Tina Modotti & Edward Weston: The Mexico Years by Sarah M. LoweThe past couple of years on Goodreads have taught me a bit more about Modernism, even though my appetite for its novels is limited compared to some - so I got more out of looking at this Modernist photography than I would once have done. And found out, through it, that some of my favourite types of photographic composition, such as massed near-identical objects, and close-ups of part of an object or structure, i.e. fragments, are characteristically Modernist, innovations of the 1920s. (At the old job from which this was an unusual, and perhaps flattering, part of a leaving present, I had found a nearby huge junction awe-inspiringly beautiful and philosophical to watch - which does sound rather Modernist or Futurist - though I cant remember if I ever mentioned it to anyone there.)
The latter two thirds of the book are made up of photographs; the first is the story of the people who took them, whom I hadnt heard of before receiving this. Modottis Italian family had emigrated to California when she was a child; as a young woman she became a silent movie actress and took an interest in the labour movement. Weston was a photographer originally from the Midwest. They moved in the same avant-garde circles; she modelled for him and after the death of her husband became Westons assistant as well as his mistress, and, rapidly, a photographer as good as he. A divergence of interests described in the text is sometimes more apparent in the words than the pictures: Modotti, whilst also having considerable interest in form and composition, brought the political and the human into her work; Weston was more of an art for arts sake chap and his studies of people usually emphasised form. They worked closely for two or three years in Mexico, both eventually becoming interested in other people, and their relationship mutated into a long-distance friendship as Weston returned to the US. Modotti eventually gave up photography to concentrate on revolutionary activism, but hers was one of those inter-war intellectual careers which included periods of strong commitment both to art and to politics.
Pictorialism, the earlier style of photography for which Im pleased to have learned a name, was something I already knew by sight, that blurry / soft-focus look, often incorporating women dressed in a mythological style. Im not a fan of Modernism in all areas, but when, as here, the photography is stripped of its cruellest aspects - such as Id seen short films by Dalí, and early Buñuel - the clarity is gorgeous. Some of Westons arrangements of the human body and of shells and vegetables seem to come from the same root, but the animal abuse Id seen in Dalí and Buñuel works, and which had made me apprehensive about avant-garde visuals-from-life of the period is thankfully absent here, and people are, particularly in Modottis lens, more human and respected subjects. (Who also seem more engaged than those in many ethnographic portraits of the era.)
Whilst I honestly prefer contemporary photography in similar compositional styles because of its possibilities of colour and light, I really liked many of these. There are too many I like to choose favourites reasonably, but here are a few which were easy to find online.
Several really nice Modottis in thumbnail here (click to make bigger) - some, though not all were in this book.
Couldnt leave out this though: Oil Tank no.1
The Westons are harder to find - the selection of his pictures online is mostly later, very formalist work. (The shells are stunning in the context of this book, but seeing lots of them, and similar photographs, at once on a webpage, I found less appealing.) I particularly liked the playful composition of straw toys from a market entitled Revolucion, a number of fragments of buildings, the portrait Galvan and the series Tina Reciting.
Today while trying to track down where the original unexpurgated manuscripts might reside I ran across the below Edward Weston reminiscence written on the occasion of learning of the January 5, death of his former lover Tina Modotti with whom he traveled to Mexico with between and See below. Tina and Edward on the boat to Mexico, Photo likely by Chandler Weston. Stebbins, Jr.
Tina Modotti Italian. About the Artist Explore life events. Edward Weston. January 30, Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M.
The Italian-born artist immigrated to the United States when she was In she met photographer Edward Weston , who mentored her and was a great influence on her subsequent work. By they had become lovers, and in they moved together to Mexico City, which had become a cosmopolitan center in the interwar years. There, cultural and political expatriates like Weston and Modotti, Sergei Eisenstein , and Leon Trotsky moved in bohemian circles with Mexican intellectuals and artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Modotti and Weston opened a portrait studio in the city.
Credit Tina Modotti. Credit Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery. Credit Mara Sanchez Renero.
be silent and know that i am god
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Tina Modotti August 16 or 17 — January 5, was an Italian photographer , model , actress , and revolutionary political activist for the Comintern. She left Italy in and moved to the USA, where she worked as a model and subsequently as a photographer. In she moved to Mexico, where she became an active Communist. She appeared in several plays, operas, and silent movies in the late s and early s, and also worked as an artist's model. In , she met Roubaix "Robo" de l'Abrie Richey. In , Modotti began a romantic relationship with him and moved with him to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in the motion picture industry. Often playing the femme fatale , Modotti's movie career culminated in the film The Tiger's Coat.
If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art directly through either this phone number or web address:. The exhibition is organized by Sandra S. For five years in the s, two of the major figures in 20th century art, Tina Modotti and Edward Weston, shared a passionate partnership. They also shared a love for Mexico, where they lived and worked together from until , each making pictures of astonishing beauty and ambition. This exhibition presents 89 photographs created during their time together in Mexico, images that count among the most memorable from each artist's career, demonstrating the pair's uncompromising standards for their medium. Also included in the exhibition are a variety of archival materials-letters, postcards, photographs, and ephemera -- sent to members of Modotti's family, which will allow viewers to compare everyday uses of photography in Modotti and Weston's lives, in books, as postcards, and in newspapers with celebrated examples of their photographic art. George F.