Duelo en cementerio. Chiapas, México

Graciela Iturbide1975

Fundacion MAPFRE

Fundacion MAPFRE
Madrid, Spain

Fundación MAPFRE acquired its first Iturbide works in 2008 (16 prints) and made a second purchase of 169 photographs of similar characteristics in 2011, which means that this artist’s career is quite well represented in its collection.

Fundación MAPFRE organised a major retrospective in 2009, and two years later, in 2011, Fundación MAPFRE arranged for her work to be shown at one of the most important events on the international photography calendar, the Rencontres d’Arles, where she had already won an award in 1991.

Paula Susaeta


  • Title: Duelo en cementerio. Chiapas, México
  • Creator: Graciela Iturbide
  • Creator Lifespan: 1942
  • Creator Birth Place: Mexico City, Mexico
  • Date Created: 1975
  • Physical Dimensions: w46.4 x h32.2 cm (Without frame, without passepartout)
  • More Info: Minisite
  • Artist Biography: Graciela Iturbide (1942) Graciela Iturbide wanted to be a writer and later a filmmaker, but when she met Manuel Álvarez Bravo and saw his photographs, she found them so moving that she decided to become a photographer. For her, photography is a way of exploring, researching and getting to know other cultures, starting with her own. In her hands the camera becomes a tool of knowledge. Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka and Hiroshi Hamaya are among her professional role models. In 1969 Iturbide enrolled in the Centre for Film Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she became an assistant to one of her teachers, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who would also become her mentor. In 1970 the demise of her daughter Claudia plunged her into several dark years of grief and fixation on death, from which the artist claims that death actually rescued her: “It told me, ‘End it now, beware of it’ and I did.” She later travelled to Panama to photograph General Omar Torrijos, and immediately afterwards, in 1975, her first exhibition, Tres fotógrafas mexicanas, opened at Galería José Clemente Orozco in Mexico City. In 1979 she visited the Sonora Desert and took one of her best-known photographs, Mujer ángel [Angel Woman]. This trip would give rise to the project Los que viven en la arena [Those Who Live in the Sand] (1981). She also went to Juchitán at the invitation of artist Francisco Toledo to work on an exhibition about the Zapotec culture. Both her immersion in Zapotec culture and her encounter with Toledo—who from that moment on would remain a close friend and colleague with a tremendous intellectual influence on both her life and work—were pivotal moments in her career. In response to questions about her interest in symbols and rituals, Iturbide has commented, “Even if we renounce our upbringing, it’s always part of our baggage; it accompanies us wherever we go.” And no one knows this better than her. The photographer, now a practising agnostic, was brought up in a Catholic middle-class Mexican family, where symbols and rites were an intrinsic part of the language: as a young girl, Graciela would dress up as a Madonna or a little angel, depending on the occasion. The photographer subsumed the writer and the filmmaker: words and motion are trapped in the static image of the world that Iturbide offers us. Their surrealism, poetics and a certain carnality make her photographs immediately recognisable. In 1980 her work was exhibited in Mexico City and Juchitán, and in 1982 the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) organised her first trans-Atlantic solo show (she had been exhibiting in the United States since 1976). After that time Iturbide held exhibitions around the world, with two major shows taking place in 1996: Graciela Iturbide, la forma y la memoria at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey and Graciela Iturbide: Images of the Spirit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other venues. Symbols, rites, death, communities and the complicity required to photograph them, as in Juchitán de las mujeres [Juchitán of the Women] (1994) and Graciela Iturbide: Juchitán (2008); festivals, celebrations and the nonchalance of those who pose unabashedly for the camera, as in Chalma; the trip to photograph the goat slaughter, captured in En el nombre del padre [In the Name of the Father] (1993); the silence after photographing gardens, such as the botanical gardens of Oaxaca seen in Narurata (2004) with their plants in the process of healing, with veils, injected solutions and strings to help them grow straight; the Seri Indians of Sonora; the festivities of Chalma and Juchitán; and the birds that are her inseparable companions, to the point that they became part of an emblematic self-portrait in which the artist’s eyes were covered by birds, one living and one dead. Each image inspires us to remember the essential: life, death and pleasure. What makes humans human and the world, the world. The journey is always present as a tool for learning. In the 1990s Iturbide travelled to Benares, India. She discovered solitude in the United States in the year 2000, photographing landscapes for the first time in Tampa, Florida. Iturbide found her interest in the idea of the landscape and the horizon growing strong again. She returned to India. In 2006, back in Mexico, she photographed the reopening of Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, which had been closed up by Diego Rivera in 1954. Iturbide is not a Frida-maniac, as she herself admits, but Frida is Saint Frida Kahlo in Mexico and one must approach the legend with respect. The evocative power of this work allows us to imagine the days and nights of an artist marked by pain and the oppression of corsets, crutches, politics and her own illness. Japan, Korea, Italy… as the list of countries grew, so did her collection of awards and distinctions: the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant, first prize at Mois de la Photo in Paris, and the International Grand Prize in Hokkaido, Japan. In 2008 she won the Hasselblad Award, currently the highest distinction a photographer can receive. “I am a solitary person, which is why I chose photography over film. When you take pictures you’re alone, and you also have those nights of reflection.” Paula Susaeta
  • Type: Photography
  • Rights: © Graciela Iturbide, ©COLECCIONES FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE / Fernando Maquieira

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