Combining street photography with the tenets of modernism, Manuel Carrillo photography (1906-1989) portrayed his native Mexico from the perspective of an affectionate observer, transforming ordinary moments into expressions of quiet eloquence. Manuel Carrillo: Mexican Modernist is on view through February 4, 2024 at New Mexico Museum of Art.
Curated by Katherine Ware, curator of photography at NMMOA, this exhibition highlights 19Manueal Carrillo photography works drawn primarily from the NMMOA collection.
Carrillo turned to the camera late in life, joining the Club Fotográfico de México (Photographic Club of Mexico) at the age of 49. He quickly found his voice by making images of everyday life throughout Mexico, celebrating local culture and the human spirit. His work is an extension of Mexicanidad, a movement begun in the 1920s to forge a Mexican national identity free of foreign influence. Stylistically, Carrillo was largely inspired by a mix of Mexican artists who trained abroad and international artists who converged on Mexico during that fertile period.
“Carrillo’s skill as a photographer relies on his ability to transform the seemingly mundane into something visually and emotionally engaging,” Mark White, NMMOA executive director, said. “Through unexpected juxtapositions and unusual camera angles, he encourages us to take a second look at daily life in Mexico. At the risk of stating the obvious, there’s a lot of heart in Carrillo’s work.”
The artist’s interest in indigenous cultures and his use of bright sunlight to create compositions with dramatic shadows and bold geometric forms is aligned with modernist aesthetics, while his practice of finding a picture by wandering cities and towns across Mexico is more aligned with the tradition of street photography.
Unlike some of his predecessors, and particularly those from abroad, Manuel Carrillo photography captures events of the ordinary world without idealizing or aestheticizing, showing instead his empathy for working people and lives lived in harmony with nature.
Augmenting the exhibition are photographs on loan from two private collections, one a promised gift to the museum.