Drawn from SBMA’s Permanent Collection, Exhibition Features Photographers from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico
Selected from the permanent collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), the 47 works in Looking In, Looking Out: Latin American Photography explore various aspects of Latin American history and culture. Representing works produced after the 1930s by artists and photographers living and working in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, and other nations, the exhibition highlights the wide-ranging landscapes of these regions, while also documenting many of the societal changes that have occurred from the 1930s to the present. This also is the final exhibition that Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography, organized before her passing on July 28. The photographs featured in the exhibition serve not as a comprehensive or definitive examination, but as selective and intimate introductions to Latin American points of view, revealing commonalities as well as diversities in cultural identity and daily life. The subject matter of these works, ranging from indigenous populations, internal conflicts, and a wide variety of circumstances, together form an important part of the SBMA photography collection. On view simultaneously for the first time, these works pose the possibility of an overarching unity, while at the same time resolutely acknowledging the sheer breadth the denomination Latin American photography must be tasked to represent.
Photographic giants like Raúl Corrales (1925–2006) and Alberto Korda (1928–2001), and those who followed, documented and promoted the dramatic upheaval, humanity, and promise of the Cuban revolution. Corrales’s faceless, regimented soldiers in White Hats, Havana (1960) strikingly represent the unity and strength of the Cuban people. Korda, however, created powerful images of iconic moments to strengthen the leaders of the revolution. In his image Don Quixote of the Lamppost (1959, printed 1998), a sea of people eagerly anticipates a speech by Fidel Castro, demonstrating the then-young leader’s ability to captivate his audience.
Mario Algaze (b. 1947), exiled from Cuba in the 1960s, continues to seek out cultural experiences that remind him of his home country as he travels throughout the Americas. His images of Guatemala, Argentina, and Costa Rica capture longstanding traditions still present in contemporary society. As he bears witness to social customs familiar across Latin America, he recreates a nostalgic vision of his former homeland.
Mexican photographer Eniac Martínez (b. 1959) moves both within and beyond his home country to capture the plight of the Mixtec people of Oaxaca, Mexico, as they migrate to the United States, as illustrated in Herbal Medicine Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico (1988). Rodrigo Moya (b. 1934) continues in the tradition of gelatin silver print documentary-style photography and the populist aesthetic with his images of hardworking individuals. He reveals the individualism and character of his subjects by portraying the determination of hardened Venezuelan guerrilla soldiers in Guerrillas in the Mist, Sierra Falcón, Venezuela (1965, printed 2010).
Contemporary Mexican photographer Alejandro Cartagena (b. 1977) investigates urban growth and development with continued attention to the experiences of working-class individuals but through new perspectives. From a high vantage point he studies one aspect of the recent rise of construction projects in Monterrey, Mexico, in Car Poolers 20 (2012), a colorful image of the workers’ daily highway commute. The identical rows of homes of his Fragmented Cities, Escobedo (2008) built as a result of the housing boom, encroach on the mountainside, creating a new landscape for Mexico in the 21st century. Guatemalan photographer Luis González Palma (b. 1957) innovatively hand-paints the traditional gelatin silver print with black bitumen and sepia tints, rendering the images pieced together in Lottery #1 (1989–91) with an antiqued aesthetic―a reference to the 19th-century photographic processes used to exoticize portraits of native Guatemalans. Palma problematizes this historic characterization and instead merges Guatemalan history, traditions, artifacts, and mysticism with his contemporary indigenous subjects. Evolving over the last century, the committed artists in each country have individually shaped the photographic images of Latin America while sharing an aesthetic for the common people. As the countries of the region experience dramatic changes, photography remains a vital vein that runs throughout them, connecting their inhabitants across borders and cultures. Celebrated here for its historical importance, photography continues to be a means of documenting life within the region. This exhibition and accompanying catalogue provide a selection of thoughtprovoking images that by no means completely articulates the splendor and dynamism of the countries, but highlights the photographers who capture both the unique and widely varied tapestry that is Latin America.
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About Santa Barbara Museum of Art
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a privately funded, not-for-profit institution that presents internationally recognized collections and exhibitions and a broad array of cultural and educational activities as well as travel opportunities around the world.