This exhibition is designed as a simultaneous addendum to the major retrospective exhibition of Diego Rivera (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 - Mexico City, 1957) at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Among the set of selected photographs are portraits of the artist and his immediate environment, as well as of Mexican people and landscapes, home to one of the most famous muralists in the history of contemporary art.
Diego Rivera’s charisma and intense biography captivated many photographers who immortalised with their cameras the different eras and events of the artist's life. Thus through this photographic history you can see how Gisèle Freund portrays him on top of a scaffold with a friendly smile, wielding his palette, while Fritz Henle finds him sleeping in his garden, leaning on a stone wall, Peter Stackpole captures him calmly drawing and focused, and Emmy Lou Packard portrays him as a picture of loneliness and isolation. The photographs -some taken informally and others while he is posing- collect the painter’s environment and his peculiarities such as his palette; the figures of Judas in his study and his animals or the rooms of his house, all of which reveal Rivera’s fickle personality.
With an aim to portray Rivera‘s Mexico in this exhibition, four photographers have been chosen who were part of his circle: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Hugo Brehme, Edward Weston and Tina Modotti. The first, a compatriot of Rivera, investigates and defines wealth, scenarios and actual events of the inhabitants of Mexico. This photographer’s sensitivity does not look for the sentimental reasoning of the images, but prefers to make reflections on society through his sharp eye. A timeless calm emanates from his photographs which define and personalise his style.
Hugo Brehme, born in Germany, arrives in Mexico in 1905. Perhaps it is his foreign eye that reflects a much more romantic perspective of the country. His visual vocabulary and his pictorial approach, determined by his European learning, leads to a passionate, sentimental reaction to Mexico. His reverence for the magical forces clearly evident in the rural surroundings is revealed in panoramic and picturesque landscape compositions.
Edward Weston, a native of Chicago, lived the Mexican experience as something profoundly deep. A close friend of Rivera, both felt a mutual admiration and exchanged drawings and photographs. Some six hundred photographs of Mexico on various topics ranging from portraits and landscapes to folk art and still lifes are collected in this exhibition. His style avoids the picturesque and possesses a strong individual style; he confronts issues directly and is able to reflect the Mexican Renaissance environment through artists and intellectuals of the country's cultural revolution like few others can.
The circle of photographers chosen to bring their vision of Rivera’s surrounding is closed with Tina Modotti’s vision of Mexico which is conditioned by social and political consciousness, although her aesthetic style stems from Weston’s style. Her photographs embody a sensitivity to the person on the street and portray her work tools as symbolic objects. Through her camera the humility, simplicity, solitude and strength of the Mexican people shine, virtues that are also present in pieces by the Mexican muralist.
Detroit Institute of Arts, USA (February 10 - April 27, 1986); Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA (June 2 - August 10, 1986); Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (September 29, 1986 - January 4, 1987); Stäatliche Kunsthalle, Berlin (July 23 - September 15, 1987); Hayward Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, London (October 29, 1987 - January 10, 1988)