martes, 20 de diciembre de 2011

The photographs of Mario Algaze / Carolina Amorouso

The Photographs of Mario Algaze

By Carolina Amoruso


(Las fotos a las que hace referencia Carolina Amorouso se pueden encontrar el en web de Mario Algaze)

I’d just attended a photo workshop on lighting, a skill that remains
unaddressed in my work beyond trying to transcribe the luminosity
captured by my lens into a faithful and memorable image on my hard
drive or shiny stiff paper. I left more daunted than enlightened, so to
speak, as much of the talk covered expensive and heavy equipment
that promised to make my outings more like the walk up Mount
Calvary than a time to merge the perceived world with the one of art
and perhaps history. I’d been further dismayed by the presenter,
noble as he was, as he offered a bag full of tricks that would make
of a mundane image one that sparkled and engaged; I’ve always
held fast that photography is a way to possess life just as it is to
the capturer, no slight of hand, no mysterious wizard pulling strings
behind a black curtain.

Next on the day’s agenda was an overdue visit to the Throckmorton
Gallery in Manhattan to view the photographs of a contemporary
photographer unknown to me, a Cuban American, Mario Algaze.
I’d been wowed by the gallery’s invitation postcard of a knife-sharp
yet breathing black-and-white scape (“Carretas,” 1979) of a breeze-
billowed Guatemalan woman bearing her baby in her arms as she
hurries past a line-up of sleeping vendors’ carts. Its majesty was as
withering as it was fortifying; I could not miss the show.
Algaze traverses Latin America as a photojournalist. These
images cover the same ground (there are a number of photographs
shot in Spain as well), but we are not viewing a travelogue nor a
photojournalistic essay. What we do see are understated scenes of
Latin life from the ‘70s to the present heightened and dramatized by
light and shadow and an iconography of that life defined by the café:
aging men still on the move, unburdened by leisure suits and obesity;
workers presented not in a Socialist realist context, but as individuals
having figured out how to feed their bellies not at the expense of their
dignity; elegant city spaces, Hispano-dominated and Indio-informed.

There is no line, no figure in “Carretas” that could have found better
placement, from the torn wall posters revealing the words “PICOT
PICOT” pushing out at the very left and right margins of the frame;
to the mother in profile, her round-cheeked little girl facing front; the
three carretas, a composition of wide-eyed wheel spokes and cart
handles that draw perfect parallel diagonals across the frame; and
the myriad horizons, be they the closed shutters of a garage, the
crumbled corrugations of a tin roof, or the boards that seal broken
down buildings from further ravages of time and poverty.
Café life south of the border is the languid loom on which the social
fiber is woven, whether that “café” be a knot of men congregating on
a corner or a table for one. Curiously the icon of the café, striking
contrasting poses for Algaze in La Paz and in Lima, has provided the
most memorable photos for me, after “Carretas”.

Algaze’s “Cantina,” (Lima, 1983) is also a study in line, though only
partly so. A man stands at a bar, his back to us; he is defined by
the strong vertical of his creased pants leg and the sharp crook of
his elbow supporting his hand resting on his hip. He’s facing a most
orderly back wall lined with bottles as erect, polished and proper as
soldiers at roll call. Above the verticals is a mirror, very square, tilted
downward to capture the activity elsewhere in the bar. There are a
few foreshortened figures of little allure, but, alas, we find our mirror
has caught another mirror on a far wall revealing yet another set of
desultory upholders of the latino ethos.

“Club La Paz” on the other hand is, in its formalistic perfection, a
study in solitude. A perfectly round café table sits, abandoned,
leaving unattended a coffee cup and saucer and an empty round
ashtray; one of three square, straight-backed chairs has been pushed
away from the table. The story takes place in a nook of the club with
defining horizontal and vertical lines completing the composition. The
right side of the frame encloses the table with frosted windows of
gently guttered horizontals, while the left takes us back through an
increasingly narrower corridor of vertical doorframes. But, wait…,
behind one portal we may catch the silhouette, barely distinguishable,
of a man standing, and behind another, just the suggestion of a
woman seated, her eyes cast downward.
I’ve been visiting the show in my mind again and again (it’s become
a point of reference for me of late on a number of occasions) and
finding new surprises to study on the web site. What won’t quit is the
light. What Algaze has found is luminosity in the midst of the grey
that we need to assume enwraps all cities. He doesn’t vanquish the
grey, but he shows, in América Latina at least, that light can be drawn
from even the deepest wells.

1 comentario:

consuelo delgado dijo...

Es la descripción mas autentica de mi obra que he leido recién.
Te felicito, tienes una pluma ó lapiz digno de aplausos.

Mario Algaze y mi esposa Consuelo Delgado