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"History of Memories: Recent Photographs by Enrique Bostelmann"
2003-10-30 until 2003-12-05
Americas Society
New York, NY, USA

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in March 1939, Enrique Bostelmann began working in photography in 1960, and was formally educated in the discipline at BSP in Munich, Germany. In the early 70's, Enrique Bostelmann released an important book, "America:Un viaje a través de la injusticia," with a prologue by Carlos Fuentes. As a result of the success of this book, Bostelmann's work was featured (under the title LANDSCAPE OF MEN) at the first photographic exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, in 1973.

During these years Mexico's photographers were struggling to gain the public's acceptance of photography as a legitimate medium of expression within the fine arts. As a result, in 1987, the Mexican Council of Photography was founded, and that same year the Latin American Colloquium of Photography took place. At the time, only documental images showing forceful realities were being exhibited. Bostelmann and his contemporaries, including Gabriel Figueroa, Jorge Pablo the Aguínaco, Lourdes Grobet, Jan Hendrix, Jesús Sánchez Uribe, and Salvador Lutteroth, among others, were nevertheless experimenting with new concepts and techniques and introducing the use of Polaroid. The photographic works, manipulated and constructed by these artists, began to take their rightful place in the Mexican art world. More than just social commentary, they offered a new generation of artists the option to experiment with photography in newly expressive ways.

This exhibition explores and celebrates the work of one of Mexico's most prominent photographers. It also pays a deserved tribute to his early work. And, fittingly, the show evolves to celebrate Bostelmann's striking contemporary work, which continues to challenge and define photography.

In a recent essay, Jorge Reynoso Pohlenz discussed the importance of Bostelmann's new work, featured in this exhibition: "We speak of Dead Nature in Latin languages; Still life (suspended life, or motionless), in Saxon languages. Two not exactly equivalent terms that designate the same genus that, originally pictorial, photography inherited since its inception. Since the 19th century Still Life has emancipated itself from a series of esoteric symbolic values. Artists still make use of it as an exercise of their expressive and technical means, like an absolute or abstract organizational system and like a resource that refers in a direct way to the world, and in an indirect, subtle way to the human. Whatever the artistic process through which time remains suspended in Still Life, it constitutes itself as an order composed of human relics, natural or divine. The objects left aside - even those caught by the act of the inattentive glance - accumulate next to others in an apparently fortuitous or daily way, and become sentient at the moment in which they are pointed out and framed. Among these senses is the capability of this genus to state the memento mori (reminder of death); the pause or motionless space that Still Life feigns is the paradoxical reminder of the transitory nature of all things, of time making the world perishable. Still Life, only, makes the scenery and the props last, while the actor and the world stage are ghosts that must be recreated based on the declarations of their plunders and their disposition. This recreation can turn into a type of portrait, by essence metaphoric, in which the one portrayed or who did the portraying transcends time by virtue of acquiring new and different meanings.

In the case of photography, Still Life makes evident, like no other portrait motif, the artist's will to compose, inviting the spectator to a formal reading. Simultaneously, our perceptions, naturally predisposed to it, construct narratives and figurations. Enrique Bostelmann (Guadalajara, 1939), intentionally provokes a perceptive imbalance in his work, utilizing within a frame one image that is radically opposed to another daily image, both in scale and perspective. In the series Histories of Memory, Bostelmann gathers together various objects that are for use, used objects, as well as objects that are consumed by use and that are placed in an organized or disorganized way because they are being used, or were used. All these objects were taken from a context in which they are considered marginal: residual material from the creative act. Besides the fact that objects of use are a testimony of time, they also point to the user: the trace of a human being who creates or has created. The object of use is an extension of and a shelter for human beings, both their bodies and their actions; human beings leave a trace on these objects, they are hosts for their ghosts.

Bostelmann redefines the parameters in which these objects of use and their settings are seen in time and daily space, thus expanding the parameters of Still Life. These objects can coincide formally with photography's produced images of nature and science. In this series, Euclid’s geometry coexists alongside the placed artificial object, making it look organic. This suggests that an aesthetic coherence exists - mixture of order and diversity, of plain and complex - that transcends the different scales of visible reality.It is still a point of debate, whether such coherence comes from the order of the world or from the human being's inner eye. For the moment, we do know that it exists in the vision and encounter of this photographer."

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