press release

This exhibition celebrates Manuel Álvarez Bravo (b. 1902), the Mexican artist long hailed as one of the great masters of 20th-century photography. For more than eight decades, his life and work have paralleled radical social and political changes in 20th-century Mexico. Part of a generation of artists with direct ties to the avant-garde movement in Mexico during the 1920s and 1930s, he has continued to make insightful and socially relevant photographs that interpret the complexities of modern Mexican culture. Organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, this exhibition of more than 100 photographs traces Álvarez Bravo's evolution as an artist, from his early pictorialist-inspired beginnings to his refined formalist style and his later, emotion-driven imagery. Also included are photographs by his contemporaries Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, and Paul Strand, all of whom worked in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s.

Álvarez Bravo's work reflects the radical changes of the era, both illustrating the passage of time and capturing unexpected moments of everyday life in Mexico. In the photographs of the 1930s and 1940s for which he is best known, he framed the disparity of urban and rural realities into a poetic vision of his native culture and its contradictions. Fascinated by the street scenes, signs, vendors, and storefronts of Mexico City, he also traveled throughout the countryside documenting customs, festivities, and folklore. His photographs examining people, animals, and their surroundings, and such details as burial sites, walls, and roadside shrines often question perceptions of reality. Other stirring works explore the surrealist themes of sleep, dreams, death, and the erotic.

An intellectual and philosopher, Álvarez Bravo demonstrates a remarkable ability to create photographs that blend social consciousness with poetic imagery. By drawing the act of viewing into his work, he creates an extended meditation on the nature of photography itself. He presents a concise vision of Mexico as a literal and symbolic landscape of subjects detained in dream-world tableaux of longing, solitude, candor, and foreboding.

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Paul Strand