‘Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico’
“Consider the chickens, roosting at a vendor’s feet as he reads the daily news; or a semi-circle of women clutching freshly plucked carcasses—wings outspread, headless, then bundled and hung. In the photography of Graciela Iturbide,” writes Christopher Alessandrini, “animals appear in various stages of preparation: walleyed fish dangle in pairs; severed goats’ legs herringbone across a spread of drying mats. Iguanas wreathed around a woman’s stoic face—like tentacles, or the rays of an aureole—are destined for soup. The woman in this final, famous image, Our Lady of the Iguanas (1979), is Zobeida Díaz, a vendor in the Oaxacan town of Juchitán, vaulted from the market’s everyday bustle into the realm of myth.
“In “Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico”—a magnificent exhibition of approximately 125 gelatin silver prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—five decades of an extraordinary visual intelligence are on display. Winner of the Hasselblad Award (2008) and Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), Iturbide has exhibited internationally for most of her career, but this is her first solo museum show on the East Coast since a modest traveling retrospective opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1998. Curated by Kristen Gresh in close collaboration with Iturbide, the show celebrates the museum’s recent acquisition of thirty-seven photographs, including two gifts from the artist. It is an overdue reintroduction to one of the world’s great photographers.
“The dark ballast of Iturbide’s photography is a deep knowledge of predation: how humans prey on animals; how multinational corporations subsume developing economies; how modern industry exploits a largely indigenous underclass; how artists wrangle life from their subjects in the name of creation. In one haunting early photograph, a young Cuna woman walks through an open field in Panama, Pepsi-Cola’s logo embroidered on her shirt. The pernicious creep of capitalism, yes, but also its corollary: a vivid reminder that indigenous people, often relegated to an imagined antiquity, are full participants in contemporary life.”
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