Last updateSat, 22 Jun 2019 1pm

Tina Modotti: capturing the essence of 1920s Mexico

Twenty-two, large format black-and-white photographs by ground breaking Italian photographer Tina Modotti (1896-1942), a communist activist who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, are being showcased at the Regional Museum of Guadalajara until March 2019.

pg27bBorn in Udine, Italy, Modotti emigrated to California at the age of 12, eventually working as a Hollywood actress and model. In 1923, she eloped to Mexico City alongside celebrated photographerEdward Weston, a married man who became her mentor and shaped her photographic vision.

During her early years in Mexico, often referred to as her “romantic” period, Modotti often visited Oaxaca and the south of Mexico, taking hundreds of intimate portraits of women and children. Her work was often defined by her skillful use of composition and shadow.

In the mid-1920s, Modotti became the photographer of choice for the blossoming Mexican mural movement. She also joined the Communist Party and her work started to reflect her political views.

The exhibit at the Regional Museum,“Tina Modotti and the Photographic Vanguard in Mexico,” provides a glimpse into Modotti’s world as an “avant-garde photographer,” says Juan Carlos Valdez, director of the National Photo Library System at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Pachuca, Hidalgo, where 97 of Modotti’s original negatives are conserved.

Says Valdez: “It was a period in which Tina moved away from the customary image to give a personal approach and portray the progress of a postrevolutionary Mexico towards emergent modernity.”

Writing in The Guardian in 2000, art critic Lindsay Baker noted: “Modotti’s emotional engagement, made almost abstract by the European modernism she had inherited from Weston, makes for some striking invention.”

Like Kahlo, Modotti’s fame has risen with the passing years, and her original prints are now valued collectors’ items.

For Regional Museum staffer Verónica Banda, Modotti’s appeal is easy to understand. “What caught her attention was everyday life in Mexico … she captured the essence of Mexico.”

The Regional Museum is located at Liceo 60, across from the Rotunda de Jaliscienses Illustres in downtown Guadalajara. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. General admission is 60 pesos but students, teachers and seniors can enter for free.

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