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August 23, 2014
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LatAm urban chaos on spotlight in NY

From the series Sad Tropics by Argentine photographer Marcos López.
By Marjan Groothuis
For the Herald

Eleven Argentine artists featured in Urbes Mutantes exhibition

The International Centre of Photography in New York is now hosting Urbes Mutantes: Latin-American Photography 1944-2013. This show is a major survey of photographic movements in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.

Urbes Mutantes (Mutant Cities), as the title of the exhibition indicates, focuses mainly on the dynamic and occasionally chaotic Latin American cities. Street photography is the key word here and the show makes clear that streets can be, among other things, a platform for protest, urban identity and popular street culture, but also the public face of poverty.

As guest curator Alexis Fabris points out, “Images became as important as the stories covering the events that shaped these Latin American nations. In certain cases, politics and art were inseparable. As the 20th century progressed, amid struggles for social justice and in defence of democracy and freedom, the city became a setting for uprisings and revolutions.”

The exhibition comprises over 200 images by just under a hundred photographers. All works are part of the collection of Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski, one of the most extensive private archives of Latin American photography.

Argentina is very well represented in New York with eleven photographers, namely Marcelo Brodsky, León Ferrari, Eduardo Gil, Juan Travnik, Adriana Lestido, Eduardo Longoni, Marcos López, Jorge Macchi, Sameer Makarius, Oscar Pintor, Juan Travnik and Facundo de Zuviría. Most of them are present with several images; some of these have become iconic by now. Good examples would be Makarius’ images of Buenos Aires during the late 1950s, Lestido’s Marcha por la vida (1982), and Eduardo Longoni’s photographs of the Argentine military in 1981. But it is also nice to see early work of photographers like Facundo de Zuviría and Juan Travnik.

Also, from other Latin-American countries, lots of well-known photographers joined in like Alberto Korda from Cuba, Paz Errázuriz from Chile, Fernell Franco from Colombia, Graciela Iturbide and Yolanda Andrade from Mexico to name just a few. Together,these photographers tell us about the history, the making of and the incredible diversity of this region. There are no arbitrary distinctions between genres of photography and this adds to the depth and diversity of the many images on display. Of course, Urbes Mutantes does not provide and neither pretends to be an exhaustive overview of Latin America’s photographic traditions. After all, the spotlight is on urban centres. But this doesn’t matter, on the contrary.

This show is an excellent starting point to awaken interest in Latin American photography. It makes clear that there is so much of it, a treasure trove so rich and so varied just like the countries that make up this huge region. Let’s hope Urbes Mutantes is a breakthrough in this respect. The first signs are positive. The show is being very well received by the public whereas the press reviews, among others in the New York Times, have been very positive.

Urbes Mutantes will be on show until the 7th of September and is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue. It is a heavyweight in every sense of the word and was voted the best photography book during the 2013 edition of Photo España. For more information, please also check www.icp.org

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