Urban Impulses (Arles-2017)

“The project Urban Impulses: Latin-American photography is a visual essay about a city which finds sense in its own movement. The exhibition covers half a century of Latin American photography, and several hundred images chosen from the Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski collection. The perspective here looks to reconstruct the imaginaries of the cities on this continent in works carried out by the very photographers involved in the creation of the conflicted Latin American identity. The present exhibition displays the contradictions of a hybrid continent, between the pre-hispanic and post-colonial world, and the market society which inevitably takes hold of the processes which consolidate cities. We see here the transition from rural to urban, or better still, that way in which the rural and the popular coexist in the dreamed metropolis. These Urban Impulses project into the future. Chaos is at work in them as an emancipatory force, and on this path, nothing can wall it in, Latin America cannot be made a minority.”
Alexis Fabry and María Wills

Another large exhibition representing a country or in this case, countries, since the region represented is South or Latin America; furthermore the images are urban. With 111 photographers represented, it might not be easy to draw conclusions or make overall comments.

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The first room is about night life. Among the many images are some more abstract colour untitled cibachromes (1979-80) from Jorge Heredia; their strong colour contrasts are striking and were presumably made at night but they do not reflect the bawdry almost predictable scenes of the other photographs in this room.

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The second room is called “Living Walls” and is about the messages such places convey often via text. A black and white photograph by Juan Travnik made of Buenavista Aires in 1995 strikes me, a reminder of a time when photography was easier on the eye. There are other black and white prints here but they seem too dull; this image has enough contrast.

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The third section is not a room but a wall alongside of one; the subject matter is identity for many different races have made this continent their own. There are the original Indian tribes and the latter Spanish and Portuguese invaders but this is only the beginning; some South Americans are white! A few better known photographers are represented here such as the Mexican Graciela Iturbide yet the one photograph that strikes me is of a group of advertisements for consumer goods over which a black X has been roughly painted while in the centre is a photo of a weeping woman and her child; the issue of wealth and poverty existing side by side is a contentious one!

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On the other side of this hall, is another grouping of photographs called Here and There. This is largely about life on the street and amongst the many images I see a couple of series that grab my eyes; Juan Castaneda shows a mosaic of images called Via Rapida, 1982 and Escalera, 111 from 1983 which capture cars on a highway from above and people on an escalator.

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The next room, an extension of the hallway, is called Local Colours; the colour here is metaphorical with some of the photographs being in black and white! In fact, the black and whites stand out as they focus on more abstruse subjects rather than the blatant use of colour in advertising, for instance.

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The exhibition continues upstairs in a gallery titled Shouts! Here the emphasis is on political upheaval and the important role photography has played in documenting and publicising such activity. Sometimes the work of photographers falls out of their hands and into the hands of those who want to use them; one photographer who stands out is Eduardo Longoni from Argentina where he was born in 1973. The politics that is illustrated here is largely unknown to me.

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The seventh section is “I want to be me!” And is about identity not just of the individual but also groups such as LGBT. This relatively small section is followed by Urban Geometry which is concerned with architecture close up and over wider areas; both colour work and black and white proves effective here.

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“The Damned” is the final section and contains  images those who are marginalised by society.

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view of Space Van Gogh

This is a great exhibition with lots of interesting photographs yet the success of it surely depends on the curators Alexis Fabry and Maria Wills Londono. Nexpresso funded.

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