Synopses & Reviews
Making a vital contribution to the understanding of Latin American modernism, Esther Gabara rethinks the role of photography in the Brazilian and Mexican avant-garde movements of the 1920s and 1930s. During these decades, intellectuals in Mexico and Brazil were deeply engaged with photography. Authors who are now canonical figures in the two countriesandrsquo; literary traditions looked at modern life through the camera in a variety of ways. Mandaacute;rio de Andrade, known as the andldquo;popeandrdquo; of Brazilian modernism, took and collected hundreds of photographs. Salvador Novo, a major Mexican writer, meditated on the mediumandrsquo;s aesthetic potential as andldquo;the prodigal daughter of the fine arts.andrdquo; Intellectuals acted as tourists and ethnographers, and their images and texts circulated in popular mass media, sharing the page with photographs of the New Woman. In this richly illustrated study, Gabara introduces the concept of a modernist andldquo;ethosandrdquo; to illuminate the intertwining of aesthetic innovation and ethical concerns in the work of leading Brazilian and Mexican literary figures, who were also photographers, art critics, and contributors to illustrated magazines during the 1920s and 1930s.
Gabara argues that Brazilian and Mexican modernists deliberately made photography err: they made this privileged medium of modern representation simultaneously wander and work against its apparent perfection. They flouted the conventions of mainstream modernism so that their aesthetics registered an ethical dimension. Their photographic modernism strayed, dragging along the baggage of modernity lived in a postcolonial site. Through their andldquo;errant modernism,andrdquo; avant-garde writers and photographers critiqued the colonial history of Latin America and its twentieth-century formations.
andldquo;With subtlety and rigor, Esther Gabara deftly expands the horizon of photographic history and redefines the contours of twentieth-century modernism in the Americas. Focusing on the social and cultural andlsquo;ethosandrsquo; of aesthetic practice in both Mexico and Brazil, she provides a provocative corrective to formalist definitions that dominate the field and demonstrates that the full story of photographic modernism has yet to be told.andrdquo;andmdash;Jennifer A. Gonzandaacute;lez, author of Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art
andldquo;Errant Modernism is outstanding. Esther Gabara effortlessly navigates between avant-garde literary texts and modern print culture to reveal an ethic of andlsquo;that which errs.andrsquo; In the process, photography becomes both the fact and metaphor enabling her theory of Latin American modernist cultural production.andrdquo;andmdash;Roberto Tejada, author of National Camera: Photography and Mexicoandrsquo;s Image Environment
Examines photographs, mixed media essays, and experimental literature from two of the most influential modernist avant-garde movements in Latin America, proposing a theory of modernism that addresses the intersection of ethics and aesthetics.
About the Author
Esther Gabara is Assistant Professor of Romance Studies, and Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations vii
1. Landscape: Errant Modernist Aesthetics in Brazil 36
2. Portraiture: Facing Brazilian Primitivism 75
3. Mediation: Mass Culture, Popular Culture, Modernism 120
4. Essay: Las Bellas Artes Panduacute;blicas, Photography, and Gender in Mexico 143
5. Fiction: Photographic Fictions, Fictional Photographs 196