modern magic


(Ed. note: I made a minor change to this post since initially publishing late last night [note to self: don’t do that] because I think it’s important to distinguish that magic realism is a Latin American literary tradition, not one that is specific to Mexico, and probably less notable when considering Mexican literary traditions in particular. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the master of magic realism [in my humble opinion], for example, is Colombian. While the Nobel Prize winning Mexican author Octavio Paz is best known as a liberal intellectual… Maybe this is negligible to some but I think it’s important, especially because I’m already taking liberties in my appreciation for these photographs!)  

Me encanta México D.F.  

It’s the only place I haven’t felt safe alone, it’s chaotic, it’s filthy, and rich and poor. The city is also the northern most epicenter of a region that is steeped in stories of magic realism and little bits of it linger and hover in thin and toxic air.

And so, I can’t help but be charmed by Mexico City artist, Alejandra Laviada‘s Photo Sculptures.


Color Blind Rainbow, 2008


Coral, 2008

She works in her hometown, goes into warehouses and creates these simple and quiet sculptures, then photographs them.  They appeal to me because they almost appear to have been found as is if they were left by accident, the result of some beautiful and tragic story written by Marquez, or in this case, Paz. 

The images are also, as described in the Danziger Projects press release, “about a reconciliation of past and future, classicism and modernism.”

James Danziger himself explains why he likes the work on The Year in Pictures:

Her pictures burst with inventiveness, and her prints are large, colorful, and luminous. They remind me of a cross between the work of Tara Donovan (who was just awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant) and the still lives of Irving Penn. (While of course remaining totally original.)

My painter friend Sarah liked the work because they are so painterly, color and composition playing essential roles.

All of these are good reasons for liking the work and would likewise be good reasons for disliking the work. The thing is, you have to go and see for yourself.  And when you do, you bring your own personal background and influences as well as the canon of imagery you have previously seen and experienced to formulate an intellectual, emotional, intuitive, and/or irrational, and/or some combination of these, response. My love of Mexico City and magic realism and the knowledge that that is where Laviada was photographing, led to an interpretation and appreciation of the photographs that is probably unlike anyone else’s. And this, as silly as it is, is one of the the things that I love! love! about looking at and thinking about photographs.  So, really, see for yourself.


2 Responses to “modern magic”

  1. 1 Jasmine

    This is gorgeous. When I was traveling in South America, everything from the poetry written to tatoos people wore spoke of their consensus on magic as a part of their every day lives.

  2. 2 Beth

    Although I love the photographs I found them to evoke a feeling of playfulness and creativity more than magic realism. Perhaps since I haven’t traveled to Mexico or South America I’m missing the cultural implications of the project.

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