Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So what else was going on 100 years ago?

Sabino Osuna, "Felicistas in the YMCA," ca. 1910-1914, photograph, courtesy of Sweeney Art Gallery and Special Collections Library, University of California, Riverside. Part of the Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna’s Photographs of the Mexican Revolution, , now at the UNM Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque.

Chloe Courtney is one of the excellent writers and art historians who write for Adobe Airstream: Art, Music and Film from the West. She penned the following review in A2's Nov./Dec. issue. It caught my attention for several reasons. One, the photo is startling, with its group of gunman by the window of a YMCA in Mexico. Second, my wife works for the local Y, and I spent some time imagining a group of revolutionaries or counter-revolutionaries using the Y as a gun emplacement against... who, liberals streaming over the border from Colorado? Third, my grandfather, Raymond Shay, was with Pershing on the Mexican border, allegedly there to keep Pancho Villa and his irregulars on the southern side of the demarcation line (more about this in future posts). Finally, it alerted me to an excellent exhibit in the Rocky Mountain region that I may travel to in my retirement. If I can get there before it closes on Jan. 31.

Here's a snippet of the piece entitled "How to View the Mexican Revolution:"
In the photograph “Felicistas in the YMCA,” snipers crouch near a window in a rubble-strewn room and train their weapons on the street below, and yet, the title informs us, this violent scene takes place in a former community center.
The photograph appears in the exhibition Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna’s Photographs of the Mexican Revolution, on view at the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. It defies an otherwise chronological and thematic structure following the revolution and developments in Osuna’s photography. Located at the entrance of the exhibition, the image reveals a curatorial strategy to make the subject of the Mexican Revolution accessible for a US viewership. Some Americans may not recognize the names of revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa or Emiliano Zapata, but they know the YMCA, and likely experience the shock of seeing a familiar community center occupied by gunmen.
Mexico at the Hour of Combat shows, for the first time, a group of documentary photographs from UC Riverside Libraries Special Collections and Archives. This collection comprises 427 glass negatives of Sabino Osuna’s documentary photographs of the Mexican Revolution, 56 of which have been selected for inclusion in the exhibition.
The show includes compelling portraits of key figures of the Revolution, as well as powerful documentation of the brutal violence of the war, and images constructed to craft a new Mexican identity. As a whole, the exhibition importantly works to combat the under-representation of Mexican arts in U.S. cultural institutions, and seeks to draw attention to the Mexican Revolution as an important player in our understanding of revolution and resistance today. 

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