Images of the Spirit: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from June 14 through August 9, 1998, will give U.S. audiences their first comprehensive look at one of the most important and celebrated photographers working in Mexico today. Born in Mexico City in 1942, Iturbide has brought a deeply personal and poetic vision to the Mexican artistic tradition of exploring issues of identity, diversity and selfhood. This exhibition of 99 gelatin silver prints and 23 large photographic murals spans the artist's career, and will travel to other museums throughout North America following its Philadelphia debut. It was organized by Michael E. Hoffman, Adjunct Curator of Photographs for the Alfred Stieglitz Center at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Iturbide's work was influenced by two of the best-known earlier photographers of Mexico: Tina Modotti, recognized as one of the first socially concerned photographers, and Modotti's friend Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who began to photograph in Mexico City after Modotti was forced into exile in 1930. Iturbide, who initially studied filmmaking, worked as Alvarez Bravo's assistant in the early 1970s and began to devote her time and talent to still photography. She traveled to Europe and met Henri Cartier-Bresson, who became another influence on her work, and then returned in 1978 to become a founding member of the Mexican Council of Photography. Like Modotti before her, Graciela Iturbide became particularly interested in documenting indigenous groups and in the turbulent events-political reforms, violent demonstrations, and students and intellectual uprisings-that surrounded her. Her first epic project was a study of the Seri Indians of Northern Mexico, which was published in 1981. An exploration of the diversity of Hispanic cultures found in both Spain and the Americas culminated in the exhibition Old World/New World in 1991. Since the late 1970s, Iturbide has been documenting the Zapotec Indian people of Juchitán in their daily and ceremonial activities, which garnered first prize at France's prestigious "Mois de la Photo" in 1988.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has an established reputation for collecting and exhibiting the arts of Mexico. The permanent collections comprise pre-Colombian sculpture, colonial paintings and ceramics, and 20th-century paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and textiles. In 1980, the Museum organized a large survey of its collections called Treasures of Mexican Art, and in 1986 presented the traveling exhibition Diego Rivera: A Retrospective. In 1995, the Stieglitz Center organized the first comprehensive exhibition of Tina Modotti's photographs since her death, which traveled throughout the U.S.
Images of the Spirit: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Aperture, Inc., in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The book contains 81 duotone reproductions of Iturbide's work, a preface by the poet and critic Roberto Tejada, and an epilogue by the anthropologist Alfredo López Austin, professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico.
Exhibition and publication sponsors:
Images of the Spirit: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide and its accompanying publication have been supported by the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture, sponsored by Mexico's National Fund for Culture and the Arts (FONCA), The Bancomer Cultural Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation. Additional support for the exhibition was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The accompanying publication by Aperture was also supported by FEMSA, Grupo Financiero Bancomer, Seguros Monterrey Aetna, and the Photographers for Photographers Fund.