Paz’s poetry meets art in novel visual showcase (With Images)

April 21st, 2011 - 10:12 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) The imagery of poetry often inspires art.

A dialogue between the poetry of Nobel laureate and former Mexican ambassador to India Octavio Paz and the snapshots of Mexico captured by one of global pioneers of reality photography, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, has brought together 50 photographs and 32 poems in a novel showcase in the national capital that explores the connection between literature and art.

Curated by Conrado Tostado, the cultural attache at the Mexican embassy, the two-and-a-half-month exhibition, “In Light of Mexico” is the second in a series of shows to probe the cultural linkages between the Spanish-speaking nation and India.

The exhibition opened at the Instituto Cervantes April 16.

The first in this series was a joint endeavour by Raghu Rai and Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide in 2010. It captured the important socio-cultural events and lives of the respective countries through the cameras of two gifted lenspersons.

“In Light of Mexico” is based on a book “Instant and Revelations” that Manuel Alavarez Bravo and Paz published together in early 1980s in which Paz chose his poems and Bravo selected from his own collection of photographs to interpret the poetry.

The photographs on display are prints of the originals featured in the book from the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Foundation managed by the photographer’s daughter.

The collection is predominantly a document of evolving Mexico in the 1960s, which was marked by a second wave of a social and armed revolution and fierce nationalism.

It was also the time states like West Bengal in India were preparing for a social revolution.

The exhibits also include 25 photographs of Paz’ stay in India with his wife Marie-Jose.

The India photographs show the poet in the company of first Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and several other politicians in the capital. A rare holiday in Kasauli is also a part of the collection.

Paz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1990, was appointed amabassador to India in 1962 and spent six years in the country.

“During his tenure in India, Paz befriended several young artists aged between 18 and30 years despite the fact that he was 50. His poetry was coloured by vibrant and colourful images of Indian culture,” curator Conrad Tostado told IANS.

Indians are familiar with Paz and “the easiest way to introduce Bravo’s work in India was through Paz’ poetry”, Tostado said.

“We felt photography was also one of the most visible visual arts sectors in India,” he noted.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who died in 2002 at the age of 100 in Mexico City, had captured almost the entire contemporary history of Mexico in his photographs, according to Tostado.

“He is said to be the modern creator of photography in Mexico. He, along with close friend Octavio Paz, had opened Mexico to new aesthetics. They believed that nationalism was not everything and opened people’s minds to the world. The Mexican nationalists called them cosmopolists,” he said.

Bravo photograped the Mexican working class, the ethnic Mexican Indian people, indigenous arts, the impoverished countryside and urban abstractions - compositions that were centred on contemporary icons like fashion boutique mannequins, nudes, sun-bathing women, surrealistic art and people in cities in black and white frames.

He even experimented with X-ray photographs.

In a poetic ode to Bravo’s genius, “Facing Time for Manuel Alvarez Bravo”, Paz says: “Photos/time dangling from a verbal thread/ Black mountain/white clouds/girls selling birds/Manuel’s titles are not coincidence, they are verbal arrows/flaming signs … The eye thinks /thought sees…”.

The opening of the exhibition roughly timed with the death anniversary of Octavio Paz, who passed away April 19, 1998.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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