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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. 

ROSEGALLERY Featured Artist: Stéphanie Solinas

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Stéphanie Solinas, whose series Phénomènes was featured in our show Her First Meteorite, Volume 1, is ROSEGALLERY's featured artist for the month of December. The artist was recently interviewed by Hans Lucas with Findspire Studio at 2015's Rencontres d’Arles and featured on l'Oeil de la Photographie. In this clip, Solinas discusses her interest in using photography as a vehicle for uncovering the connection between an individual and their identity.

The original feature from l'Oeil de la Photographie, written by Wilfrid Estève, can be found here