“Mexican Model” What the hell do I mean by that?

One phrase that repeats over and over in my work on my thesis is “Mexican Model”. What do I mean by this term that seems so convenient in the my head? While I’ve done a bit of work creating the concept of the “Mexican Model”, I really want to dig into the term, tear it apart, and make it explicit to the reader and myself what I’m talking about.

The first time I conceptually introduced the idea of the “Mexican Model” was in a paper focusing on the Museum of Modern Art’s 1932 exhibition Murals by American Painters and  Photographers, which I began (rivetingly):

In 1934 American artist George Biddle published an article in Scribner’s Magazine titled “An Art Renascence Under Federal Patronage.” In the piece Biddle calls for the production of a socially conscious form of art to be supported by the government in an effort to facilitate “a revival of art whereby the artist will move from the periphery to the core of national life.”1 In particular, Biddle advocates for the government sponsorship of mural commissions to be modeled on the program instituted by Mexican President Alvaro Obregón.

So our starting point is the mural program instituted by Mexican President Alvaro Obregon (henceforth referred to as Obregón). Continue reading

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The Face in the Lens: Anonymous Photographs

faceInTheLens

The introduction essay “Being Human” by Alexander McCall Smith reiterates Barthes ideas about the photograph as momento mori and the power that lies in photographs of strangers verse photographs of loved ones.

“Because we do not know the subjects we are not distracted by memories of the particular, and are drawn, instead, to what the photograph says about people and their ways, about the human condition. It is this that explains the poignancy of old anonymous photographs: they show us in all our human vulnerability. Our aspirations, our beliefs, our sense of ourselves are all revealed – but all of this is shown to be transient, impermanent ” (7).

The collector and author Robert Flynn Johnson also has an introductory essay in the book titled “Whole in One.” This essay begins by comparing the act of taking a great photograph akin to an amateur golfer achieving a hole in one; an improbable occurrence but one that happens often enough if we take enough photographs. This book collects photographs that are equivalent “hole in ones” and presents them according to theme. Chapters include Immaturity, Masculinity, Femininity, Compatibility, Celebrity, Singularity, Activity, Festivity, Adversity, and Inevitability.  One of the issues with found photographs is that they lack context. Arranging the photographs by subject provides an artificial order to the images and the chapters consist of some imaginative groupings. The names of the chapters are creative and more engaging than if they were put into more traditional categories.

After looking at this book, my main take away was the divide between the photo album and the lone image. The most interesting part of a photo album or scrapbook is the context that the whole provides. The parts that make up the whole may be unidentified photographs but contextually the group of materials offers much more information than the single image. Johnson has provided a framework for the lone photographs to exist in – to become part of his collection which can then be arranged by theme. The subjects of the photographs are similar, but the people in them will never correspond to each other in the way that a small photo album collection can. Both the lone image and the photo album collection have stories to tell, but one is much broader and relies more on visual appreciation, while the other can tell a more detailed story about a particular family or group of individuals at a particular time in history.

Learnist

I’ve just started using Learnist. It seems to be a way to bookmark websites and create digital index cards and then put them in order. The order can be rearranged. I’m hoping this could be helpful with research thought organization and keeping track of ideas and websites.

The following board is titled “Behind the Scenes” and I’m using it to keep track of a thread for research on my MA thesis related to Vik Muniz’s “Verso” series which takes the back of famous works of art as its subject.

Behind the ScenesLearnist

Detroit Institute of Arts to examine rare Diego Rivera drawings that inspired ‘Detroit Industry’

The Detroit Institute of the Arts recently announced that they’ll be undertaking a survey of 13 large scale studies Rivera made for his Detroit Industry mural cycle. You can read all about their plans here. I’m surprised these studies haven’t been digitally photographed before though. They’ll make a great resource. From the images in the slideshow it looks like the studies were used for the figures of the “elements” along the top register.

Study for Detroit Industry mural

Detroit Industry Mural