Manuel Alvarez Bravo, 1974.
Photograph © Graciela Iturbide.

February 20-May 18, 1997

With a career that spans nearly eighty years, Manuel Alvarez Bravo (b. 1902) has long been recognized as one of the foremost figures in the history of photography and one of the great Mexican artists of the twentieth century. This exhibition, the most comprehensive ever devoted to his career, is a full retrospective that includes 185 photographs, many of which have never before been published or exhibited. Most of the works are rare vintage prints from private and museum collections in the United States, including eighty works from the artist's personal archive. Some have not been seen since they were first exhibited in the early 1930s.

Alvarez Bravo's career began in the thriving artistic environment of post-revolutionary Mexico, when Mexico City emerged as an international center for artistic and intellectual exchange. Like his contemporaries Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, Alvarez Bravo was influenced by the indigenous culture of Mexico throughout his career, but he also remained open to artistic influences outside his native country. He combined these elements into his own invention, creating an art that transcends culture, time, and place.

The chronological organization of the exhibition emphasizes recurrent elements in the artist's work: sympathy for the working class, an air of mystery, a sense of the surreal, a preoccupation with death. The exhibition opens with the artist's formal experiments with abstraction from the 1920s and continues with his realization of a unique personal style in the 1930s. It includes photographs of the Mexican landscape, cultural and religious artifacts, and the daily life of the people, as well as modernist works influenced by such international trends as Surrealism. Also featured is his later work in color photography and platinum printing from the 1960s and 1970s, and photographs made in the 1990s. Manuel Alvarez Bravo was organized by Susan Kismaric, Curator, Department of Photography, who also wrote the essay for the accompanying catalogue (available at The MoMA Book Store).

The exhibition is sponsored by a generous grant from Cemex. Additional support is provided by the Mex-Am Cultural Foundation, Inc., and Aeromexico. The Museum gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Mexican Culture Institute, S.R.E. Education programs accompanying the exhibition are supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge Program.

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©1997 The Museum of Modern Art, New York