide’s second-most famous image, an ethereal image taken from behind of a Seri woman with hair down her back and traditional dress who seems to float through the desert carrying the cultural prop of urban life at the time: a boombox.

In image after image, there is more going on than meets the eye.

Kristen Gresh, the Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh curator of photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, who worked closely with Ms. Iturbide in organizing the exhibit, said what made her unique among the pantheon of photographers working today was her empathetic approach.

“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.”

“Jardín Botánico, Oaxaca, México (Botanical Garden, Oaxaca, Mexico),” 1998-99.CreditGraciela Iturbide/Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Graciela Iturbide's Mexico

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MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON 
465 Huntington Avenue
January 19 - May 12

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In these times, when walls literally and symbolically epitomize a perverse, exclusionary outlook on the foreign, the work of Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide strikes with the relentless perspective of an insider. Frustrating the clichés of folklore and the picturesque, Iturbide’s sumptuous black-and-white images reach for the untold stories and overlooked narratives of her home country—its intricate religious and indigenous cultures, conflicting histories, and ever-transitional present. Covering five decades, her first major exhibition on the East Coast unites more than 125 photographs, primarily drawn from Iturbide’s own collection, and features thirty-seven new acquisitions, including pieces from “Juchitán,” 1979–88, a series on Mexico’s Zapotec women; six bewitching images of birds; and documentation of Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. Accompanied by a beautifully illustrated catalogue, this timely tribute to one of Mexico’s greatest living artists reveals that the other is always us.

Curated by Kristen Gresh

Sabrina Mandanici

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Photo L.A. announces the honoree and beneficiary for 2019: JO ANN CALLIS

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Announcing Photo L.A. Honoree & Beneficiary

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Join PHOTO LA January 31, 2019 6-9PM at Barker Hanger, Santa Monica for the Opening Night of Photo L.A. as they proudly honor artist Jo Ann Callis for her contributions to the history and aesthetics of the photographic arts.

A central figure in the Southern California photography scene since the 1970s, Jo Ann Callis is known for her provocatively staged scenarios with a poetic dimension. In her work, the inner world of the artist finds material expression through creative juxtapositions, bold colors and playful constructions.

Photo L.A. 2019 Opening Night will be held to benefit Venice Arts.

Venice Arts ignites, expands, and transforms the lives of Los Angeles’ low-income youth through photography and film education.

Be the first to enjoy the curated roster of 60 plus local and international galleries, dealers, collectives, leading not-for-profits, art schools, and global booksellers at the 27th edition of Photo L.A. presented at the historic Barker Hangar, Santa Monica. And take part in honoring Jo Ann Callis, benefitting Venice Arts, and mingling with the always eclectic Los Angeles photography community.

Tickets now available! Follow the links below to buy your tickets to the Photo L.A. 2019 Opening Night and join us in experiencing A Photography Fair Like No Other!

PHOTO L.A. OPENING NIGHT TICKETS TO BENEFIT VENICE ARTS

GENERAL ADMISSION TICKETS

Jo Ann Callis: The Uncanny Everyday

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by Willemijn van der Zwaan 
GUP Magazine, Issue 59


Jo Ann Callis (b. 1940, United States) started her experimental photography practice long ago, but without a context you could easily mistake her early colour work for something that could have been produced more recently - in fact, the work stems from the 1970s. These images from everyday life, contain a certain uncanny atmosphere and erotic tension, which are now considered common characteristics in the work of many young contemporary artists. 


Callis is hailed as a driving force of the Southern California art scene of the 1970s. However, before she ended up in the Golden State, she followed somewhat more traditional route for women of that era. Although her art education started while she was at high school in Ohio in the 1950s, her academic career was interrupted by marriage and children. After relocating to Los Angeles, Callis picked u where she had left off, and joined a graduate studio programme. While her initial focus was on sculpture and painting, it was her teacher, Robert Heinecken - a highly unorthodox photographer himself - who encouraged her to experiment with photograph and to incorporate it in her other media.

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The contemporary art world was in a state flux at the time, and the social environment the surrounded Callis was also coming undone. speak in the slightly cynical words of the inimitable essayist Joan Didion: the centre was not holding in 1970s California. However, while there w general social upheaval in the state - largely among counterculture youths 'dropping out' of society and getting heavily into drugs - things were al changing for the better.


Second-wave feminism was making strides i promoting equal rights for women, and although Callis was not on the front line of the movement. it did affect her artistic practice. The often frank sexuality and pleasure evident in her work is 8 reflection of the era, as are as the social and gender dynamics that Callis included in her staged images.

Her fabricated scenes seem playful at first glance, but there is often a slight uneasiness about them. Take, for example, the image of a man grabbing a woman, who is standing on a chair, by the ankles. 

While it is unclear what this scene is actually dealing with, Callis's use of what seems to be office furniture, as well as the corporate shoes and clothing worn by the subjects, suggests an underlying power dynamic. The harsh lighting adds to the effect, stressing the sinister nature of the situation. 

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The inventiveness of Callis's constructed scenes and the avant-garde themes she explored are still of great relevance for the world of today. Things are not always so severe; a tenderness often shines through in her work. In one image, we see a young girl, sitting naked on the edge of her bed, soaking a black washcloth in a glass bowl on her lap. The soft light adds a warm glow to her quiet contemplation.

Overall, regardless of the subject, Callis never aimed to push her message on to the viewer. Her early colour photographs exude a timeless freshness and leave room for interpretation. This is a key quality of her work and, whether or not they are inspired by Jo Ann Callis, it is the kind of ambivalence that so many talented young contemporary photographer manage to incorporate in their work too.

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The government photographer who gave a face to American poverty

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Written by Meredith Mendelsohn, CNN

In the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken Dust Bowl refugees poured into California from the parched Midwest in search of food, jobs and dignity. Meanwhile, much of the country, mired in its own Depression-fueled misery, was oblivious to the ecological and social catastrophe at hand. Armed with a camera and a good dose of outrage and compassion, Dorothea Lange set out to change that.

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It's a recurring theme throughout modern history, the downtrodden and their advocates. For Lange, photographing the subjugated was her way of aiding them. She pioneered a use of the camera as a powerful catalyst for social change, and in an era erupting with humanitarian conflict, her legacy resonates.

Lange's Depression-era photos are so tightly woven into the fabric of American culture that, for many of us, our memories of that period are inseparable from the scenes she captured with her camera, from her iconic portrait of maternal demoralization and perseverance, "Migrant Mother" (1936), to her over-farmed fields, ramshackle lean-to tents and dusty jalopies.

Her mission was not just personal: Lange had been hired by the photographic unit of the Farm Security Administration -- a progressive New Deal agency founded to alleviate poverty -- to document the growing migrant crisis. But her images went far beyond bureaucratic reportage. A skilled portraitist, Lange famously possessed an ability to return a sense of dignity to a group that had been routinely dehumanized. She had also come of age during the modernist transformation of photography into an art form, and turned her lens on America's social ills with an aesthetically gripping style that captured the country's imagination.

"She and the FSA were clearly dedicated to improving the lives of migrants and drought refugees by creating public sympathy through the use of powerful imagery. And of all the FSA photographers, I think Lange was the most successful at making images that were factual, but which also packed an emotional wallop," Drew Johnson, the curator of photography and visual culture at the Oakland Museum of California, said in an email. Johnson curated "Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing," a major traveling exhibition now on view at the Barbican in London (organized by Alona Pardo and Jilke Golbach).

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The Sunlit Studio a Son Built for His Photographer-Mother

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By Luisita Lopez Torregrosa | New York Times Style Magazine

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ON A COLONIAL back street in historic Coyoacán, in central Mexico City, a three-story brick tower rises above the low-roofed adobe homes in a labyrinthine neighborhood. The fall afternoon’s fading light tinges the building’s facade — walls of porous bricks laid at right angles to let in air and light while shielding the interior from view — a burnt sienna. This is Studio Iturbide, the latest project by the Mexico City-based firm Taller / Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo, who built it for Rocha’s mother, the photographer Graciela Iturbide, whose portraiture, most famously of weathered women in Oaxacan villages, is in the permanent collections of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Brooklyn Museum.

The 75-year-old Iturbide is waiting at the doorway, diminutive, her black hair short and wavy, her complexion milky. “Mauricio will be here soon,” she says, as we enter her monolithic workspace, which is constructed of little more than red brick and wood-framed panes of glass. The architects created a hundred models before agreeing on the current design: three nine-foot-high, 300-square-foot rooms stacked atop one another, along with two interior bricked-in patios on the first floor furnished with clay pots of cacti and other regional plants, which offer the only visual disruption of the house’s earthen hues and exacting lines. Inside, the brick walls are adorned with little but the shadows of the day’s moving light.

Taking the broad wooden stairs, which are joined by invisible steel supports and appear suspended in midair, Iturbide walks us from the formal first-floor living room, with its Isamu Noguchi paper lantern and low, modernist sofa, past the casual second-floor family room and up to the top floor of the building. “This is my studio, where I work,” she says, her arms outstretched to take in the airy 16-by-19-foot space, lit by the sun coming in through two wall-size windows. Here, on a nine-foot-long oak table, Iturbide edits her photographs. Forty years of archives are stored in dozens of flat, black boxes on custom hardwood bookshelves that rise from either side of the table. “The interior space is very important for me and my work,” she says. “I need to be alone often.”

This is not the first time Iturbide’s son has made her a building: Across the street is her main house, a cream-colored adobe structure that Rocha built in 1991, when he was 25 and had just finished architecture school. In 2014, seeking more space (and freedom from her belongings), Iturbide purchased an empty lot and asked him to build on it. Her only condition was that it be made of brick: “What I wanted was to be tranquil in my studio,” she says. “I gave him total freedom.” The result, which took two years to complete, combines four kinds of brick — handmade in different dimensions in Puebla, a city known for its ceramics — with tzalam, a heavily grained hardwood brought from Mexico’s tropical south. Iturbide calls the building her “small factory of bricks.”

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