Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Retratos Pintados at Yossi Milo

Glad to see Yossi Milo getting on the vernacular photography bandwagon with their upcoming show Retratos Pintados.

I happened on a lovely young employee at the gallery a couple of weeks back carefully handling and cataloging over a hundred of these amazing hand painted prints, some printed on bits of cardboard, some curled over with time, all of them feeling like they were sliced from a sun-soaked and colorful but crumbling wall somewhere in Brazil. A really unique and amazing collection.

Needless to say I'm looking forward to the show, opening tomorrow night.

Reminiscent of the collection found by Thomas Dworzak in a Kandahar photo store and published as 'Taliban' there's something that really speaks to me with these hand painted images that's bordering on an obsession.

I first saw them on my travels in India and tried to buy a bunch from an old, beautiful wood fitted photography shop in Kashmir; pictures of Dal lake splashed with bold watercolour, blue skies for daytime and bright oranges for sunset. Painted portraits of young Indians with that same, timeless studio flash and painted faces; trapped in another age.

The owner, an old man surrounded by dusty old SLR's and a faded Kodak logo waved me away like I had indeed tried to steal his soul and I've continued my search for hand painted happiness ever since...

Here's the blurb for the show:

Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to announce Retratos Pintados, an exhibition of hand-painted vernacular photographs from Brazil. The exhibition will open on June 24 and close on September 18. This will be the premiere presentation of these one-of-a-kind photographs.

Since the late 19th century through the 1990s, hand-painted photographic portraits were a common feature in homes in the rural areas of the northeastern Brazilian states. At a time when black-and-white photographs were not considered dramatic enough, the retratos pintados (“painted portraits”) glamorized and idealized their subjects. Black-and-white family photos were enlarged and painted, conferring status on members of the family and portraying them as icons or saints. Using oil washes and other techniques specific to the region, local artisans embellished clothing with pattern and color, smoothed wrinkles, added jewelry or resurrected deceased relatives, illustrating the fantasies and desires of their customers.

Due to advances in technology over the past 25 years, hand-painted photographs have become a rarity in the region, and the tradition of analogue portrait-making is being lost. Most portraits are now computer-generated, eliminating the charm and distinctiveness of each artist’s individual style. The exhibition will include approximately 150 unique, vintage painted portraits ranging in size from 8” x 10” to 16” x 20”. The photographs were selected from those collected by Titus Riedl, a European who has lived in the region for 15 years. Fit into simple frames and hung together in clusters, the exhibition reflects the way family photos might be displayed in the home.


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