Last night, Museo Universitario del Chopo opened an exhibit of Graciela Iturbide’s photography called “Graciela Iturbide y Avándaro,” that displays images from the music festival, Festival de Rock y Ruedas (Rock and Wheels Festival). Curated by Álvaro Vázquez Manrecón, the exhibit features 56 images, as well as videos and documents, that detail the decisive moment in Mexican counterculture.
The event, Festival de Rock y Ruedas, perhaps the most important rock moment in Mexico up until that point, was a music festival that took place in 1971 in Avándaro, Valle de Bravo. Juxtaposed against the student movement repressions of 1968 and 1971, the festival exists as a radical act of joyous resilience and resistance to cultural norms.
The photographer, Graciela Iturbide, has documented everyday Mexican life for decades. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world, including the Getty Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She’s been the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Hasselblad Foundation Photography Award.
Through her images she chronicles the lives of a variety of subjects, from indigenous communities to Mexican-Americans along the border. Never exoticizing or reifying a national identity, Iturbide articulates her subjects’ identity as acts of power, centering the marginalized and making the political poetic.
The exhibit focuses on one photographer’s interpretation of the festival. Iturbide took the photos while she was studying at Cinematographic Studies University Center (CUEC). Her high-contrast black and white prints of the festival goers feel intimate and essential — perhaps a function of the subject often directing their gaze towards the camera, and thus the viewer. She pulls solitude into the overwhelmingly public event while capturing the indelible communal moments of ecstasy and celebration.
Like, Woodstock, the festival exists in our collective imagination as a hedonistic celebration of life, love and music. However, Iturbide’s photographs catch the liminal moments, arising or waiting between shows, challenging the chaos and spectacle of the event. The photographs suspend these moments in time, and make the festival — which has otherwise been celebrated as public, loud, political — an intimate, private affair. Images of women cradling their babies, sit alongside naked women singing along to bands performing.
The curation of the images also has a particular effect. The photographs hang from the ceiling along, but not against, the walls of the museum with a grouping of photographs hanging in a rectangular shape in the middle of the space, creating a walkway in between. Walking through the festival-goers gives the effect that, as the viewer, you are also walking through the festival, participating in the action.
Pulling you closer and making you part of the spectacle, the exhibit demystifies the festival while carving a window into a particular political moment or sensibility.
The exhibit opens on Sept. 14 in the Galería Arnold Belkin. Museo del Chopo is locate at Doctor Enrique González Martínez 10 and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 to 7 p.m. Entrance is 40 pesos.