Exhibit | Looking Out, Looking In

Luis González Palma, Lottery #1/Lotería #1, 1989-91. Hand-painted gelatin silver prints. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Wallis Foundation. © Luis González Palma, Courtesy of Schneider Gallery, Inc.

Photography provides an immediate portal into another world, instantly transporting you to another place and time where you can gaze upon a fraction of a second forevermore, literally standing in someone else’s shoes and seeing life through their eyes. “Looking In, Looking Out: Latin American Photography” is now on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, through March 13, 2015.

Featuring 47 photographs selected from the Museum’s permanent collection, “Looking Out, Looking In” includes works made after the 1930s by photographic giants like Raúl Corrales (1925–2006) and Alberto Korda (1928–2001), as well as living artists Mario Algaze, Eniac Martínez, Rodrigo Moya, Alejandro Cartagena, and Luis González Palma. This is the final exhibition that Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography, organized before her passing on July 28.

Raúl Corrales, Blue Jeans, Cuba, 1948. Gelatin silver print. SBMA Museum purchase with funds provided by the Cheeryble Foundation.

“Looking Out, Looking In” offers a diverse array of vantage points, perhaps none quite so literal as “Car Poolers 20” (2012) by contemporary Mexican Alejandro Cartagena, who has been using photography to investigate urban growth and development through the lives of the working. From a high vantage point he studies one aspect of the recent rise of construction projects in Monterrey, Mexico, with “Car Poolers 20” giving us a bird’s eye view of the workers’ daily highway commute.

Continuing with the theme of perspective, we see how important it is to pull back in order to see the big picture as a whole. In curating these photographs Karen Sinsheimer has crossed national boundaries in order to look for the possibility of an overarching unity, while also acknowledging the sheer breadth the denomination Latin American photography is not so easily contained. Her selections draw thematic, aesthetic, and imaginative connections between otherwise disconnected frames.

Alberto Korda, Don Quixote of the Lamppost/El Quijote de la farola, 1959 (printed 1998). Gelatin silver print. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by Mrs. Rowe S. Giesen. © Copyright Korda Estate Courtesy of Couturier Gallery

Among the gems in the collection are Cuban photographer Alberto Korda’s “Don Quixote of the Lamppost” (1959, printed 1998), a sea of people eagerly anticipates a speech by Fidel Castro, demonstrating the then-young leader’s ability to captivate his audience. The work is beautifully juxtaposed with the work of his fellow countryman, Raúl Corrales, whose boldly cropped photograph titled “Blue Jeans, Cuba” (1948) of three men standing in a crowd reminds us of that a proletariat class had long been awaiting Castro’s rise to power.

On the other side of this story is the work of Mario Algaze, who had been exiled from Cuba as a child in the 1960s. Growing up in Miami, Algaze longed to rediscover his routes, seeking out cultural experiences that remind him of his home country as he travels throughout the Americas. His images of Guatemala, Argentina, and Costa Rica capture longstanding traditions still present in contemporary society. As he bears witness to social customs familiar across Latin America, he recreates a nostalgic vision of his former homeland.

Flor Garduño, Basket of Light (Canasta de luz, Sumpango, Guatemala), 1989. Gelatin silver print. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Amory.

Coming full circle, “Looking Out, Looking In” returns to where it all began, with the work of Guatemalan photographer Luis González Palma who hand paints gelatin silver prints with black bitumen and sepia tints, creating an antiqued aesthetic reminiscent of  the 19th-century photographic processes used to “exoticize” portraits of native Guatemalans. By reclaiming his roots, Palma encourages us to embrace the many layers of Latin America in all complex and compelling glory.

“Looking Out, Looking In” is on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, now through March 13, 2015.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.

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