“The pig is dead,” a guide explains to a couple viewing three towering digital prints at FIU’s Frost Art Museum while her voice reverberates across the cavernous high-ceiling salon.
The prints belong to Mexican photographer Kenia Narez’s Whims 8, 10 and 11, featuring an Alice in Wonderland look-a-like whose head is cut from view, suckling a piglet to her exposed breast. The girl coddles the piglet as a mother would a newborn, then a close up of the piglet from the girl’s point-of-view reveals details of the piglet’s face.
On the other side of the Frost Museum is a different sort of exhibition about Mexico.
Like the headless Winged Victory of Samothrace, wings flowing immovably on a marble platform of a staircase at the Louvre while his gaze is raised somberly toward an unseen horizon, Manuel Carrillo’s photograph of a Guanajuato Indígena (indigenous) from Santa Rosa, Mexico speaks of a bygone time resurfaced to the dim lights of this equally vibrant museum.
These wildly distinct exhibitions – Becoming Mexico and Possible Worlds – came to the light of day on Saturday, July 8, to the reception of journalists, writers, filmmakers, art lovers and FIU students. Black and white photographs taken in the 1950’s and ‘60s by the 49-year-old amateur Mexican photographer line the walls, telling a story about the nationalistic movement, Mexicanidad (Mexicanity), in post-Revolution Mexico.
“One of the things that I do like particularly about this exhibit is the scope of time,” James Couper, FIU’s first museum director, said. “It really does go back pretty far to the revolutionary guys, then and up to modern times now…so this was the perfect thing for me to see various attitudes and solutions that took place with the making of all these photographs.”
The exhibits embrace two polar approaches to Mexican photojournalism. One captures the daily lives of the marginalized, the peasantry, of a pre-globalized Mexico through the lens of a 1950’s camera.
The other exhibit uses a more modern medium in photojournalism– one with a touch of magical realism popularized by an artist with a different instrument, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and his mighty pen. Instead of words, these nine contemporary Mexican artists use photographs. Instead of a pen, they use a tool that can be equally as magical– Photoshop, among other digital tools.
Dr. Jordan Pomeroy, current director at the Frost Museum, reveals a bit of serendipity in the coming together of these displays.
“We knew we were going to exhibit Carrillo,” she said. “This comes from our collection – they have never been exhibited, at least not at the Frost Art Museum. They’ve been hidden in our storage. We decided, well, that would be interesting. Let’s expose him to the world, let’s bring Carrillo out.”
The Museum got involved with the Mexican Consulate and as it turned out, the Consulate was traveling to exhibitions of contemporary Mexican photography.
“We have the mid-century, we have contemporary black and white, color, Photoshopped, heavily fictionalized, so I call it like two parentheses, you have the open and the close parenthesis. It worked out very well,” Pomeroy said.
The words “Becoming Mexico” greet you warmly at the end of a short foyer on the second floor of the Frost, a quick, but discernable eye adjustment from the natural light abundant throughout the museum. Young Mexican filmmaker Cristian Proa, wearing suspenders and a white buttoned-down shirt, tells the story – in his native tongue – of how Carrillo wished to bring dignity to the ordinary, poor folk of Mexico.
“Today we will go on a journey to teach you those customs, those things that go beyond what is shown on the photographs and what Mexicans lived in those moments,” Proa said. “Today, we will go on a tour of that Mexico.”
Freedom from European influence and the legacy of colonialism was Carrillo’s aim with his photographs. He wanted to strip away all remnants of Europe and he took to secret locations around Mexico to capture the ‘campesinos’ (country folk) in their daily lives. Carrillo became friendly with them and often waited hours in one location for the right amount of light to snap the photos.
“Carrillo during this time elevates the peasant to a level of dignity and he wants to present them not as an oppressed or marginalized people, but also important,” Proa said. “Important and dignified.”
With Possible Worlds the artists – Mauricio Alejo, Ricardo Alzati, Katya Braylovsky, Alex Dorfsman, Daniela Edburg, Rubén Gutiérrez, Kenia Nárez, Fernando Montiel and Damián Siqueiros – reveal a surreal take on photojournalism. One of Edburg’s prints, taken in 1975 and titled Atomic Picnic, is an idyllic photo of a family having a lakefront picnic. A familiar mushroom cloud and the cataclysmic result of an atomic nucleus being ripped apart graces the background. The family looks on as one would a harmless spectacle.
Pomeroy discusses the artists and how long they’ve come to represent ‘Mexicanidad.’
“What I’d like to point out is, of course, it’s about contemporary Mexican photographers, but listen– art is global now, you know, they’re not, like, in Mexico all the time,” Pomeroy said. “These are artists who live. They travel elsewhere, so they’re being identified as Mexican, but they’re identifying as everybody else in the art world. They’re global. They have global interests and you see these connections with other photography from other countries, so it’s really not localized, it’s not regional anymore.”
Couper reveals the museum was barely the size of two living rooms when it first opened, located in a different part of a now unrecognizable campus. The 1947 film shown at the end of the Becoming Mexico tour, called La Perla directed by Emilio Fernandez, features a typical Mexican dance.
“It made me want to get up and dance! And I’m not a dancer,” Couper said.
Becoming Mexico is now open to the public and will be until September 17. Possible Worlds is also now open to the public until October 8. Admission to FIU’s Frost Art Museum is free and is accessible to all students. One is strongly encouraged to bring guests, friends, family, and dates. If hankering for a snack, there is a Vicky’s Bakery on the ground level of the Museum for a delicious coffee, pastry or snack and an art area designated for children or adults to draw, play and have a fun learning time.
Written by me, via PantherNOW. Original Link: