Last Update: Thursday, December 12, 2013
|HONORING LATINO HERITAGE- Legacy of Mexican Cinematographer Celebrated|
|Written by Andres Chavez Sun Staff Reporter|
|Thursday, 26 September 2013 06:37|
Gabriel Figueroa was one of the most celebrated cinematographers of the twentieth century. His stunning images of the Mexican people and countryside helped define Mexico to itself and the world, and influenced a generation of Mexican artists. Figueroa's vision of Mexican identity and culture spoke directly to the Mexican people. Now, for the first time in the United States, a comprehensive collection of Figueroa's work is being presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
After touring Mexico and France, the Televisa Foundation has authorized the exhibit's release to the United States. Sponsored by the Televisa Foundation, LACMA, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa – Art and Film" celebrates the achievements and legacy of the Mexican cinematographer.
This is an outstanding exhibit and a must see for anyone interested in Mexican culture, film history or beautiful art. One of the most important cinematographers of the "Golden Age of Mexican Cinema," roughly from the mid-30's through the early 50s, Figueroa (1907-1997) was among the artists who sought to convey the symbolic significance of the country's transformation after the horrific battles of the Mexican Revolution. Figueroa spoke of creating "una imágen Méxicana."
From the early 1930s through the early 1980s, he helped forge an evocative and enduring image of Mexico, its history, its landscape and its people. Figueroa's films are an essential part of the network of appropriations, exchanges and reinterpretations that formed Mexican visual identity and visual culture in the mid-20th century and beyond.
Figueroa was part of the vibrant community of international painters, photographers, and printmakers – including Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo – who made Mexico City one of the cultural capitals in the late 30s. Figueroa's images were so stunning that he was described as "the fourth muralist" by Rivera. Figueroa, who worked with such international film directors as Emilio Fernández, John Ford, Luis Buñuel, and John Huston, built an enduring image of Mexico through his visual style.
While Figueroa's camera filmed Mexico's finest actors - Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, María Félix, Jorge Negrete, Columba Domínguez, and Silvia Pinal, Figueroa's his lens was also focused in the United States on Richard Burton and Ava Gardner (A Night of the Iguana), Clint Eastwood (Kelly's Heroes)and Shirley McLaine (Two Mules for Sister Sara).
"Under the Mexican Sky" features approximately 300 items, including film sequences, paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, posters, and archival documents. The exhibit also includes film, video, and photographic works by contemporary artists, such as Rodrigo García, Melanie Smith and Rafael Ortega, Gonzalo Lebrija, Juan Capistran and Mario Ybarra Jr., who all reflect Figueroa's legacy. It is organized thematically with an emphasis on how Gabriel Figueroa crafted Mexican visual history.
The first part explores Figueroa's filmic output on the Mexican Revolution. On the big screen, "La Revolucion" was the topic of newsreels, propaganda campaigns, and fictional recreations of legendary personalities and heroic battles. Figueroa's films of the 1930s and 1940s, including "La Adelita" (1937), and "Río Escondido"(1940), helped shape collective memory of the conflict. His depictions of heroic revolutionaries in stunning landscapes were aimed at building national pride and constructing an empowering iconography of the new Mexico.
The exhibition also presents the perspectives of international filmmakers and artists on postrevolutionary Mexico. Work made and published during the 1920s and 1930s by Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Anita Brenner, Paul Strand, Sergei Eisenstein, and others influenced the definition of "Mexicanness" that Figueroa and his contemporaries took on as a legacy.
The spirit of collaboration was strong in Figueroa's artistic community. "Under the Mexican Sky" showcases paintings and drawings such as Diego Rivera's "Flower Day (Día de Flores)" (1925) – one of the most famous paintings in LACMA's collection – and lithographs by Leopoldo Méndez made expressly for use in the credit's sequences of Figueroa's films.
By his manipulation of light and shadow, Figueroa brought to life the rapid urbanization that took place in Mexico between 1930 and 1970 and expressed in new cinematic narratives. One such urban drama, "Los Olvidados" (1950), launched a collaboration between Figueroa and legendary Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel, resulting in seven films between 1950 and 1964. By this time, the Mexican film industry had changed significantly, as did Figueroa's style, now encompassing color and mass-market comedic and melodramatic themes.
The exhibition closes with an array of archival materials (lent by the Televisa Foundation and The Academy) tracing Figueroa's close but often ambivalent ties to Hollywood from his first trip there in 1935 to his final collaboration with John Huston in 1983.
"'Under the Mexican Sky' is a perfect example of how LACMA, an encyclopedic museum with an international scope, approaches the intersection of art and film," said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. "Gabriel Figueroa had a tremendous impact on the visual culture of Mexico. We are pleased to co-present this exhibition with The Academy, and are grateful to the Televisa Foundation for their support."
"We are delighted to once again partner with LACMA in shining the spotlight on the life and career of a visionary filmmaker," said Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO. "This exhibition invites visitors to discover Figueroa's iconic works as well as his influence on global cinema. It also provides a glimpse of what's to come in 2017 when we open the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures next to the LACMA campus."
Britt Salvesen, Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings Department, and Rita Gonzalez, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, serve as co-curators of the exhibit, and will incorporate more works of art and an accompanying film series.
"Gabriel Figueroa's cinematic work contributed to the construction of Mexican visual identity and is an important part of film and art history," Gonzalez said. Salvesen adds, "Figueroa's portrayal of pivotal cultural subjects, ranging from Mexican revolutionary soldiers to landscape motifs, created a visual lexicon for Mexico that has influenced today's generation of artists and filmmakers."
Gabriel Figueroa's prolific career in cinema spanned more than fifty years during which time he worked as a studio portrait photographer, photojournalist, still photographer, lighting artist, camera operator, and cinematographer. His body of work exhibits his technical skill, careful handling of composition and lighting, and affinity for the aesthetics of artists.
In total, Figueroa's cinematic body of work consists of more than 200 films, including "María Candelaria" (1943), which won a prize for cinematography at the Cannes Film Festival; "Macario" (1960), the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film in a Foreign Language; "The Night of the Iguana" (1964), which garnered an Academy Award nomination for best cinematography; "Two Mules for Sister Sara" (1969); "Kelly's Heroes" (1969); and "Under the Volcano" (1983).
His achievements were recognized by colleagues in both Mexico and the United States. Figueroa was nominated to be an active member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1968; became president of the (italics) Academia Mexicana de Ciencias Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas de México (italics end) in 1972; and he received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 1995.
The exhibit runs through Feb. 2, 2014. LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, Art of the Americas Building, Level 2. LACMA is open every day except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. General admission tickets are $15; seniors and student tickets are $10, and group tickets (10 or more) are $12 each. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. For more information, call (323) 857-6000.
Gabriel Figueroa's career as a cinematographer created more than 200 films in multiple genres, made in Mexico and Hollywood with some of the leading directors and actors of his time.
A. Film still from Macario. Attributed to Angel Corona Villa. 1959 © Televisa Foundation
B. Film still from Enamorada, directed by Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez, 1946 © Televisa Foundation
C. Film still from Maria Candelaria, directed by Tito Davison, 1944 © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive
D. Film still from La perla, directed by Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez, 1945 © Televisa Foundation
E. Alfonso Mejía as Pedro in Los Olvidados 1950, Directed by Luis Buñuel © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive
F. Film still from La Bienamada, directed by Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez, 1951 © Televisa Foundation
G. Film still from Una cita de amor, directed by Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez, 1956 © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive
The Films of Gabriel Figueroa
Here is a listing of Figueroa's films to be presented during his exhibit by LACMA beginning Friday, Sept. 27. The films will be shown LACMA's Bing Theater. Tickets are $10 for general admission; $7 for LACMA members; and $5 for seniors and students.
"La Perla (The Pearl)," Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.
"Rosa Blanca (The White Rose)," Sept. 27, 9:10 p.m.
"Dias de Otoño (Autumn Days)," Sept. 28, 5 p.m.
"Distinto Amanecer (Another Dawn)," Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.
"María Candelaria," Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
"Pueblerina (Small Town Girl)," Oct. 4, 9:20 p.m.
"Río Escondido," Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.
"Macario," Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m.