MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Little Piece of Mexico

Plaza con la Catedral

Plaza con la Catedral

At the main Civic Center location of the San Francisco Public Library the other day, I chanced upon this exhibit:
A Little Piece of Mexico: The Postcards of Guillermo Kahlo and His Contemporaries. On display is an intriguing range of images from the private collection of San Francisco’s poet laureate Alejandro Murguia. They make it clear why Mexico proved so attractive to photographers and other artists seeking a fresh perspective around the turn of 19th/20th century — like German immigrant Guillermo Kahlo (father of the artist Frida Kahlo).

The enormous new market for postcards left a de facto visual record of Mexico right before the upheaval of the revolution in 1910. These postcards were sold at the tourist sites, of course, but they were also easily obtained at cafes, bookstores, even bus stops. The exhibit’s introduction explains what makes them unique:

Mexico in the early 1900s was practically unknown territory, rich in a diversity of people, customs, and ethnic dresses and a place of conflicts and wars, generals and traitors, beautiful women and dangerous men, stunning landscapes, volcanoes, rivers, baroque architecture and thousand year old pyramids. All of it engaging to the eye and the camera.

As old-fashioned written letters and postcards become increasingly obsolete, these tokens of the past acquire an additional aura that would have seemed so odd when they were just everyday, mass-produced objects.

Tehuana in Full Dress

Tehuana in Full Dress

Filed under: art exhibition

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