Princeton University Art Museum Exhibition Explores the Movement of Photography Across Place and Time

  • PRINCETON, New Jersey
  • /
  • August 22, 2013

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Graciela Iturbide, Mujer Angel, Desierto de Sonora, México (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico), 1979, printed later. Gelatin silver print.
© Graciela Iturbide

The Itinerant Languages of Photography includes images never before exhibited in the U.S. from archives in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain.

PRINCETON, NJ--From its inception, photography has been about the incessant circulation and exchange of images. The meaning and cultural relevance of a photographic image thus changes constantly. Through 85 photographs from public and private collections in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the United States, The ItinerantLanguages of Photography explores the movement of photographs across time and place, offering a transnational history of photography that draws new attention to the work of both well-known masters and more emerging figures.

      On view at the Princeton University Art Museum Sept. 7, 2013, through Jan. 19, 2014, The ItinerantLanguages of Photography investigates photographs as continually shifting records of culture, history and meaning from the medium’s origins in the nineteenth century to its conceptualist manifestations in the present day. The exhibition features artists such as Manuel and Lola Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Joan Colom, Graciela Iturbide, Susan Meiselas, Marcelo Brodsky, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio and Joan Fontcuberta.

     “In our own age of perpetual digital photographic production, dissemination and consumption, re-examining the ways it which photographic images have been globally transmitted and translated offers crucial insights,” said Princeton University Art Museum Director James Steward. “This exhibition asks us to consider the photograph as an object of constantly changing contexts and meanings, subject to continual re-animation and yet capable of shaping our shared memories and experiences.”

     The exhibition takes its point of departure from the idea that photography, as a set of different practices and technologies, resists being fixed in place—that the photograph assumes its full meaning only after it has been reproduced and displaced. Tracing historical forms of traffic and displacement in photography over time, the exhibition is divided into four sections, each of which considers a different aspect of photographic movement.

     “The Itinerant Image” presents a selection of images that Emperor Dom Pedro II (1825–1891), the second and last ruler of the Empire of Brazil, donated to the National Library of Brazil. An early photography enthusiast, the emperor supported more than two dozen photographers and collected widely on his trips abroad. This section also features images from the Instituto Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro, including Revert Klumb’s images of the imperial city of Petrópolis and Marc Ferrez’s photographs of the development of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian landscape. Photography was instrumental in the creation of a set of images that helped define modern Brazil as a tropical land­scape and a multiethnic society. It served to represent its nature and its peoples, and it also offered a visual narrative of national modernization through images of new buildings and roads, public parks and busy ports.

     With works from Princeton, the Sistema Nacional de Fototecas in Mexico and from modern and contemporary Mexican photographers, “Itinerant Revolutions” presents iconic images of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920, images that circulated broadly and inexpensively through the press or as postcards. At the same time, photography was becoming a site for both political thought and formal experimentation. Images by renowned Mexican photographers and art photographers who traveled to Mexico—such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tina Modotti and Paul Strand—transformed photography by creating a transnational visual avant-garde that focused on Mexico’s local cultures and its contradictory modernity.

     “Itinerant Subjects” profiles street photographers from Spain and Latin America who sought to capture the movement, energy, and modernization of cities as well as to develop photography as a political instrument by experimenting with composition, repetition, and narrative. Pedestrians, streetwalkers, guerrilla fighters and even shadows are the moving targets of the expressionist attention of masters of street photography such as the Catalonian Joan Colom or the Mexican Nacho López.

     The final section—“Itinerant Archives”—focuses on photography’s translation into other media in our own time, examining the properties of photography itself and the relationship between historical and contemporary photographic technologies. Highlights include a screening of Marcelo Brodsky’s Visual Correspondences, a multimedia series of collaborations that he initiated with five international artists, and conceptualist works by RES, Cássio Vasconcellos and Rosângela Rennó.

     Co-curated by Princeton University professors Eduardo Cadava (Department of English, Program in Media and Modernity, Program in Latin American Studies) and Gabriela Nouzeilles (Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures, Program in Latin American Studies), the exhibition is the culmination of a three-year interdisciplinary project sponsored by the Princeton Council for International Teaching and Research and is a collaboration between the Princeton University Art Museum, the Fundación Foto Colectania in Barcelona, the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil (the collection of the former emperor of Brazil) in Rio de Janeiro, the Instituto Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro and the Fototeca Nacional del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico City.

     A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with essays by the co-curators, as well as contributions by artist, essayist and curator Joan Fontcuberta; Valeria González, an independent scholar and curator based in Argentina; Thomas Keenan, associate professor of comparative literature and director of the Human Rights Project at Bard College; Mauricio Lissovsky, associate professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; and John Mraz, research professor at the University of Puebla in Mexico.

About the Princeton University Art Museum

Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country. From the founding gift of a collection of porcelain and pottery, the collections have grown to more than 80,000 works of art that range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States and Latin America.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. The Museum is intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, offering a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.

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