A Look at California Mexicana—An Upcoming Exhibition & Catalogue

Part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, the California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930 exhibition opens on October 15th at the Laguna Art Museum.

Artistic and cultural exchange between California and Mexico has flourished since the time when California was part of the United States of Mexico. The exhibition highlights this vital aspect of the state’s history through a panorama of works by artists on both sides of the border, from scenes of mission and rancho life through images of romantic Old California, to the emergence of a cross-border modern art scene.

Cover image is a detail of La Plaza de Toros: Sunday Morning in Monterey, 1874, by Charles Christian Nahl.

Edited by curator Katherine Manthore, the beautifully illustrated catalogue addresses two key areas of inquiry: how Mexico became California, and how the visual arts reflected the shifting identity that grew out of that transformation.

Grizzly Bear of California, c. 1854, Charles Christian Nahl, Watercolor over graphite sketch, 7 ½ x 11 inches, City of Monterey Art Collection, gift from Mrs. Augusta Nahl Allen
Translation from the Maya, 1940, Dorr Bothwell, Oil on Celotex, 23 x 19 inches, Laguna Art Museum Collection Museum purchase with funds provided through prior gift of Lois Outerbridge
Fruit of the Vine, 1926, Norman Rockwell, Oil on canvas, 31 x 27 inches, Collection of the Sun-Maid Growers of California; on long-term loan to Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
San Gabriel Mission, Ferdinand Deppe, Oil on canvas, c. 1832, 27 x 37 inches, Laguna Art Museum Collection, Gift of Nancy Dustin Wall Moure

As evidenced by the selected images above, the catalogue includes diverse works by a wide array of artists including Frida Kahlo, Juan Correa, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José María Velasco, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Maxine Albro, Thomas Moran, unknown artists, and many others, making it both a pleasure and an adventure to read.


Where Photographs Meet Words: A #WorldPhotoDay Reading List

Tomorrow is World Photo Day, a celebration bringing together millions of photographers worldwide to share their stories and inspire global change through the power of photography. A snapshot of some of our great photography titles is below; be sure to check out our photography subject page to browse even more titles, as well as our previous World Photo Day posts.

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte by David Bacon 

In this landmark work of photo-journalism, activist and photographer David Bacon documents the experiences of some of the hardest-working and most disenfranchised laborers in the country: the farmworkers who are responsible for making California “America’s breadbasket.” Combining haunting photographs with the voices of migrant farmworkers, Bacon offers three-dimensional portraits of laborers living under tarps, in trailer camps, and between countries, following jobs that last only for the harvesting season. He uncovers the inherent abuse in the labor contractor work system, and drives home the almost feudal nature of laboring in America’s fields.

Told in both English and Spanish, these are the stories of farmworkers exposed to extreme weather and pesticides, injured from years of working bent over for hours at a time, and treated as cheap labor. The stories in this book remind us that the food that appears on our dinner tables is the result of back-breaking labor, rampant exploitation, and powerful resilience.

 

The Uses of Photography: Art, Politics, and the Reinvention of a Medium edited by Jill Dawsey 

The Uses of Photography examines a network of artists who were active in Southern California between the late 1960s and early 1980s and whose experiments with photography opened the medium to a profusion of new strategies and subjects. Tracing a crucial history of photoconceptual practice, The Uses of Photography focuses on an artistic community that formed in and around the young University of California San Diego, founded in 1960, and its visual arts department, founded in 1967. Artists such as Eleanor Antin, Allan Kaprow, Fred Lonidier, Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, and Carrie Mae Weems employed photography and its expanded forms as a means to dismantle modernist autonomy, to contest notions of photographic truth, and to engage in political critique.

Contributors include David Antin, Pamela M. Lee, Judith Rodenbeck, and Benjamin J. Young. Published in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

 

Freedom Now!: Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle by Martin A. Berger

In this groundbreaking catalogue, Martin Berger presents a collection of forgotten photographs that illustrate the action, heroism, and strength of black activists in driving social and legislative change. Freedom Now! highlights the power wielded by black men, women, and children in courthouses, community centers, department stores, political conventions, schools, and streets. Freedom Now! reveals that we have inherited a photographic canon—and a picture of history—shaped by whites’ comfort with unthreatening images of victimized blacks. And it illustrates how and why particular people, events, and issues have been edited out of the photographic story we tell about our past. By considering the different values promoted in the forgotten photographs, readers will gain an understanding of African Americans’ role in rewriting U.S. history and the high stakes involved in selecting images with which to narrate our collective past.

 

The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology edited by William A. Ewing and Barbara P. Hitchcock 

Published to accompany a major traveling exhibition, The Polaroid Project is a creative exploration of the relationship between Polaroid’s many technological innovations and the art that was created with their help. Richly designed with over 300 illustrations, this impressive volume showcases not only the myriad and often idiosyncratic approaches taken by such photographers as Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellen Carey, and Chuck Close, but also a fascinating selection of the technical objects and artifacts that speak to the sheer ingenuity that lay behind the art. With essays by the exhibition’s curators and leading photographic writers and historians, The Polaroid Project provides a unique perspective on the Polaroid phenomenon—a technology, an art form, a convergence of both—and its enduring cultural legacy.

Contributors: William A. Ewing, Barbara P. Hitchcock, Deborah G. Douglas, Gary Van Zante, Rebekka Reuter, Christopher Bonanos, Todd Brandow, Peter Buse, Dennis Jelonnek, and John Rohrbach.

 

Artist as Reporter: Weegee, Ad Reinhardt, and the PM News Picture by Jason E. Hill

Active from 1940 to 1948, PM was a progressive New York City daily tabloid newspaper committed to the politics of labor, social justice, and antifascism—and it prioritized the intelligent and critical deployment of pictures and their perception as paramount in these campaigns. With PM as its main focus, Artist as Reporter offers a substantial intervention in the literature on American journalism, photography, and modern art. The book considers the journalistic contributions to PM of such signal American modernists as the curator Holger Cahill, the abstract painter Ad Reinhardt, the photographers Weegee and Lisette Model, and the filmmaker, photographer, and editor Ralph Steiner. Each of its five chapters explores one dimension of the tabloid’s complex journalistic activation of modernism’s potential, showing how PM inserted into daily print journalism the most innovative critical thinking in the fields of painting, illustration, cartooning, and the lens-based arts. Artist as Reporter promises to revise our own understanding of midcentury American modernism and the nature of its relationship to the wider media and public culture.

 

Uncertain Histories: Accumulation, Inaccessibility, and Doubt in Contemporary Photography by Kate Palmer Albers

The compulsion to dwell on history—on how it is recorded, stored, saved, forgotten, narrated, lost, remembered, and made public—has been at the heart of artists’ engagement with the photographic medium since the late 1960s. Uncertain Histories considers some of that work, ranging from installations that incorporate vast numbers of personal and vernacular photographs by Christian Boltanski, Dinh Q. Lê, and Gerhard Richter to confrontations with absence in the work of Joel Sternfeld and Ken Gonzales-Day. Projects such as these revolve around a photographic paradox that hinges equally on knowing and not knowing, on definitive proof coupled with uncertainty, on abundance of imagery being met squarely with its own inadequacy. Photography is seen as a fundamentally ambiguous medium that can be evocative of the historical past while at the same time limited in the stories it can convey. Rather than proclaiming definitively what photography is, the work discussed here posits photographs as objects always held in suspension, perpetually oscillating in their ability to tell history. Yet this ultimately leads to a new kind of knowledge production: uncertainty is not a dead end but a generative space for the viewer’s engagement with the construction of history.

 

Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe by Rebecca A. Senf and Stephen J. Pyne

Using landscape photography to reflect on broader notions of culture, the passage of time, and the construction of perception, photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe spent five years exploring the Grand Canyon for their most recent project, Reconstructing the View. The team’s landscape photographs are based on the practice of rephotography, in which they identify sites of historic photographs and make new photographs of those precise locations. Klett and Wolfe referenced a wealth of images of the canyon, ranging from historical photographs and drawings by William Bell and William Henry Holmes, to well-known artworks by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, and from souvenir postcards to contemporary digital images drawn from Flickr. The pair then employed digital postproduction methods to bring the original images into dialogue with their own. The result is this stunning volume, illustrated with a wealth of full-color illustrations that attest to the role photographers—both anonymous and great—have played in picturing American places.

Rebecca Senf’s compelling essay traces the photographers’ process and methodology, conveying the complexity of their collaboration. Stephen J. Pyne provides a conceptual framework for understanding the history of the canyon, offering an overview of its discovery by Europeans and its subsequent treatment in writing, photography, and graphic arts.

 

The Last Pictures by Trevor Paglen

The Last Pictures, co-published by Creative Time Books, is rooted in the premise that these communications satellites will ultimately become the cultural and material ruins of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, far outlasting anything else humans have created. Inspired in part by ancient cave paintings, nuclear waste warning signs, and Carl Sagan’s Golden Records of the 1970s, artist/geographer Trevor Paglen has developed a collection of one hundred images that will be etched onto an ultra-archival, golden silicon disc. The disc, commissioned by Creative Time, will then be sent into orbit onboard the Echostar XVI satellite in September 2012, as both a time capsule and a message to the future.

The selection of 100 images, which are the centerpiece of the book, was influenced by four years of interviews with leading scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, and artists about the contradictions that characterize contemporary civilizations. Consequently, The Last Pictures engages some of the most profound questions of the human experience, provoking discourse about communication, deep time, and the economic, environmental, and social uncertainties that define our historical moment.


Save 30% with UC Press during the Modernist Studies Association Conference

The 2017 Modernist Studies Association Conference convenes August 10 – 13 in Amsterdam.

Check out our landing page featuring UC Press across various disciplines, including Art, Music, Visual Culture, and Cinema & Media Studies. Save 30% online with discount code 17W6815, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires September 30, 2017.


Flags and Faces: David Lubin on the Art of the First World War

David Lubin’s forthcoming book, Flags and Faces: The Visual Culture of America’s First World War, shows how American artists, photographers, and graphic designers helped shape public perceptions about World War I. In commemoration of Veterans Day, David Lubin shares the stories behind ten images in the book:

  • Fig. 34. Mutilated French soldier with prosthesis from the Portrait Masks studio, 1918. Library of Congress. Public Domain.

    In 1917, Anna Coleman Ladd, a Boston sculptor with humanitarian concerns, persuaded the American Red Cross to open a “studio for portrait masks” in Paris. There she and a team of assistants crafted galvanized-copper face masks for soldiers who had been permanently disfigured in trench warfare to enable them to return to the workplace and their families. Here is one such mask. When the war ended, the studio closed and the masked men were left to their own devices, most likely to live the rest of their lives in seclusion. [To hear more from David Lubin on Anna Coleman Ladd, visit http://www.npr.org/2014/09/25/351441401/one-sculptors-answer-to-wwi-wounds-plaster-copper-and-paint]