Why this matters: In Focus/Enfoque: Contemporary Photography in Mexico, a cross-venue partnership funded by Bank of America, encourages partnerships among visual arts institutions and promotes increased cultural dialogue and understanding in Charlotte.
By Giovanna Torres
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Bringing people together through cultural programming that builds community is the main idea behind In Focus/Enfoque, the ambitious initiative that will span multiple visual arts institutions and galleries in Charlotte from August 2017 through June 2018.
The project will gather more than 50 artists from Mexico and the United States to explore diverse topics and themes, including design, gender, activism, identity, globalism and borders.
The exploration and focus on contemporary Mexican photography is intentional, said Allen Blevins, senior vice president and director of Global Art and Heritage Programs at Bank of America, who has been planning the initiative for about two years.
“Charlotte has one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the United States. The population is younger than the general demographics for the Charlotte region and out of the Latino population, the majority is of Mexican ancestry,” said Blevins. “It made sense to celebrate and show art that would relate to this fast growing demographic and to the general population.”
A Revealing First
Blevins had the opportunity to see what will be the anchor exhibition of In Focus/Enfoque – Develar y Detonar: Fotografía Contemporánea en México, or Reveal and Detonate: Contemporary Photography in Mexico – in Madrid and Mexico City. He believes that having The Mint Museum in Charlotte be the first U.S. venue to exhibit ‘Reveal and Detonate’ is significant because of the illuminating topics explored in the photography, such as the Muxe culture in Southern Oaxaca, identified as a third gender (trans-individuals; typically men who identify as female).
Photographers confront complex and challenging issues that affect contemporary culture in Mexico today in what Blevins calls “one of the strongest exhibitions of contemporary art photography that I have seen.”
“It speaks extremely highly of The Mint Museum to be the first U.S. venue for this exhibition,” he said. “It also speaks very highly that (exhibit organizer) Televisa agreed to travel (the exhibition) here. I don’t think they would’ve done that if we didn’t have a strong institution like the Mint, the population in Charlotte and the arts community that would embrace it.”
Creating an Accessible Exhibit
The Light Factory, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, LaCa Projects and SOCO Gallery will all participate in this cross-venue initiative, but In Focus/Enfoque is not going to stay inside the museum and gallery walls.
There will be several community engagement activities throughout the duration of In Focus/Enfoque, including opportunities for people to interact with some of the photographers whose works are featured in the shows.
“It’s a real unique opportunity for Charlotte,” Blevins said. “One of the things that we’re committed to is making this a community dialogue with all parts of our community.”
All the materials will be bilingual, and some talks will be in Spanish. Nelson Morales, one of the artists-in-residence at McColl Center, will be conducting classes in Spanish.
Starting Cultural Dialogues through Art
The dialogues that emerge from the exhibitions and programs related to In Focus/Enfoque are important, Blevins said.
“I think art in general has the ability to encourage that talk, regardless of what particular culture or genre the art is about,” he said. “Part of this is helping us all to better understand different cultures, to better understand our neighbor to the south, and to better understand our neighbors here in Charlotte.”
This initiative also comes with great opportunities for Charlotte. It will expose the city to some of the top young photographers on the international art scene and will showcase several of Charlotte’s cultural institutions.
“My hope is that this program is so successful for the museum and the community and Charlotte that we see it as a model for the future,” Blevins said. “Any time cultural institutions partner it’s good for the institutions and for the community that they serve.”
Don’t Miss It!
In Focus/Enfoque, an ambitious multi-institution exhibition of contemporary Mexican photography, will take place in Charlotte from August 2017 through June 2018. This unique collaboration features more than 50 artists from Mexico and the United States. As an exploration of diverse topics and themes—including design, gender, activism, identity, globalism, and borders—In Focus/Enfoque will showcase a wide variety of contemporary art in dialogue with the Queen City.
As a major supporter of arts and culture across the region, Bank of America led the planning, collaboration, and funding of In Focus/Enfoque. For details, visit CharlotteCultureGuide.com/InFocus.
Note: These exhibitions may include adult themes and content including nudity. Parents may wish to preview the exhibition before viewing with younger visitors.
The Mint Museum
Reveal and Detonate: Contemporary Photography in Mexico
Develar y Detonar: Fotografía Contemporánea en México
October 28, 2017 to June 17, 2018
Mexico is an ever-changing nation with a rich cultural history; yet it also has undergone deep social, political, and ideological transformations during the modern era. Reveal and Detonate, the anchor exhibition of In Focus/Enfoque, offers a compelling survey of the work of more than 30 contemporary Mexican photographers, with intergenerational artists coming together to draw a complex, contradictory, and thought-provoking map of present-day Mexico. The Mint Museum will be the first U.S. venue for this exhibition, which has previously appeared in Madrid in 2015 and Mexico City in 2016.
The Light Factory
Exposed/Expuesta: Exploring Identity in Contemporary Mexican Photography
August 24 to October 13, 2017
Mexico’s complex history has created an equally complex society. Over time, it has absorbed various different cultures and traditions, combining strong Catholic values with beliefs from other religions, and mixing influences from foreign cultures with indigenous, pre-Hispanic customs. Exposed/Expuesta will feature work by 10 contemporary artists who use photography to question and challenge notions of identity through personal and cultural explorations of their own environment.
McColl Center for Art + Innovation
Nelson Morales, Artist-in-Residence
August 28 to December 5, 2017
In Focus/Enfoque artist Nelson Morales focuses on sexual diversity in different cultures—mainly the community of muxe, a third gender—on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, part of the state of Oaxaca. This fall, Morales will be an artist-in-residence at McColl Center, where he plans to collaborate with Time Out Youth, a Charlotte-based organization dedicated to empowering LGBTQ youth, and the Bank of America LGBT Pride Employee Network. The artist will also conduct a three-part photography workshop in Spanish at McColl Center and The Light Factory.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Paul Strand in Mexico
September 1, 2017 to January 7, 2018
Already a respected photographer in the United States, Paul Strand lived in Mexico from 1932 to 1935 where he worked on Redes (1936), a film commissioned by the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education, and photographed the changing landscape and people of Mexico. Strand traveled the countryside photographing the small towns, churches, and the people who occupied the land. Twenty images were selected and published as a portfolio in 1940, titled Photographs of Mexico.
Maestros mexicanos de la fotografía moderna: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Flor Garduño, Graciela Iturbide y Mariana Yampolsky: Works from the Bank of America Collection
September 29, 2017 to March 4, 2018
The mid-20th century was a time of great change in post-Revolutionary Mexico as the sociopolitical landscape struggled to find stability. In these decades of flux, many artists captured the country’s efforts to establish a unified Mexican cultural identity. Maestros mexicanos de la fotografia moderna focuses on five modernist photographers who documented this period: Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902–2002), Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906–1989), Flor Garduño (Mexican, born 1957), Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, born 1942), and Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, 1925–2002).
LaCa (Latin American Contemporary Art) Projects
Karina Juarez, Humberto Rios, and Alejandra Laviada
September 14 to November 4, 2017
Karina Juarez, Humberto Rios, and Alejandra Laviada, an award-winning trio of emerging contemporary photographers, present powerful works in the gallery’s first-ever photography exhibition. The photographs present varying themes and images, ranging from identity and personal loss to metaphorical and autobiographical elements, and create striking visual narratives taken from the personal experiences of the artists, as well as from conceptual ideas and practices. All three artists have extensive artistic training and have been featured in international solo and collective exhibitions.
December 13, 2017 to January 12, 2018
Alejandro Cartagena: Home is an exhibition of photographs from the Monterrey, Mexico-based artist, featuring works from his “Carpoolers” and “Mexicana Suburbia” series. Cartagena’s works employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues. His images have been exhibited internationally and are in the collections of several museums including the SFMOMA, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Portland Museum of Art, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and the Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca, Mexico. This will be the artist’s first exhibition in North Carolina.