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November 26, 2014
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Urban portrait: roaming America’s streets

Confiteria St. Moritz, Buenos Aires.
By Marjan Groothuis
For the Herald

Facundo de Zuviría blends poetry, contrast and geometry in stunning photo exhibition

Ciudades de América, an exhibition by photographer Facundo de Zuviría, is now on show at the Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Collection in Puerto Madero. The title refers to a project that Zuviría started in 2008, namely visiting and portraying emblematic cities on the American continent. The pictures he took during these travels were published in a number of books, a series known as Ciudades de América as well.

This exhibition, however, presents the best images and its curator, María Pimentel, deserves a compliment as it is nearly impeccable. The show has been divided into five sections, each highlighting another city with each introduced by a poetic text. Of course Borges and Cortázar were selected to introduce Buenos Aires.

De Zuviría is best known for his street photography. Some of his images of Buenos Aires have become classics by now, notably “small house near the highway.” In 2011, this particular picture was awarded the top prize at the National Salon. But there are many more examples, for example a view of Alem street with several business men and the image of a lone traveller at Retiro Station. Over time, de Zuviría has proven more than once that he is a photographer with a keen eye: while walking around the city any object and situation is valid. Dangling electricity cables, shop windows, women in (too) tight dresses, people walking their dogs, the melancholy of a rainy day in the city are just a few of the subjects he addresses.

Zuviría’s photographs go far beyond casual snapshots; there is poetry, contrast, details, colour, geometry, architecture and being on the right spot at the right time. He knows how to make the most of each occasion. And why limit this interest and talent only to Buenos Aires? There are so many cities in the American continent. Hence an ambitious plan came into being and De Zuviría started roaming the streets of other cities as well with a clear object in mind: capturing the spirit and the life of the cities he visited through photography. He started in Cartagena (Colombia), even meeting another De Zuviría there and finding out that they shared the same ancestor. Then he went to New York, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro and these cities, together with Buenos Aires, make up the Ciudades de América exhibition.

Still, his approach to every city is basically the same, but that is only to be expected and doesn’t really matter. On the contrary, his constant focus on details, geometry and architecture guarantee that he captures not only the idiosyncrasies but also the life of each city. The Cartagena pictures are imbued with the tropics, tranquillity reigns in Montevideo, sea, sand and a relaxed attitude about life are dominant in Rio de Janeiro, whereas in New York the skyline is omnipresent. No surprise there, also considering De Zuviría’s interest in architecture in general, but he is also aware of both the poetry and downside of the big apple. The image Dreams 99 cents is a good case in point. And then there is Buenos Aires: an ample panorama of this huge city ranging from typical confiterías to modern buildings and anything in between.

Of course, De Zuviría’s dream of portraying American cities is an ongoing project. So far, five have been extensively covered and next on his wish list are Valparaíso, Havana, Mexico City and Lima. We are already looking forward to seeing the results. What about another large show in a couple of years? In the meantime, it is possible to enjoy the presentation in the Fortabat Collection and if all else fails there are books as well.

Where and when

Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, Olga Cossettini 141. Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm to 8pm. Closed on Mondays. Admission fee: general admission 45 pesos; 20 pesos for students and seniors; 20 pesos general admission fee on Wednesdays. The exhibition Ciudades de América will be on display until June 29.

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