Couturier Gallery is pleased to present FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING, an exhibition of photographic works by ten artists from various parts of Latin America whose works utilize ideas surrounding the human figure, poetics and politics that revolve around, or emanate from form. The works on view were produced between 1959 and 2009 by the following artists: Ivan Cañas, Raúl Corrales, José A. Figueroa, José M. Fors, Aimée García, Alberto Korda, Cirenaica Moreira, René Peña, Victor Vázquez, and Marcos Zimmermann. The exhibition runs from November 18th through December 23rd, 2017. The public reception will be held on Saturday, December 2nd, from 2:00 – 5:00pm.
Figuratively Speaking navigates through a pictorial passage of how the human form, the cultural and the politicized body are discussed and represented. Earlier generations of artists represented here make use of traditional, formal documentary approaches, with great ideological purpose, even when a particular form is abstracted, or becomes a stand-in for a thing outside of itself. Alberto Korda’s El Quijote de la Farola, 1959, for example, stages a lone figure seated atop a lamp post against an ocean of celebratory bodies paving the Havana streets of Revolution Square below on the July 26th celebration of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. On one hand the depicted figure is just a documented figure, much like the rest of the figures in the image – gazed at by Korda from a related vantage point. Secondarily, however, the figure sits solitarily, romantic and unattainable, but also in solidarity with the one million citizens in attendance of Fidel Castro’s first speech to the people of Cuba. “Quijote of the Lamppost” would become a symbol of the beginning of the Revolution.
Artists represented from the later generations, such as García, Moreira, and Peña, depart from this ostensibly more literal use of image production, adopting playful and self-reflective uses of the figure as a site for political observation, contemplation, and ultimately, discussion. Aimée García’s, Concavo, 2004, stages a lone figure against a solid, monochromatic backdrop. The
pictured figure’s face is masked with a painted facsimile of the artist’s face, which is partially
covered by both of the sitter’s hands holding a kind of lens, or magnifying loupe to the eye, as
if to use as a monocle. A meta relationship is forged between the lineages of portraiture in the history of painting and in photography. In this instance, however, the distinguishment of the one doing the looking and the one being looked at is blurred. Images like these have more to do with the politics of representation itself. In both cases, the use of metaphor and poetics are employed to converse about particular aspects of the human condition, regardless of generation.
As responses throughout history to different cultural needs modify and evolve, so does the artist’s relationship to represention and depiction of the figure. Relationships to naturalism versus abstraction, the concrete universe versus the symbolic tend to ebb and flow with time, and periodically blur in the middle. Such relationships correspond to varying political conditions and cultural relationships, in addition to differing spiritualities and philosophies of the time. Figuratively Speaking looks at a particular slice of this philosophical transition made physical, creating relationships between otherwise diverse practices and uses of material.
Ivan Cañas (Cuba, 1946) is a photojournalist who has chronicled aspects of daily life in Cuba. The Centenarians (1969), depicts men of Havana, over the age of one hundred. Cañas has exhibited internationally and has work in the collections of Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana, Cuba, The Center for Cuban Studies, New York, U.S.A., Consejo Mexicano de Fotografía, Mexico City, Mexico, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, and Galería Alcarame, Beirut, Lebanon.
Raúl Corrales (Cuba, 1925-2006) was a photographer for the Pardito Socialista Popular’s newspaper, and then eventually, one of Fidel Castro’s official photographers. Corrales’ work has been exhibited internationally, and is in the collections of Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana, Cuba, Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione, Universidate de Parma, Italy, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba, Ministerio de Cultura, Managua, Nicaragua, and Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA., U.S.A.
Jose A. Figueroa (Cuba, 1946) learned photography as a lab assistant to Korda Studios, and was part of the “transitional generation” following the Cuban Revolution. The works selected for this exhibition deal with the human form in its reproduction and dissemination. Figueroa’s work has been exhibited internationally and is found in the collections of Arki Busson Foundation, Londres/Zürich, Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana, Cuba, Casa de Las Américas, Havana, Cuba, El Museo del Barrio, Nueva York, U.S.A., Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba, Galleria IF, Milán, Italia, Maison de la Culture, La Seine Saint-Dennis, París, France, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, and Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A.
Jose M. Fors (Cuba, 1956) is best known for photomontage, photo collages, and collections that describe memories of families and personal traditions. The bundled groups of vintage photographs selected for this exhibition evoke the operations of memory in their instances of totality and in fragmentation. Fors’ work has been exhibited internationally and is found in the collections of Casa de Las Américas, Havana, Cuba, Fototeca de Pachuca, Pachuca, México, Fundación Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A., Museo Las Américas, Managua, Nicaragua, and Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA, Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A., and the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, CA.
Aimée García (Cuba, 1972) works in painting, photography, and plural media, often employing symbolic usages of image and material, while using her own body as a conduit for cultural reflection. Garcia’s work is shown internationally, and can be found in the collections of Arizona State University, ASU Art Museum, Tempe, AZ, U.S.A., Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, U.S.A., Museum of Finest Cuban Arts, MOFCA, Vienna, Austria, and the University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville, VA. U.S.A.
Alberto Korda (Cuba, 1928-2001) was a commercial photographer who would eventually earn a reputation as an official photographer of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Many of Korda’s individual images made during the Revolution became emplamatic of the Revolution itself. Korda’s work has been exhibited internationally and is found in the collections of Biblioteca Nacional “José Martí”, Havana, Cuba, Casa de las Américas, La Havana, Cuba, Center for Cuban Studies, N.Y., U.S.A., Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione, Universidad de Parma, Parma, Italy, Galleria IF, Milán, Italy, Maison de la Culture de la Sein Saint Dennis, Paris, France, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba.
Cirenaica Moreira (Cuba, 1969) approaches photography as an extension of theater; staging particular atmospheres with the use of costume, locations, and props that elicit somewhat ambiguous qualities of time and geography. Moreira’s work has been exhibited internationally and is found in the collections of Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana, Cuba, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba, Le Filles du Calvaire Gallerie, Paris, France, Foto-Fest, Houston, Texas, U.S.A., and Art Museum, University of Virginia, U.S.A.
René Peña (Cuba, 1957) uses the camera to stage theatrical scenes where the body is abstracted through point-of-view, props, and/or lighting. The images used in this exhibition draw out associations that connect costuming and the racialized artist’s body. Peña’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Havana, Cuba, Galerìa Habana, Havana, Cuba, Archivo Fotográfico Toscano. Ltalia, Southeast Museum of Photography Daytona, USA, Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Houston, U.S.A., Beatrice Liaskowski Collection. Zurich, Switzerland, and Contemporary Afrocuban Art, collecciòn de Chris von Christierson. Londres, UK.
Victor Vázquez (Puerto Rico, 1950) is a photographer who stages poetic tableaux that refer to the identities of the Puerto Rican body politic and its ever-shifting personality and identity. Vázquez’s work has been exhibited worldwide and can be found in the collections of Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina, Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA, Museo de Arte de las Americas, Washington, D.C., Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Artis, Paris, France, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain, Casa de las Américas, La Habana, Cuba, and Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, Paris, France.
Marcos Zimmermann (Argentina, 1950) is a photographer whose photographs are a result of travel and intercommunications with the residents of such examined places. The work selected from this exhibition are taken from a project where nude male figures throughout South America are contextualized within their own environmental territories. Zimmermann’s work has been exhibited internationally and is found in the collections of Antorchas Foundation, Buenos Aires, Argentina, The Bank of America Art Collection of New York, New York, NY U.S.A., Cabinet des Estamps et de la Photographie of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France, Kyushu Sangyo Museum, Kyushu, Japan, Manuel Alvarez Bravo Collection for the Fundación Cultural Televisa, Mexico, Paine Webber Group Photographic Collection, New York, NY USA, and Pan American Cultural Exchange Foundation for the Photographic Collection of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, selected by Anne Tucker, Houston, TX U.S.A.
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