From 16 October 2012 to 20 January 2013 Jeu de Paume was presenting photographs by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, father of modern Mexican photography. As the exhibition showed, the clichéd “Mexican Surrealist” label often applied to his work is far from doing justice to the strange and fascinating world conjured up by “Don Manuel.” The curators of this exhibition, Laura González Flores and Gerardo Mosquera, present a set of troubling, poetic images which turn out to be extremely restrained and carefully constructed pictures, characterised by a number of recurrent motifs (lying bodies, spare, geometrical settings, ambiguous objects, etc.). Is this formal perfectionism indicative of the cinematic imagination cultivated by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, making his images stills from some imaginary film, or are these images the syllables of a personal visual language?
“When talking about photography, how do we evoke the invisible and the unsayable? There is no longer any doubt that the magic, surreal quality attributed to the photography of Manual Álvarez Bravo is the result of a rhetorical construction, based on the counterpoint between what is seen in the image and what is not seen. It is in this sense that his work can be understood as a dialectics of vision: an imaginary filled with motifs in which there is a tension between what is shown and what is hidden.” (Laura González Flores in “Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Syllabes de lumière”)
Video Production Terra Luna Films © Jeu de Paume, 2014
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