Left: Daughter of the Dancers/Muchachita! 1933 Manuel Alvarez Bravo Collection: The J. Paul Getty Museum Below: Optical Parable/Parabola Optica, 1931 Manuel Alvarez Bravo Collection: The J. Paul Getty Museum tographers, including Graciela Iturbide and Nacho Lopez, while his reputation grew outside of Mexico. As early as 1935, he had a group show in New York with Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans, and his work was included in Edward Steichen’s monumental “Family of Man” show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. Since then, his work has been shown throughout the world. Alvarez Bravo’s work covers an amazing variety of subjects. \(Little wonder, considering he’s been at it for such a long time; although his health is rather fragile at 100, he was still shooting important picscraps of adding machine paper, portraits of famous artists and foundry workers in fireproof suits, formal nude studies, and pictures of Indians in Chiapas. His street scenes, landscapes and still-lifes are almost always inhabited by people or by some kind of icon, whether it’s a nightmarish view of a maniacal, carved wooden horse or a giddy ensemble of grinning paper mannequins in a clothing market. Often the pictures have the quality of images from a dream or a half-faded memory. Some of this is attributable to the dream-state of reality in Mexico, where modern and ancient cultures, magic and technology all meet face to face on the street. Bravo reveled in these contrasts and contradictions. His images appear in the space between absolutes. Even a seemingly simple picture is often a complex web of referwoman, visible only from her shoulders to her crotch, stands holding a pair of glass eyes on a tray. The eyeballs mirror the shape of her breasts, They seem to be simultaneously looking up at the model and back at the viewer. To complicate matters, Lucy isn’t just the name of the model \(if of optometrists and people with vision problems. St. Lucy is traditionally seen carrying her own eyeballs around on a platter. The story goes that Lucy was so committed to preserving her chastity that when a suitor told her she had lovely eyes, she plucked them out, brought them to him on a tray, and asked him to take the eyes and leave her alone. Early images of the saint were based on statues of a local pagan goddess who carried around a tray of cookies, including some that looked like eyeballs. The eyeball story probably evolved to explain the icon. A further digression: there’s also a traditional Italian confection known as poppe di monaca or “nun’s breasts,” which may or may not be related to the legend of St. Lucy. In some ways, digressions are exactly the point of Alvarez Bravo’s work. His pictures, and the titles that he gives them, invoke Catholic and Mexican syncretic religious iconography, the historical and psychological symbolism found in thousands of years of literature and art. was commissioned by the French surrealist Andre Breton for the 311102 THE TUN 011EIVN 15
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