Rare Photographs of Mexican History
Los Angeles--Mexico: From Empire to Revolution, a two-part Getty Research Institute exhibition, continues this month with the opening of Part II on February 24, 2001. Spanning the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, the exhibition includes hundreds of photographs and albums exploring Mexico's legacy of empires, intervention, and revolution. Images range from portraits of indigenous people to scenes of violent civil war and the legendary figures of Porfirio Díaz, Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa. Mexico: From Empire to Revolution illustrates how early photographers captured not only momentous political struggles, but also the intimate details of everyday life. Part I, which closed in January, included photographs from the 1850s to the 1890s and focused on the French intervention, Maximilian's short-lived empire, and pre-Hispanic ruins.
Now, Part II of Mexico: From Empire to Revolution, on view through May 20, 2001, moves forward from the end of the French intervention in 1867 to trace the emergence of Mexico as a modern nation over the next 50 years. It concludes with the extraordinary upheaval caused by the 1910 revolution that submerged the country in civil war for over a decade. Drawn from the Getty Research Institute's collection, with an additional loan from the Getty Museum, the exhibition includes cartes-de-visites albums, postcards, and photographs--images that were employed to attract tourists, enlist political support, and chronicle daily life.
"Building the Nation," the first section of Part II, includes photographs by Abel Briquet who, along with William Henry Jackson, was commissioned to document the new railways at the start of Porfirio Díaz's long presidency. Such photographs were used to promote tourism and investment in the country. Other images show the creation of collections of pre-Hispanic artifacts and the building of new monuments along the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. There are also rare photographs of the city of Veracruz by the French marine photographer Paul-Émile Miot, photographs by Charles Burlingame Waite, and startling portraits by Juan de Dios Machain documenting child mortality. The photographs by Briquet and Guillermo Kahlo depict the character and growth of cities and country towns throughout these years, while others show the increasing poverty that many Mexicans endured.
"Nation Undone and Revolution," the second section, focuses on the period between 1910 and 1915 when the tensions and disparities of industrialization helped spark the Mexican Revolution and the ensuing civil war. These images document significant moments of Mexican history and leaders including Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa. Photographers whose work is highlighted in this portion of the exhibition are Agustín Víctor Casasola, Manuel Rámos, Antonio Garduño, Hugo Brehme, and Walter H. Horne, who all created images that were used to shape political and public opinion in Mexico and the United States.
Mexico: From Empire to Revolution looks at the importance of photographs as both historical documents and instruments used to shape popular perception. Often working with unwieldy equipment under extreme conditions, the photographers whose work is shown here left behind an extraordinary visual legacy that provides a portrait of daily life, a chronicle of political events, and a record of the transformation of cities and countryside. Many times, the photographs demonstrate opposing viewpoints of the Mexican people or offer differing depictions of events that occurred during this period of rapid transition. Together, these photographs helped create a historical memory of events that dramatically shaped the larger history of Mexico.
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