Dayton Art Institute

Dayton, OH

800.296.4426 or 937.223.5277


Modotti and Weston: Mexicanidad

August 7 - October 3, 1999


Organized by the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film with support from the Gannett Foundation, MODOTTI AND WESTON: Mexicanidad features 65 vintage gelatin silver prints that chronicle a fascinating episode in American 20th century photography. In 1923, the seamstress and silent film actress Tina Modotti (1896-1942) and her lover and mentor, photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958), moved to Mexico, where they experienced the dynamic culture and political climate of a country in revolution and reform.

Mexico had recently undergone an important revolution, and its effects were felt even in the arts. Led by reformers, writers and artists like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Jean Charlot and David Alfaro Siquerios, a powerful art movement - Mexicanidad - was born. The goal of this passionate force was to purge Mexico of its European colonial traditions and to realign the country's cultural identity with its ancient, indigenous heritage. With the emergence of Mexicanidad came a newfound freedom and explosion of artistic expression that led to a renaissance in Mexican art. (left above: Tina Modotti, Mexican Sombrero with Hammer and Sickle, 1927; right below: Edward Weston, Diego Rivera, c. 1924, gelatin silver print)

Already an accomplished photographer, Weston viewed the move to Mexico as a chance to pursue a new direction for his art and to break with his former life. Prior to Mexico, Weston had practiced the Pictorialist style in photography, characterized by lyrical and consciously artistic themes presented in soft-focus. By disavowing Pictorialism, Weston moved into a new and important phase of 20th century photography -- that of allowing the photograph to do what it does best -- to capture and describe in sharp detail a person, place or object.

"By integrating realism with concepts of abstraction, a totally modern artistic notion, Weston produced some of the most riveting, beautiful and memorable works of the century," said Senior Curator Dominique H. Vasseur.

Modotti likewise blossomed in Mexico. From the outset, her interest in photography was inextricably linked with the people and beauty of Mexico. Although Modotti learned from the Mexicanidad movement, her own work shows a direct involvement with revolutionary socio-political reform. Using the camera as a tool for social change, her photographs extol Mexico's poor and disenfranchised -- its indigenous working class - -more boldly than anyone before her. At auction a few years ago, a photograph of roses by Modotti sold for the highest price to date for any photographic work.

Despite the power of this Mexican experience, Weston, on the other hand, used photography for more purely artistic ends. During the two and a half years he spent with Modotti in Mexico, Weston explored photography for its ability to capture "the quintessence of the thing itself." Although his portraits of people like Diego Rivera, Guadalupe Marin de Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco are almost monumental, sculptural tributes to the creators of Mexico's new artistic identity, his landscapes and genre scenes are grounded in the traditional artistic concerns that would remain in the forefront of his creativity throughout his long and productive career.

There is an dmission fee for this exhibition


Read more about the Dayton Art Institute in the Resource Library

For further biographical information on Edward Weston please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

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