Urban Impulses: Latin American Photography From 1959 To 2016
This exhibition of more than two hundred photographs by more than seventy photographers and artists in Latin America since 1959 is split into two chapters ‘Shouts’ and ‘Pop-ular’. It features works by well known photographers Alberto Korda, Graciela Iturbide, Sergio Larrain and many unknown photographers and artists.
Shouts’ is a collection of gritty journalistic style black and white photographs with a strong political bias. Violence and repression being the main theme. Many significant historical events that occurred in Latin America feature in the exhibition including the Cuban revolution, and troubles that occurred due to dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay. Kidnappings and forced disappearances that happened in some of these countries is explored in some of the work.
‘Pop-ular’ is a visual commentary on the rapid urbanisation of Latin America with much of the work echoing the pop-art movement of the United States. Tropes of the mass media and advertising feature heavily. The rise of consumer society in Latin America is explored and pictured in various ways and includes appropriated imagery.
After seeing the experiential presentation approaches of the TGP New Talent 19 on the fifth floor this show had a much more modernist/traditional feel about it. Most of the works were presented in a similar way. The majority of the prints were black and white and had white borders in black or white frames. Apart from a few colour prints and variation in sizes it all looked a bit similar. The imagery itself was interesting though, especially the ‘Pop-ular’ chapter. I have always been a fan of pop-art and much of the work was quirky and unusual. I particularly liked the quirkiness of Sebastián Mejia’s (b. 1982) ‘Quasi Oasis 17’ and the weirdness of Juan Enrique Bedoya’s (b. 1966) ‘Portraits series’. Mejía was clearly inspired by the New Topographics and possibly Ed Rushcha. Bedoya’s portraits brought to mind Diane Arbus and her quest for strangeness. Helen Zout (b. 1957) is another photographer in the exhibition whose work echoed Arbus. Her photograph ‘Hairdressers, La Plata, 1985’ not only resembles Arbus but also documents workers in Argentina during a time of unrest in the country.
I found this exhibition to be a bit of a mixed bag. I liked some bits but I found the overtly political emphasis of a lot of the work became a bit too much at times. I enjoyed the photographs as much for their historical angle as I did for their artistic representations. It was great to see work by a diverse group of Latin American photographers and artists many of them relatively unknown. Together with the TGP New Talent 19 exhibition upstairs these two shows proved for a highly enjoyable and stimulating afternoon.
How will this exhibition affect my practice:
The photography in this exhibition is quite different from mine in terms of concept and capture. The images are more about movement and captured fleeting moments. My work on the other hand is about revisiting places where a violent event happened in the past. My pictures are still and brooding. They invite thoughtful contemplation of a past event. This difference in concept leads to differing approaches when showing the work. My prints will better communicate my work made using the genre of ‘late photographg’ by being bigger and with more concise titles shown in a more prominent way.
I don’t feel like this exhibition gave me many ideas for my own show although it has made me think more about mixing colour and black and white prints in my display. I am not keen on having white borders on my prints and instead I am strongly considering making large prints without frames mounted on board of some description. This will allow me to maximise the size of my images and let the audience glean more details and visual information from them. I was impressed by the free handout that came with the Urban Impulses exhibition. This has sparked some ideas of my own. I am certain that I will make a handout of some description. It will include the prints in my show, their titles and other information. I feel that as an artist the handouts made available at the Photographers Gallery add to a better understanding of the work and increased enjoyment of the show itself.