Our beautiful city of Oaxaca is often taken in via the viewfinder of a camera. Whether you are working with a pro set-up, a selfie stick or a high flying drone, Oaxaca is a willing model and always puts its best face forward for photographers. Oaxaca also has a rich history with photography that goes back way before #oaxacademisamores and the must-take photo in the organ cactus walkway of the Ethnobotanical Garden. A monumental moment in the history of Oaxacan photography was the opening of the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Alvarez Bravo in 1996. Amidst the 20th anniversary celebrations of the renowned institution, the photographic community in Oaxaca has hit another milestone with the first iteration of Fotoax: International Encounter of Photography. Running from July 30th to August 6th, Fotoax culled together an ambitious eight day program of conferences, workshops, artist presentations and exhibitions, including the second Biennial of Photography Oaxaca.
Fotoax 2016 has come to a close, but photography lovers can still visit the many exhibitions on view throughout the city until the end of the month. See the full list of photographic exhibitions below, as well as my personal notes on just a few of the offerings.
This second edition of the Biennial of Photography Oaxaca offers a look into what emerging photographers throughout the country are focusing their lenses on. The work of the 17 photographers -selected out of 350 submissions to the biennial- ranges from powerful, black and white documentary projects examining anarchist protest tactics in Brazil, life in the circus and the endemic sports of Oaxaca, to more conceptual projects considering commonalities in vernacular photography motifs, iconography in the visual arts and the photographic medium’s relationship to the idea of reality.
Aaron Cadena Ovalle was named the winner of the BFO2016 for his project “Black Bloc: Estética de la NO Violencia”. Honorary mentions were given to Lucía Castañeda Garma for her project “Copina doméstica”, Juan Cardona Medina for his project “Circo” and Pedro Solano de la Rosa for his project “Tránsito”.
The biennial is on view at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo through August 30th.
M. Bravo #116, at the corner with García Vigil, Historic Center
Mon, Wed-Sun, 9:30am – 8pm
Gerardo Montiel Klint’s exhibition Monstruo confronts the viewer’s notion of nostalgia. The photographic works show lonely seashores and unfazed piers standing stoically amongst the waves of an uninviting ocean, deserted landscapes, skulls of unidentifiable animals, an anonymous hooded man and larger than life portraits of beautiful women baring ambiguous expressions. They are accompanied by an array of objects akin to the treasures one might find in an unearthed time capsule; meaningless mementos to the unknowing observer but relics rich with memory for he who has kept them safe all this time.
As you walk through Montiel Klint’s multi-faceted maze of memory jogging images and objects, there is an unidentifiable moment when the heavy weight of nostalgia lifts and the artist seems to surrender to whatever monsters he is confronting. The melodic motion of undulating breakwater plays in a loop, projected over the entirety of the gallery’s far wall. Whether the waters are washing away the artist’s sins or dragging him out to sea, it seems serenity awaits him if he can succumb to the struggle — if you let go you may just realize that even monsters can float.
Monstruo is on view at the Casa de la Ciudad until September 4th.
Porfirio Díaz #115, at the corner of Morelos, Historic Center
Mon – Sun, 9am – 8pm
The two person show currently on view at Bodega Quetzalli brings together Nicola Lorusso’s explorations of the Mexican desert after nightfall and Zaida Kersten’s intimate look at her own encounter with illness.
If it were not for the title “Desiertos” there are few photos in this body of work that place you knowingly in the desert. Lorusso photographs the desertscape in its all-consuming darkness. By shining a spotlight on the barren landscape that stretches before his lens, the sparse desert flora and the patterns which emerge in the arid abyss of sand stand out against the intense blackness which is undoubtedly the star subject. These photographs confuse the senses and leave the viewer lost in the dark unknown. Save for the telltale title and a few visual indications, these images could have been made in the deepest depths of the sea or on the surface of Mars.
The small-scale, mixed-media photographic works that comprise “Virus” reflect the state of despair in which the artist found herself upon receiving a troubling diagnosis. The atmospheric quality of Zaida Kersten’s images share a strong affinity with the work of the late photographer Francesca Woodman. It seems there has come to exist an inherent aesthetic of anguish and seclusion. Kersten’s photographs, like those of her predecessor, almost romanticize sentiments of solitude, isolation and fear.
As you walk through the vast, white box that is Bodega Quetzalli, the photographs that make up the two distinct bodies of work dot the walls in a very unimposing manner; the gallery itself practically overwhelms both the work and the viewer, reinforcing the sensations of desolation and emptiness that run deep in Lorusso and Kersten’s work.
Desierto and Virus are currently on view at Bodega Quetzalli.
Murgía #400-B, Historic Center
Mon-Sat, 10am – 2pm, 5pm – 8pm
FOTOGRAFIA INTERVENIDA: INTERSECCIONES: FOTOGRAFIA + TEXTILE
Constitución #100A, Jardín El Pañuelito, Historic Center
Mon-Sat, 11am – 2pm, 5.30pm – 8pm
HABITAT – JALIL OLMEDO
Constitución #213, Historic Center
Mon – Sat, 4pm – 9pm
EXTENSION TIME – HUGO CANSECO and LUIS CANSECO
Cordoba Galería + Lab
M. Bravo #313, Historic Center
Mon – Sat, 10am – 8pm
MIRADA Y TESTIMONIO – PEDRO VALTIERRA
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca
Macedonia Alcalá #202, Historic Center
Mon, Weds – Sun, 10:30am – 8pm
LA CAJA DE PANDORA: FOTOGRAFIAS DE LA FOTOTECA NACIONAL DEL INAH Y ARCHIVO DEL CFMAB and
CONSAGRADAS – MARCELA TABOADA
Centro Cultural Santo Domingo
Macedonia Alcalá, connected to Santo Domingo Church
Tue – Sun, 10am – 6.30pm
MIGRANTE – COLECTIVO BINNIGULASA
Galería Rufino Tamayo, Casa de Cultura Oaxaqueña
González Ortega #403, Historic Center
Mon – Sat, 9:00am – 8pm
FOTOGRAFIAS DE LA COLECCION TOLEDO/INBA and HUAJES EN OAXACA – CECILIA SALCEDO
Centro de las Artes de San Agustín
Independencia s/n, Vista Hermosa, San Agustín Etla
Mon – Sun, 9am – 6pm