Filtering by Category: Spotlight Series

Spotlight Series: Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

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 How did we allow that to happen?  Who are we? 
Who have we become?

- Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

It has been three years since 43 students from a rural teaching college in Ayotzinapa disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, as they were on their way to Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 Tlateloco Massacre. Ever since the morning that photographer Pablo Ortiz Monasterio read the news of the abduction, he has been in shock and has wondered how he could keep the memory of these 43 students and work towards a world in which an event like this could never happen again. The shock of this tragedy and the evident complicity of authorities in the students’ disappearance has made Monasterio question who we are and how we got to this point. In Monasterio’s recent series Desaparecen? the artist delved into this tragedy and shone a light on the mark left on Mexico by the 43 missing students. 

Pablo Ortiz Monasterio,  Untitled , from the series  Desaparecen?

Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Untitled, from the series Desaparecen?

When thinking of how to help preserve the memory of the 43 students, Pablo said, “I decided to use the tools I have in terms of conveying ideas through photography to talk about this.” With photographs that he had already taken, Monasterio searched for images that conveyed the pain, sorrow and anger that was felt throughout Mexico, hoping to find the emotions existing in the subtext of his photographs. 

When working with his photographs he came across an image with a glass tabletop tied to large green slabs of wood. The lines moving across the composition reminded him of the notebooks with printed green lines from when he was in a young student in school. Just as he would write across these lines as a student, he began writing the numbers counting up to 43 across the photograph - each number representing an Ayotzinapa student who was abducted and disappeared in September of 2014.


With this method in mind, Monasterio began to write 1 through 43 across many of his photographs, embedding their mark in the visual landscape while showing that the tragedy of Ayotzinapa exists within a wider context. 

Pablo Ortiz Monasterio,  Untitled , from the series  Desaparecen?

Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Untitled, from the series Desaparecen?

With the photographs from the series, Monasterio created a book as well as a portfolio of prints. With the portfolio, Monasterio is able to subsidize his book, which is sold at an affordable price so that memory of the 43 students can reach as wide an audience as possible. 

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. 

Spotlight Series: Jo Ann Callis

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“I remember parting her hair and carefully drawing the black line from the top of her head down to her waist in one gesture. I was thinking about what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of that drawn line. It might give a pleasant little chill up the spine and visually it left the door open to interpretation.”

A thin, black line runs down a woman’s pale back, beginning in a mass of blonde hair, at the point where the head curves coyly away from sight. Jo Ann Callis created the composition as part of a body of work exploring and expanding the notion of fetish. Evoking a sensory response, the woman’s back tenses with the texture of the bones visible beneath. The delicateness of the uncovered back evokes an even stronger sense of intimacy when the eye slowly moves down the thin line. When Callis drew the line down her back, she thought not only of the image, but also of the subject’s experience, thinking of what kind of sensations arise with the touch of the pen’s smooth gesture moving down the naked back. 

Jo Ann Callis,  Woman with Blond Hair, 1977

Jo Ann Callis, Woman with Blond Hair, 1977

In both the hair and the line running down the back, the sense of splitting is omnipresent. The slit, suggestive in its form, insinuates what lays just below the frame of the composition. Insinuating a strong sense of sexual intimacy, Woman with Blond Hair, 1977 evokes the fascination of fetish through what is both visually present and implied.

Spotlight Series: Joachim Schulz

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I BELIEVE THAT HER HEART BELONGS TO ROTHKO."                                    - Joachim Schulz - 

Joachim Schulz’s series Her Heart Belongs to Rothko arose from the experimentation with the artist's Polaroid Colorpack 80, which preferred the abstract shapes and colors akin to a Rothko painting over the representation of our seen reality. Over the course of half a year, Schulz found that his polaroid camera — a small, plastic camera that has been in his family since he was a child — began to gradually manipulate the film inside of it, scratching away the emulsion with each new attempt to take a photograph until, as Schulz observed, “step by step, the camera refused to write exact copies of reality.” Excited with the camera’s own interpretations, Schulz continued producing works with the polaroid, allowing each new abstraction to emerge from the body of the camera. 

Her Heart Belongs to Rothko, Tripticon 1, Polaroid, Polaroid Back, and Polaroid Transfer,  1997

Her Heart Belongs to Rothko, Tripticon 1, Polaroid, Polaroid Back, and Polaroid Transfer, 1997

The interplay between painting and photography runs deeply through each work as the chemical process takes over and the images strongly reference Rothko. As the camera processes the film in its own unusual ways, the series focuses more upon the final picture and its abstract beauty rather than notion of producing a typical, representational photograph. Transferring the polaroids to hand-made paper, Schulz further blurs and broadens the definition of the photographic genre.

Even when the lens was shut, the squared layers of blues, yellows, reds and greens emerged from the darkness of the Polaroid’s body, producing abstract configurations in the same nebulous impression of a Rothko. 

Spotlight Series: Misha de Ridder

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In the morning mist, light shines through the water particles, dispersing the spectrum of light throughout the atmosphere. Within this strange, ubiquitous light, Misha de Ridder sets up his 4 x 5 camera atop a cliff in Normandy in the town of Ault, looking down upon a vast seascape where a harbor and parts of Ault once flourished in the sixteen hundreds before a storm washed them away. The cliffs that de Ridder both photographs and stands upon are in constant collapse, losing about a meter each year to the sea, whose tides rise and fall, slowly consuming the cliffside. De Ridder ventures into this environment, setting up his large format camera on the top and at the base of the cliff, photographing in the short four hours before the Atlantic rises and covers the tide pools beneath him. 

Ault III, 2016

Ault III, 2016

Within this seascape, the feeling of interconnectedness with the enormity of one’s natural surroundings arises in the depth and enigma of the image. The chalk of the cliff face leaves a whiteness on the surface of the water, which echoes the horizon beyond. The experience of looking into de Ridder’s seascapes and cliff faces involves the perception only acquired through intimate and lengthened looking, the kind of perception that de Ridder describes as “the cutting edge where you and reality meet.”

Caught on one of de Ridder’s last slides of Kodak’s E100G film, which was discontinued in 2012, the film captures the colors in “the camera’s own reality,” as de Ridder describes it. The present photographs are direct translations of the slide with no intermediary changes, so that the photographs of these spaces directly capture the colors of reality. Although the colors reflect reality, de Ridder hopes to capture the essence of a space, which in this moment meant waiting an hour for the seagulls to fly away and out of the composition of Ault III

Falaise III, 2016

Falaise III, 2016

Misha de Ridder’s work engages with the experience of beauty through the enormity yet soft vulnerability of the waves and chalky cliffside. Expressed in this ubiquitous light and mediated through the water and air, the eyes and mind drift further and further into the image, visually engaging with the continually transforming environment where the cliffside and sea meet in Ault. 

Misha de Ridder’s Ault III, currently on display in REFERENCE, is the first work to be featured in ROSEGALLERY’s Spotlight Series.