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"Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography after the Revolution"
2001-04-15 until 2001-07-01
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles, CA, USA

LACMA exhibits revealing work by three generations of Cuban photographers that highlights the continuing and extraordinary achievements of Cubas artistic community, as well as the social and political changes in Castros Cuba. Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography after the Revolution, organized in three sections with a prologue gallery, includes more than 100 poignant black-and-white and color photographs.

Certain photographs transcend the circumstances of their making. They become emblematic of an era, of a generation, or of a geographic place. Dorothea Lange’s 1936 photograph Migrant Mother has attained mythic status and become visually synonymous with the Depression and the migration of Dust Bowl refugees to California. The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima as portrayed by Joe Rosenthal was immediately recognized as the essence of the experience of World War II and of the heroism and patriotic verve of those Americans who served. One danger with this type of branding is that it tends to foster the conception that all photography of a period reflects the same ideological grounding of the lone iconic image; another consequence of branding is that the image becomes the benchmark against which subsequent images of the period or place are measured.

Such is the case with Guerillero Heroico by Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez (Korda). Kordas image was taken on the occasion of a memorial service for victims of a maritime explosion in Havana harbor. The image captures a sullen and pensive Che Guevara stoically looking beyond the cameras gaze as if into the distance, into the future. It has become emblematic not only of the revolution that toppled the previous Batista regime but also of the revolutionary ethic of the period and of Cuba itself. The image became the single most identifiable example of Cuban photography, and for many it continues to define in visual as well as conceptual terms all photography produced in Cuba. Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography after the Revolution is an exhibition that seeks to address this misperception of the nature of Cuban photography. The exhibition will elucidate the shifting social, political, and personal concerns that have fueled the artistic expression of artists using photography over the past 40 years in Cuba.

One of the reasons I did Shifting Tides was to expand the common perception of what Cuban photography is generally thought to be, stated curator Tim B. Wride. That is, black-and-white, documentary reportage with a hint of magic realism, and replete with iconic images of Che and Fidel. What the exhibition will demonstrate is the broad range and inventive nature of work, both conceptual and visual, that has been and continues to be done on the island. The work is expressive, sophisticated, and firmly grounded in an international art dialogue.

José Manuel Fors
Cuba, b. 1956
El Banco
Gelatin-silver print
29 11/16 x 19 3/4 in.; 75.4 x 31.4 cm
Courtesy of the artist and
Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles

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