Art review

Corporeal soul, ancient unity

Two prints by this senior Mexican artist offer an insight into her vision, where against a modest wall an old photographer takes a portrait of an aged man with an obsolete tripod camera and where the shadow of Iturbide shooting a palm tree leans towards its cast shadow. The past enduring in the present seems to reconcile rough, tactile physicality with intangible, mysterious grace, while the photographer is a sharp but empathic observer herself immersed in the pulsating matrix and atmosphere of people, apparently inanimate surfaces and plant-life.

Whether in portraits, nature close-ups or landscapes, the sense of direct proximity permeates one of endless, ambiguous vastness. The images of Mexicans in their surroundings do base on familiar and spectacular aspects of the culture, however, avoiding the traps of formal overstress bring out their powerful, complex and nuanced truthfulness and poetry. They reverberate of an intensely emotional devotion, the Catholic, staged grandeur blending in traces of archaic intuitions, rituals and icons. It not only accepts but celebrates being vigorous, sensual and tender on par with religious fervour as well as suffering, inflicting pain and dying. With equal compassion Iturbide captures the radiant Madonna tattoo on a handsome youth’s back, the surrender in faith of a girl prostrate, the eroticism of a heavily made up woman against a painted death mask, the eerie mortal goddess with an iguana crown, the animation of dead chickens trickling blood on mud walls, the otherness of a little girl under a veil.

The naïve yet expressive carnival masks of beauty and death grasp and enhance coexistent sides of life, in fact, revealing the role of art. If the human figures incorporate bonding with organic beings and matter, nature contains their essence. The woman of a swinging pace appears to both sweep the rocky scenery into her gesture and clothes and to enter it. Such presence underlies the uninhabited landscapes where a lone cross, tree or cloud come to the verge of music under rhythmically spreading birds in flight. Like in the human images, but finer still, the artist here lets clear, graphic accents disposed almost on the surface pervade and turn into another revelation of solid volumes, less palpable, expansive, deep spaces and partial blurs whose dynamism connects it all.

Density cannot be alien from elusiveness, as black and white shots mediate, refine and merge varied shadowy areas, often immersed in or embraced by blackness and diaphanous translucence, illuminated somewhat, shot through by subdued light and themselves mutedly radiant. The takes with large cacti in a botanical garden evoke pan-organic oneness from an angle deceptively opposite to the human only to make it gently emphatic. The hard, thorny, meaty creatures in close-up affirm their plant qualities while evoking bodily and architectural structures, surfaces, motion potential and tactility.

The way their plasticity relates to the delicate-acute and nearly flat, yet rippling in space, intricacy of the nursery nettings allows us to recognise our assimilating and protecting nature in the artificiality of urban life.

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