Filtering by Category: Graciela Iturbide

Graciela Iturbide: Visionary Ethnographer

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The New York Review of Books

by Christopher Alessandrini | 30 MARCH 2019

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Consider the chickens, roosting at a vendor’s feet as he reads the daily news; or a semi-circle of women clutching freshly plucked carcasses—wings outspread, headless, then bundled and hung. In the photography of Graciela Iturbide, animals appear in various stages of preparation: walleyed fish dangle in pairs; severed goats’ legs herringbone across a spread of drying mats. Iguanas wreathed around a woman’s stoic face—like tentacles, or the rays of an aureole—are destined for soup. The woman in this final, famous image, Our Lady of the Iguanas (1979), is Zobeida Díaz, a vendor in the Oaxacan town of Juchitán, vaulted from the market’s everyday bustle into the realm of myth. 

In “Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico”—a magnificent exhibition of approximately 125 gelatin silver prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—five decades of an extraordinary visual intelligence are on display. Winner of the Hasselblad Award (2008) and Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), Iturbide has exhibited internationally for most of her career, but this is her first solo museum show on the East Coast since a modest traveling retrospective opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1998. Curated by Kristen Gresh in close collaboration with Iturbide, the show celebrates the museum’s recent acquisition of thirty-seven photographs, including two gifts from the artist. It is an overdue reintroduction to one of the world’s great photographers.

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Born in 1942, the eldest of thirteen children in a prosperous Catholic family, Iturbide originally wanted to be a poet. She was already twenty-seven, a mother of three and a recent divorcée, when she enrolled at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, determined to study cinematography. But her vocation shifted again after the death of her young daughter, in 1970, when she began to obsessively photograph dead infants, or angelitos, laid out in tiny white coffins. One day, documenting a funeral, she found an adult cadaver sprawled across the cemetery path, skull and torso picked clean. “There were many birds in the sky,” she recounted. “The ones that had been pecking on the man.” It was the moment she decided to stop photographing angelitos. “I felt that Death was saying to me, ‘Enough!’”

Ever since, flocks of birds have served as a major source of inspiration—reminders of death, certainly, but also of life’s strange continuities, flesh transubstantiated into flight. Her “Birds” series is monumental: massive swarms conducted through the sky like magnetic filings, obeying an inscrutable, suprahuman logic—seemingly algorithmic, ultimately impossible to decode. The photographs hum with remembered motion, scores of stark, glyph-like wings thronged around trees, a cruciform telephone pole.

Following the death of her daughter, Iturbide worked as an assistant to her professor, the legendary modernist photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. From 1970 to 1971, she traveled with him across Mexico, observing his process. While they did not collaborate or discuss each other’s work, he encouraged Iturbide’s interest in documenting Native Mexicans and offered advice that transformed her outlook: “Don’t rush yourself for anything,” she recalls him saying, in a captivating fifteen-minute documentary produced for the exhibition. “There’s always time.” Dedicating herself to the virtue of patience would prove invaluable in a long career marked by intimate involvement with her subjects.

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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.

Continue reading at The New York Review of Books.

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

continue reading at artforum.com

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.”

Continue reading at nytimes.com

Spotlight Series: Zeke Peña

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“Graciela's work grabs you, it pulls you in. So when I was working with her images I tried not to change them much, because I don't think they need anything. I was simply was trying to translate and place them in a graphic narrative.” -Zeke Peña

About fourteen years ago while traveling on a road trip through Northern Mexico, Zeke Peña brought only one book with him: a small, pocket-sized book of photographs by Graciela Iturbide. A few years ago, the works of Graciela Iturbide entered his life again when he was presented with the opportunity to illustrate Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, published by Getty Publications. It was not until he was preparing the proposal for the book that he made the connection between the subject of his most recent project and the photographs that accompanied him throughout the landscape of Northern Mexico. 

Zeke Peña, Juchitán, 2017

Zeke Peña, Juchitán, 2017

In the pages of Photographic, Peña recreated Iturbide’s subjects in a graphic form, allowing the reader to understand the narrative around Iturbide’s images. In one of Peña’s drawings, two women from Juchitán walk across the composition with their skirts flowing behind them as they move forward. The two walking women originate from a photograph in Iturbide’s series from Juchitán, a body of work that greatly resonates with Peña both because of the indigenous community’s resistance to western colonial, patriarchal influence and the subjects’ proximity to his own cultural and racial identity. Through the research that Isabel Quintero — the author of Photographic and Peña’s collaborator —  conducted, Peña learned in great detail about the lives and history of the women in Juchitán. Within a community where women owned property and had enormous agency relative to in western culture, the women in Juchitán moved with both power and a joyful sense of ease, which is felt strongly in Iturbide’s photographs. 

In Zeke’s drawing of the two women from Juchitán, they move across an empty space where the viewer can imagine their surroundings, but in the actual context of the photograph the words La Libertad are sprayed above them. Within their environment, everyday life moves alongside the political undertones of their existence. Libertad from the pressures of an imposing colonial culture that denounces their cultural practices and the agency of women in their community. Libertad from the invisibility of their lives and stories, for in Peña’s words: “For indigenous people, story is everything.”

Graciela Iturbide,  Untitled , from her series Juchitán, c. 1986


Graciela Iturbide, Untitled, from her series Juchitán, c. 1986

As a storyteller himself whose work is rooted in the oral histories of people of the border region, Peña felt the impact of Iturbide’s subjects and the mastered methodology with which she approached and photographed them, continuing to pass oral histories through a photographic form. Through the respect that Iturbide gave her subjects and stories, she spotlights the indigenous cultures she photographed in intimate and true detail. In Peña’s work from Photographic, he derives the subjects from Iturbide’s photographs while bringing his own discoveries and connections to the page, highlighting the intimate narratives that play through the works of Graciela Iturbide with his own pen. 

ROSEGALLERY presents PhotoGRAPHIC: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

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ROSEGALLERY presents PhotoGRAPHIC, an exhibition of the upcoming graphic novelPhotoGRAPHIC: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, published by the J. Paul GettyAccompanying works by the legendary photographer, ROSEGALLERY will present the novel in its entirety, with original drawings by Zeke Peña and prose by Isabel Quintero. Photographs, illustrations and prose come together to illuminate the artistic power of Iturbide’s life and work.

Presenting the multifaceted manifestations of her story, the exhibition will run from 8 September 2017 until 21 October 2017, with a public opening on the 8th of September. 

Just as in the graphic novel about her life, Graciela Iturbide’s work exists at the intersection of captivating imagery and poetic language. Born in Mexico in 1942, Iturbide studied photography under the Mexican icon Manuel Álvarez Bravo, a contemporary of Tina Modotti, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. With the uniqueness of her own eye, Iturbide captured her surroundings in intimate and empowering expressions. Often highly metaphorical, Iturbide’s photographs visually and poetically connect her own surroundings with a deeper understanding of the world. 

Told through text, illustrations and Iturbide’s photographs, Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbidedelves into Iturbide’s history and photographic works with the guiding vision of the artist herself. From the Sonora Desert to Juchitán, India and the American South, the graphic novel tells of Iturbide’s explorations throughout the world, all caught through the lens of her camera. In the beginning pages of the graphic novel, it states, “Graciela Iturbide is a photographer. She is an icon. Orgullo mexicano. Maestra.” With her masterfully crafted photographs, Iturbide proves each title true. Iturbide’s exploration of often overlooked and eclectic subjects brings a range of perspectives to her work and her own story. Each image transcends the border between reality and myth. Birds come to her through many of her dreams and often reappear in flight in her photographs, tracing a line through her imagination and her world in the poetic language of their collective motion. Following the trail of birds on the walls of PhotoGRAPHIC, one may glimpse into the rhythm of Iturbide’s vision as her story unfolds.


image credit: Pages from Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide © 2018 J. Paul Getty Trust, www.getty.edu/publications . Text © Isabel Quintero, illustrations © Zeke Pefia, photographs © Graciela Iturbide.

PHOTOGRAPHIC: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

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ROSEGALLERY
Friday, 8 September, on view until 21 October, 2017

ROSEGALLERY presents Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, the forthcoming graphic novel about Graciela Iturbide, published by The Getty Publications in Fall of 2017. Pages from the graphic novel will be exhibited as a narrative along the gallery walls, interlaced with pages from the graphic novel, photographic prints by Graciela Iturbide and original illustrations by Zeke Peña.
The exhibition will be open to the public during our normal business hours of 10 am to 6 pm on Friday, 8 September.

Pages from Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide © 2018 J. Paul Getty Trust,  www.getty.edu/publications . Text © Isabel Quintero, illustrations © Zeke Pefia, photographs © Graciela Iturbide.


Pages from Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide © 2018 J. Paul Getty Trust, www.getty.edu/publications. Text © Isabel Quintero, illustrations © Zeke Pefia, photographs © Graciela Iturbide.

Graciela Iturbide at The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery

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Graciela Iturbide will be on view at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery from August 26th, 2017 until January 7th, 2018 as part of the exhibition Revolution and Ritual: The Photographs of Sara Castrejón, Graciela Iturbide and Tatiana Parcero, in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. 

War, indigenous cultures and inner transformation ferment in Revolution and Ritual: The Photographs of Sara Castrejón, Graciela Iturbide and Tatiana Parcero. In this exhibition, the Williamson focuses on the works of three Mexican women photographers who explore and transform notions of Mexican identity in images that range from the documentary to the poetic.

Garciela Iturbide,  Untitled (Bull Walking through Birds) , Jaipur, India

Garciela Iturbide, Untitled (Bull Walking through Birds), Jaipur, India

For more information, please visit ArtFixDaily 

Fundación MAPFRE, home of the largest collection of Graciela Iturbide works

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Launched nine years ago, Fundación MAPFRE’s photography collection is still in its early days. The remarkable series of photographs by Graciela Iturbide, however, not only constitutes one of the main features of this collection, it also aptly illustrates its ambition: to strive to fully represent artists included in the collection in order to get to know and understand their work as fully as possible.

"Famous for her vision of indigenous Mexican cultures, which marked her entrance into the world of photography, Graciela Iturbide considers her work as an ongoing process of vital exploration, since photographing is above all a pretext for expanding knowledge. Her journeys are an integral part of her research on identity; however, the power of her images does not depend on the exoticism of her world travel, but rather emanates from her exceptional ability to foreground aspects often absent from photographic representation, and which she manages to capture through a simple working method: by integrating into, and cohabiting with, the people she photographs."

Read the full write-up on loeildelaphotographie.com
For more images by Graciela Iturbide, visit her ARTIST PAGE.