Throckmorton Fine Art is pleased to announce an important exhibition of photographs that span the past half century by the renown Mexican photographer, Graciela Iturbide.
Poignant images taken over a span of fifty years in Mexico are highlight of the exhibition. There is also an impressive collection of gelatin silver prints taken by Iturbide during long stays in India, Italy, the United States, Madagascar, and Spain. It is the deft juxtaposition of locations and subjects that makes Iturbide’s work so fascinating.
The eldest of 13 children born in 1942 in Mexico City to a traditional family, Iturbide got her first camera at age 11. She was inspired by the photographs her father had taken. Iturbide originally enrolled in film school at the Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónama de México, but was drawn to still photography when she met Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who was one of her teachers. Álvarez Bravo became her mentor and she assisted him on a number of photographic shoots throughout Mexico. Iturbide was viewed as the natural successor to Álvarez Bravo. It was B Álvarez Bravo who told her, “There is always time for the pictures you want.” His work influenced her until his death at age 100 in 2002.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, who Iturbide met on a trip to Europe, was another powerful mentor. Iturbide did not create surrealist photographs, but Cartier-Bresson’s published Mexican Notebooks presented a visual representation of Mexico that enthralled Iturbide. Iturbide was also influenced by Josef Koudelka of Czechoslovakia, and the American photographers Diane Arbus and William Eggleston.
Iturbide is well-known for her intimate studies of Mexican locales and native cultures, including for the strength of the photographs she created of the Seri Indians living near the Sea of Cortes. Iturbide is also recognized for the photographs displaying her reaction to the bleak landscapes she saw on an extended road trip through the American South. She also used her camera to capture contrasts in cultures as diverse as Italy, India and Madagascar.
We are delighted to be able to bring some of these less-familiar images to a new audience with this exhibition. With her focus on daily life and death, and the influence of women, Iturbide won followers by depicting identity, rituals, festivals and sexuality in an important fashion. She also captured differences between urban versus rural life, and indigenous versus modern life.
For many collectors, the Iturbide images that strike the strongest cord are her 1980s photographs of the powerful matriarchal aspects of the Juchitán culture in a remote southern Mexican region. Known to support the feminist movement, Iturbide drew strength from her long stays in the region between 1979-1988, where the composure and resolve of the dominant women inspired her. What links all of Iturbide’s images is her ability to enter into an intimate world where she captures the very essence of a person’s soul, or a landscape’s allure.
In Judith Keller’s essay for Graciela Iturbide’s Juchitán catalog Iturbide said, “I spent a lot of time at the public market, hanging out with these big, strong politicized, emancipated, wonderful women. It was a mythical place that had been visited by Cartier-Bresson, Eisenstein, Tina Modotti, Frida Kahlo, something I did not know when I was lucky enough to get a call in 1979 from Francisco Toledo who offered me the project.”
Iturbide’s two most well-known images depict indigenous Mexican women in 1979. The Juchitán image, “Nuestra señora de las iguanas, Juchitán,” (Our Lady of the Iguanas) is from her photo essay Juchitán of the Women (1979-86) and “Mujer ángel” (Angel Woman) is from the series about Mexico’s Seri Indian fishers living along the Arizona/Mexico border in the Sonora desert.
Graciela Iturbide’s photographs are on view at the Museum of Fine Art (Boston) through May 2 in a show curated by Kristen Gresh, GRACIELA ITURBIDE’S MEXICO. The accompanying book details Iturbide’s emergence as one of Latin America’s greatest living photographers. In Charlotte Jansen’s write-up in the British Journal of PhotographyIturbide says she avoids exoticizing her subjects because she seeks, through them, to understand a culture that is also her own. “I do not like Mexican stereotypes, but unfortunately many photographers who come from abroad and who have not understood my country fall into this error,” Iturbide says. “I have tried to live with the people of my country and get away from these stereotypes that hurt us.” Her approach to Mexico rails against the constructed perspectives of outsiders. “I have always said that my camera is a pretext to know the culture, its people, and the way of life,” she explains. “My photographs are not political or feminist but I am when I need to be.”
Graciela Iturbide’s works are in the permanent collections of many major museums around the world, and she has been awarded numerous honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has enjoyed solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou (1982), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1990), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), Paul Getty Museum (2007), MAPFRE Foundation, Madrid (2009), Photography Museum Winterthur (2009), and Barbican Art Gallery (2012). Iturbide is the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Foundation Award, 1987; the Grand Prize Mois de la Photo, Paris, 1988; a Guggenheim Fellowship for the project ‘Fiesta y Muerte,’ 1988; the Hugo Erfurth Award, Leverkusen, Germany, 1989; the International Grand Prize, Hokkaido, Japan, 1990; the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie Award, Arles, 1991; the Hasselblad Award, 2008; the National Prize of Sciences and Arts in Mexico City in 2008; an Honorary Degree in photography from the Columbia College Chicago in 2008; and an honorary doctorate of arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009.
Iturbide had three children with her architect husband, Manuel Rocha Diaz. When her daughter Claudia died at age six in 1970, Iturbide’s camera helped her get through the difficult period. She continues to live and work in Mexico City.
“Graciela Iturbide’s images allow you to enter into an intimate world where the very essence of a person’s soul, or a landscape’s allure, has a startling and tactile resonance.”– Spencer Throckmorton
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