9 July – 2 October 2011
Pallant House Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of photographs by key Mexican artistic couple Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902–2002) and Lola Álvarez Bravo (1905–1993). The exhibition offers a significant glimpse of Mexico's cultural history and complements the major exhibition ‘Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Masterpieces from the Gelman Collection’ (until 2 Oct).
Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902-2002), ‘the poet of the lens' is regarded as one of the great photographers of the 20th century and the godfather of Latin- American modern photography. He was a child of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) and like many other artists promoted the ideals of equality, justice, modernity and the Mexican identity. His work captures the essence of Mexico and at the same time has a universal humane appeal.
Born in Mexico City, Bravo left school at the age of 12 to earn money for his family after his father's death. Both his grandfather and father were amateur photographers and awakened his interest in photography at an early age, later studying painting and music at the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico City. At that time Manuel's photographs were pictorial but the influence of Cubism, abstraction and Surrealism changed his work completely.
Later Manuel worked for the Muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera, who introduced him to the Italian film star, communist and photographer Tina Modotti. When Modotti was deported from Mexico in 1930 for alleged subversive political activities, she left Alvarez Bravo her camera and her job at the magazine ‘Mexican Folkways'. Between 1943 and 1959 he worked in the burgeoning Mexican film industry as a stills photographer and experimented with cinema.
In 1925 Manuel married Lola Alvarez Bravo (1907-1993) who learned photography from her husband and became a distinguished photographer in her own right. Later she ran her own gallery the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City. In 1953 she staged the first solo exhibition in Mexico of work by her friend Frida Kahlo.Lola Alvarez Bravo was born in a wealthy family in Jalisco, Mexico as Dolores Martinez de Anda. She moved to Mexico City where she met the young Manuel Alvarez Bravo, a neighbour. In 1925 they married and moved to Oaxaca where Manuel was an accountant for the federal government. Lola initially acted as Manuel's assistant but, after they separated in 1934, she kept his name and pursued her interest in photography.
Stubbornly independent, her camera became both her livelihood and her means of portraying what she explained as "the life I found before me." She travelled throughout Mexico photographing people in everyday circumstances with honesty and respect. Her assured formal aesthetic, which often bordered on the abstract, included strong compositional elements, crisp details, and the play of light and shadow on surfaces.
Lola Alvarez Bravo often eschewed posing subjects or staging situations. Instead, she moved amongst the people along cluttered streets, observing them at work, in the marketplace, and at leisure, waiting for opportunities to capture informal moments in carefully composed scenes. Her keen eye produced stirring and expressive images of Mexican life with a contemporary sensibility that places her among the renowned photographic interpreters of that country in the modern period.