Car Pooler #3 Makes You See

CRITICS CHOICE: Brooklyn based writer Nick Kolakowski has selected to write about Circuit Gallery artist Alejandro Cartagena‘s recent Car Poolers series.

Alejandro Cartagena, Car Pooler #8,#2,#10, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Car Poolers #8, #2, #10, 2011

Car Pooler #3 Makes You See
by Nick Kolakowski

We spend our lives refusing to see. We make a point of ignoring the disagreeable and the unjust. Every morning we board the subway or bus and stare past a rotating cast of homeless characters begging for change, even when they thrust a dirt-crusted hand under our noses; every night we click past images of genocide and warfare, instead directing our screens toward the scripted, bright and happy. You do it; I do it. There’s more than enough blame here to fill everyone’s bowl.

Alejandro Cartagena’s Car Poolers series hints at some Big Topic issues—immigration and exploitation, social status and the true cost of expansion—while forcing its audience to see what many choose to ignore. From most angles, the trucks he photographs would be nondescript. Shooting from high above, however, offers a view into the trucks’ flatbeds, and a world otherwise hidden by tailgates and steel sides: workers in worn jeans and dusty sneakers, packed flat amidst wheelbarrows and wooden pallets and buckets of tools.

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #1, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #1, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #2, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #2, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #4, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #4, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #3, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #3, 2011

In Car Pooler #1, Car Pooler #2, and Car Pooler #4 (all 2011) the workers appear asleep. An exception is Car Pooler #3 (2011), which features two of its three subjects awake but lying down, arms tight against their bodies; one of them has a hand cupped around his mouth, possibly smoking a cigarette. They are in transit, most likely to a construction site of some sort. There is a good chance that, if they keep quiet and still, nobody around them will notice their existence.

***

In a journalistic career spanning more than three decades of the twentieth century, Joseph Mitchell cataloged the people who built New York City and kept it fed. He wrote about the Mohawk construction workers scrambling along the steel skeletons of rising skyscrapers, and the hard lives of fishermen in the harbor. Whatever their occupation, the common denominator was pain: broken arms, failing livers, empty stomachs, dimming eyesight, and—perhaps worst of all—a creeping sense that in the end their efforts were all for nothing, that the world had abandoned them to die in crumbling hotels or on backwater reservations. One doubts many of the office workers in their gleaming towers, or the diners slurping down an oyster, gave much thought to the toil that had built the world around them.

Like Mitchell, Cartagena finds his subjects at low ebb, gathering strength for yet another shift of pouring concrete, shifting tons of soil, building the walls and floors of a new subdivision or office building. They create the bones of this world, even as they remain invisible to most of those within it. Cartagena’s environmental portraits aren’t imbued with the minutely choreographed symbolism of studio setups, but each is nonetheless weighty with subtext. We’re aware of the centuries-long fights over workers’ rights and immigration; we also know that, for as long as humanity’s existed, masses of people have been compelled into backbreaking labor for minimal payback. For anyone looking for a modern symbol of those eternal constants, it’d be hard to do better than a worker passed out beside his dusty tools, in a truck grinding toward the next job with the inevitability of Charon’s raft crossing the River Styx.

That’s what makes Car Pooler #3 so interesting. Unlike most other photographs in the series, two of its three subjects are awake. One of the pair wears sunglasses, hiding his gaze, but his compatriot to the right offers the viewer a flat gaze—wariness or defiance, depending on one’s point of view. Look at me all you want, he seems to be saying, or ignore me altogether. It makes no difference. I’m here, and I’m staring right back at you. Sooner or later, you won’t look away.

Nick Kolakowski is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. His fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Evergreen Review, Satellite Magazine, and Carrier Pigeon, among other venues. He’s also the author of “How to Become an Intellectual,” a work of comedic nonfiction. In the daylight hours, he helps edit the science-and-technology Website Slashdot.


See more work by Alejandro Cartagena available through Circuit Gallery:

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Fragmented Cities, Santa Catarina #2, 2008


Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Father With Children After Gathering Wood In Juarez Suburb, 2009


Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Fragmented Cities, Escobedo, 2008

New Work: Alejandro Cartagena’s Car Poolers

Cartagena doesn’t need to inject much commentary to create extremely powerful images. (Huffington Post)

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #2, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #2, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena’s Car Poolers

Circuit Gallery is pleased to offer a striking series of new works by Mexican-based photographer Alejandro Cartagena from his award winning project Car Poolers.

Cartagena was recently recognized in both the “People” and “Architecture” categories by the jury of the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards.

Offering a different take on ‘car pooling’ Cartagena continues his pointed investigation of the multiple and complex issues relating to unhampered suburban expansion. This recognition is not surprising, as this project, like his earlier Suburbia Mexicana comes from a deeply committed practice and desire to tell the story of the dramatic changes (environmental, demographic, economic) he is witnessing play out in his home city of Monterrey.

Cartagena’s work was recently acquired by both the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (MoCP) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and will be featured in SFMOMA’s upcoming exhibition Photography in Mexico (opening March 10 and running through July 08, 2012).

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #4, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #4, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #1, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #1, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #3, 2011

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Car Pooler #3, 2011

Artist Bio

Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His work has been exhibited and published internationally, and is in several public and private collections in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, and the Joaquim Paiva Collection, Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is the recipient of several major national grants, numerous awards, and acquisition prizes in Mexico and abroad. He is represented by Circuit Gallery (Toronto).

For more information contact Claire Sykes:
claire@circuitgallery.com | 1-647-477-2487

Circuit Gallery at upArt2011

Akihiko Miyoshi

Akihiko Miyoshi, Ode to the Pictorialists (2003)

Circuit Gallery @ upArt

Find Circuit Gallery at the 2011 upArt Contemporary Art Fair. We are very happy to be participating again in Toronto’s alternative art fair, scheduled to coincide with Art Toronto.

Our showcase exhibition features affordable and highly collectable works by:

Robert Canali
Alejandro Cartagena
Paulo Catrica
Leanne Eisen
Andrew Emond
Akihiko Miyoshi

+ TPW Silver Editions 2011 (a limited edition portfolio)
Kotama Bouabane
Michelle O’Byrne
Michael Snow


upArt 2011 Contemporary Art Fair

Thursday, October 27 through Sunday, October 30

Gala Opening Reception: Thursday, October 29, 7:00 – 10:00 PM
Exhibition Hours: Friday, Saturday + Sunday: 12:00 noon – 5:00 PM

The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON, M6J 1J6

[map]

We hope to see you there!
Claire + Susana

Andrew Emond

Andrew Emond, Board, Buffalo Color (2005)

Kotama Bouabane

Kotama Bouabane, Bridge (2010)

Leanne Eisen

Leanne Eisen, Laneway Lansdowne (2010)

Alejandro Cartagena: Artist Talk | 2011 CONTACT Photography Festival

Circuit Gallery presented, as a Featured Exhibition in the 2011 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a solo exhibition of work by Alejandro Cartagena from his acclaimed project “Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect” (2006 – 2009).

This is a video recording of the artist talk that Cartagena gave in Toronto, on Saturday, May 7, 2011. (Run time: approx. 32 mins.).

The photography exhibition Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect ran from April 28 – June 17, 2011.

Suburbia Mexicana is a documentary project deeply rooted in the local and the particular, in the artist’s own experience living and working in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. It is an ambitious and committed project that seeks to tell the complex story of the region’s rapid suburban expansion: from urban gentrification and inner-city ‘ghettoization,’ to the seemingly unplanned and unhampered suburban sprawl emanating from many of its fast growing cities, including the environmental consequences.

See More work by Alejandro Cartagena

ALEJANDRO CARTAGENA: SUBURBIA MEXICANA

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Girl Coming Home To Suburb In Juarez From A Night Out In The City from Suburbia Mexicana, 2009

NEWS RELEASE

ALEJANDRO CARTAGENA: SUBURBIA MEXICANA

Circuit Gallery brings acclaimed project to Toronto for CONTACT Photography Festival Featured Exhibition

Toronto, ON – April 28, 2011Circuit Gallery is pleased to present, as a Featured Exhibition in the 2011 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a major solo exhibition of 30 large-format works by contemporary Mexican photographer Alejandro Cartagena from his acclaimed project Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect (2006-2009). The exhibition features works drawn from the project’s constituent parts—Urban Holes, Fragmented Cities, Lost Rivers, and People of Suburbia.

The recent monograph Suburbia Mexicana, co-published by Daylight and Photolucida (2011), accompanies the exhibition. The book features 36 colour plates, an Introduction by Karen Irvine, an Essay by Gerardo Montiel Klint, and an Interview by Lisa Uddin.


Suburbia Mexicana is a documentary project deeply rooted in the local and the particular, in the artist’s own experience living and working in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. It is an ambitious and committed project that seeks to tell, in multiple chapters, the complex story of the region’s rapid suburban expansion: from urban gentrification and inner-city ‘ghettoization,’ to the seemingly unplanned and unhampered suburban sprawl emanating from many of its fast growing cities, including the environmental consequences.

Alejandro Cartagena’s project pays homage to and distinguishes itself from the New Topographics—a 1970s American exhibition of landscape photography that evolved into a movement. His subjects include: tract housing, inner-city vacant lots, desiccated or polluted rivers, and the residents of these new developments. Yet beyond simple documentation, Cartagena is interested in foregrounding the larger picture: “the Mexican suburbs are symbolic; they represent corruption, a lack of standards in planning, and personal obsessions.” Through a sustained and holistic visual study, Cartagena effectively conveys something about the deeper mechanisms at work–the ideological, political, economic, and social ground–in his “man-altered landscapes.”

Cartagena’s work equally diverges from earlier New Topographic approaches in that it does not simply reject beauty, or seek to coolly “aestheticize the banal.” His images are aesthetically alluring and offer multiple points of resonance, reaching beyond the specific place represented and attesting to something more pervasive and palpable on a global level—greed, corruption, ecological fragility and loss—as shared issues under advanced capitalism.

Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His work has been exhibited and published internationally, and is in several public and private collections in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, including the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, and the Joaquim Paiva Collection, Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is the recipient of several major national grants, numerous honorable mentions and acquisition prizes in Mexico and abroad. He is represented by Circuit Gallery (Toronto).


Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect runs April 28 through May 29 at Gallery 345, with an OPENING RECEPTION on Thursday May 5, from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.. The artist will be in attendance.

On Saturday, May 7, from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Mr. Cartagena will talk about his project and be signing books.

Please visit Circuit Gallery online to see and learn more:
http://www.circuitgallery.com

Circuit Gallery at Gallery 345
345 Sorauren Avenue, Toronto, Canada
[ Google Map ]

Gallery Hours:
Saturdays, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m., or by appointment
For more information contact Claire Sykes: claire@circuitgallery.com | 1-647-477-2487

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Fragmented Cities, Escobedo, 2008

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Business In Newly Built Suburb In Juarez, 2009

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Fragmented Cities, Santa Catarina #2, 2008

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Lost River #16, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Alejandro Cartagena, Suburbia Mexicana

Alejandro Cartagena, Father With Children After Gathering Wood In Juarez Suburb, 2009

Please visit Circuit Gallery online to see and learn more about this work.
www.circuitgallery.com


About Circuit Gallery

Circuit Gallery is the shared vision and collaborative product of Susana Reisman and Claire Sykes. The gallery specializes in high-end editions of works by emerging and established contemporary artists with an emphasis on photographic, digital and print-based works on paper.

For more information, visit www.circuitgallery.com or follow the daily conversation at www.twitter.com/circuitgallery.

-END-

For more information, contact:
Claire Sykes, Partner, Circuit Gallery
Tel: 647-477-2487
E-mail: claire@circuitgallery.com

Circuit Gallery Goes On-site At Böhmer With New Exhibition Line-Up Of Contemporary Photography

Alejandro Cartagena, <em>Untitled Lost River #12</em>, from the <em>Suburbia Mexicana</em> Project” width=”450″ height=”

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Lost River #12, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

NEWS RELEASE

Circuit Gallery Goes On-site At Böhmer With New Exhibition Line-Up Of Contemporary Photography

Toronto, ON – May 4, 2010Circuit Gallery and Böhmer are pleased to announce their partnership, one that gives the on-line gallery a vital and spacious physical exhibition space to showcase larger format work from their roster of both Canadian and international artists.

Böhmer, located at 93 Ossington Avenue in the heart of the thriving Queen West art district, is the new eponymous restaurant of renowned chef Paul Boehmer and partner Tracy Ulicny. Together, with designer Roy Banse, they have transformed a 5,000 square foot former auto garage into an impressive contemporary dining environment.

Circuit Gallery is an innovative web-based gallery whose primary mission is to make high-quality contemporary art more accessible by making it affordable. “As soon as we saw the Böhmer space we realized this was a perfect fit for us,” explains Claire Sykes, Circuit Gallery co-director, “not only in terms of its prime ‘art location’ and fantastic walls, but also in terms of our desire to showcase our artists’ work in physical spaces, in addition to our on-line presence.”

Alejandro Cartagena: Lost Rivers

The inaugural “Circuit Gallery @ Böhmer” exhibition introduces the work of the award winning Mexican-based photographer Alejandro Cartagena to a Canadian audience.

Coinciding with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Cartagena’s first solo exhibition in Canada features eleven large format works from the highly acclaimed Lost Rivers series.

Coming from a deeply felt love and concern for the landscape, Cartagena’s Lost Rivers series presents exquisite images of dried-up streams and river beds, visually rich in detail, colour, and light. While aesthetically alluring, these photographs simultaneously offer a poignant social commentary on the ecological and environmental effects of untempered urban expansion.

Must see work, the images in this series subtly document the direct effects of “wrongly implemented economical strategies” on the local ecosystem, all the while exposing a beauty that, despite this, inheres in the landscape. As the river beds become scars, and trash and graffiti punctuate quasi-picturesque scenes, Cartagena gives us a poignant yet ambivalent testament to the absolute interdependence of humans and our environment.

Based in Monterrey, Mexico, Alejandro Cartagena is receiving international praise and recognition for his photographic work. In 2009 Cartagena won the Critical Mass Book Award and was named one of PDN´s Top 30 emerging photographers. In 2009 Cartagena was also a finalist for the Aperture Portfolio Prize, selected as an “International Discovery” at the Houston FOTOFEST, a Hey Hot Shot Finalist, and a featured artist at the Lishui International Photography Festival in Lishui China (with a solo exhibition of Suburbia Mexicana). With his career taking off, Cartagena has a very busy 2010 with shows in New York, Monterrey, Portland, Barcelona, and Amsterdam.

Alejandro Cartagena: Lost Rivers runs May 11 through June 26 at Böhmer, with a reception on Saturday May 15, from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. The space is open for viewing Monday through Saturday, 2:00 p.m. until close.

Please visit Circuit Gallery online to see and learn more about this work.
www.circuitgallery.com


About Circuit Gallery

Circuit Gallery is the shared vision and collaborative product of Susana Reisman and Claire Sykes. The gallery specializes in high-end editions of works by emerging and established contemporary artists with an emphasis on photographic, digital and print-based works on paper.

For more information, visit www.circuitgallery.com or follow the daily conversation at www.twitter.com/circuitgallery.

-END-

For more information, contact:
Claire Sykes, Partner, Circuit Gallery
Tel: 647-477-2487
E-mail: claire@circuitgallery.com

Circuit Gallery is based in Toronto, Canada
www.circuitgallery.com | tel. 647-477-2487 | email: info@circuitgallery.com

Lo que no se ve en la fotografía de Alejandro Cartagena

Critics Choice: Salvador Alanis escribe sobre el trabajo fotográfico de Alejandro Cartagena.

Alejandro Cartagena, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project: Urban Holes

Alejandro Cartagena, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project: Urban Holes

Lo que no se ve en la fotografía de Alejandro Cartagena
por Salvador Alanis

Una preocupación común en la expresión contemporánea es reflejar con un lenguaje directo lo que no se puede ver de forma inmediata. Ante la evidencia y obscenidad de los medios, al artista se le presenta la alternativa de jugar con los mismos valores de una articulación formal que pretende mostrarlo todo para referirse a lo que subyace en la imagen. Dentro de lo aparentemente cotidiano, el artista presenta un subtexto que trasciende la formalidad. Alejandro Cartagena (República Dominicana, 1977), juega con los valores formales de la fotografía documental para subvertir el discurso y señalar la discontinuidad en lo que vemos retratado. Para Cartagena, el llamado fotodocumento es una herramienta valiosa para la expresión personal, o como lo dijera el crítico de fotografía mexicano José Antonio Rodríguez, significa el trabajo de “la circunstancia externa como pulsión individual” (28).

En principio, Cartagena, quien reside en México, participa de la tradición fotográfica mexicana que toma el paisaje como objetivo principal para estructurar su discurso. Dicha tradición se ha actualizado a lo largo de las diferentes generaciones, integrando las preocupaciones correspondientes a la época. En el caso del trabajo de Cartagena, el punto de partida evidente es el reflejo de las diversas transformaciones del paisaje, las marcas que dejan los diferentes estadios de las ciudades, las cicatrices del crecimiento y actividad humanas. Por eso, en primera instancia la lectura del trabajo de Cartagena es sin lugar a dudas relacionado con la responsabilidad ambiental, el desgaste del entorno, la multiplicación casi absurda de la mancha urbana sobre terrenos naturales mancillados.

Cartagena muestra en sus series fotográficas sobre la Suburbia Mexicana diferentes manifestaciones del desarrollo de las grandes metrópolis, basándose en el crecimiento de Monterrey, la tercera ciudad más grande de México. Cartagena toma la inserción de la ciudad a partir de viviendas en serie en la periferia inhabitada; dibuja el paso de las vías rápidas sobre espacios parafuncionales; da fe de la desaparición de los ríos al abastecer de agua las ciudades. La serie que Cartagena expone en Circuit Gallery, Lost Rivers, sigue la premisa documental que denuncia el daño ecológico que la ciudad infringe a las redes fluviales; muestra de arroyos y ríos secos de una forma visualmente muy afortunada. Sin embargo, más allá de esta preocupación evidente acerca del fenómeno, el documento pone de manifiesto instancias adicionales que pueden escaparse si solamente nos atenemos a lo eminentemente anecdótico del trabajo. Las fotografías de Alejandro Cartagena se centran en el registro de la discontinuidad, a partir de poner en evidencia espacios perdidos o mecanismos de sobreposición. Lo que importa en el trabajo a la vez paisajístico y documental de Cartagena es lo que no está, el elemento faltante. La falta se da como un encuentro formal, pero también como expresiones de la violencia. La discontinuidad genera un subtexto hacia lo antifuncional, aquello de lo que solamente queda el rasgo y que al mismo tiempo nos hace ver lo que realmente está en el paisaje. El crecimiento de la ciudad pone en evidencia lo faltante, el espacio inhabitable, lo perdido.

En otra serie del artista, llamada Urban Holes, Cartagena registra lotes sin construcción, los cuales de una forma o de otra escapan al continuo de las calles. En Symbolic Layering, el artista muestra capas y huecos en pasos a desnivel. Es lo que que no está lo que importa; lo que vemos es simulación, artificialidad, forma delirante que olvida espacios significativamente más importantes. La eficacia visual del trabajo de Cartagena logra poner en el mismo plano lo que no está en la fotografía de una manera que si bien, desde una perspectiva documental podría apuntar a una cierta nostalgia, en un nivel más profundo no es la nostalgia lo que opera, sino la presencia manifiesta de lo que no se ve, con todo su poder y misterio.

Rodríguez, José Antonio. “Los procesos de la fotografía contemporánea mexicana”, Huesca Imagen. Huesca: Huesca Imagen, 2004. 12-29.

Salvador Alanis (Mexico, 1964), is a writer. He has developed his work in the literary arena, as well as in the electronic media. He has been awarded by the National Fund for the Arts in Mexico and has been an artist in residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Salvador Alanis won the Multimedia Prize at the Video and Electronic Arts Biennial of Mexico, Vidarte, in 1999. He collaborates with major newspapers and magazines in Mexico, Spain and Canada. His published works include: “Del Paralaje” (Ediciones del Equilibrista, 1997), “Reojo” (Libros del Dragón, 1998), “Tránsito” (Libros del Dragón, 1999), “Fronteras, Borders” (La mano izquierda press, 2005), “De cuerpo presente”(Artes de Mexico, 2007), and “Fragilidad de las Fronteras” (K Editores, 2009). His visual work has been shown in several art spaces in solo and group exhibitions. He lives in Toronto.


See more work by Alejandro Cartagena available through Circuit Gallery:

Suburbia Mexicana

Untitled Lost River #2, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Suburbia Mexicana

Untitled Lost River #6, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Featured Artist: Alejandro Cartagena

March 2010

Circuit Gallery is very pleased to present work by Mexican photographer Alejandro Cartagena from his award winning Lost Rivers series.

Suburbia Mexicana Lost Rivers

Untitled Lost River #10, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Coming from a deeply felt love and concern for the landscape, Cartagena’s Lost Rivers series presents exquisite images of dried-up streams and river beds, visually rich in detail, colour, and light. While aesthetically alluring, these photographs simultaneously offer a poignant social commentary on the ecological and environmental effects of untempered urban expansion.

Lost Rivers is one part of a larger project entitled Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect, which seeks to tell a complex story of contemporary Mexican urban development and expansion: from urban gentrification and inner-city ‘ghettoization,’ to the seemingly unplanned and unhampered suburban sprawl emanating from many of its fast growing cities.

Alejandro Cartagena

from Suburbia Mexicana: Fragmented Cities

In Lost Rivers, Cartagena turns his attention specifically to the unintended environmental consequences of such rapid and unplanned growth, in this case in the region surrounding the northern city of Monterrey. (Monterrey, the third largest city in Mexico, has witnessed explosive growth over the past two decades with a current estimated population of 5.1 million in the metropolitan region). In order to meet increased demand for water from the fast expanding suburbs of Monterrey, many of the region’s rivers were re-routed and dammed, and as a consequence many of the rivers and streams have dried out, or are in the process of drying up.

Suburbia Mexicana Lost Rivers

Untitled Lost River #9, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

The images in this series subtly document the direct effects of “wrongly implemented economical strategies” on the local ecosystem, all the while exposing a beauty that, despite this, inheres in the landscape. As the river beds become scars, and trash and graffiti punctuate quasi-picturesque scenes, Cartagena gives us a poignant yet ambivalent testament to the absolute interdependence of humans and our environment.

Suburbia Mexicana

Untitled Lost River #2, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008



See more photographic work from this series by Alejandro Cartagena available through Circuit Gallery:

Untitled Lost River #4, from the Suburbia Mexicana Series, 2008

Untitled Lost River #4, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Untitled Lost River #3, from the Suburbia Mexicana series

Untitled Lost River #7, from the Suburbia Mexicana Series, 2008

Untitled Lost River #7, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Circuit Gallery artist Alejandro Cartagena APERTURE 2009 Portfolio Prize finalist

Emergence

Untitled Lost River #9, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project

Congratulations to Circuit Gallery artist Alejandro Cartagena, who was selected as a finalist from among the nearly 800 applicants to this year’s APERTURE Portfolio Prize, an international photography competition run by the Aperture Foundation.

Suburbia Mexicana

Untitled Lost River #6, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Read what they have to say about the LOST RIVERS series:

APERTURE Editorial Statement
The photographs in Lost Rivers by Alejandro Cartagena (b. 1977), which are part of a larger body of work entitled Suburbia Mexicana: Cause and Effect, interrogate the interdependence of humans and landscape in the face of urban expansion. Although artists and activists alike have placed intense focus on the negative impact of urban sprawl since the 1960s, Cartagena’s work is unique in its preoccupation with the subtler effects of suburban expansion, largely overlooked but indicative of significant, irrevocable change within a local ecosystem.

The city of Monterrey, at the heart of the Mexican state of Nuevo León, is the third largest city in Mexico, with a population of 3.8 million in the metropolitan region. As Monterrey’s population expands outward from the city center, increased demand for water has necessitated the reallocation of the region’s limited resources. Cartagena explains that, in the last twenty years, many local rivers and streams were “rerouted to dams to supply water for the nine cities of the metropolitan area of Monterrey, or have dried out as suburbia’s approximately 300,000 new houses move closer, destroying vegetation that sheltered and preserved the riverbeds’ running water.” The images in Lost Rivers provide explicit evidence of botched urban development and inadequate economic policy, even as they reveal the beauty to be found within the spoiled landscapes.

Formally, Cartagena’s photographs recall the monumental images of Minor White and Ansel Adams, while simultaneously reaching further back to the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School. The photographs are steeped in the Romantic tradition: sublime landscapes charged with glowing color and rich texture. Cartagena’s sensitive handling of color is evident in his saturated palette, which blends bright green, sienna, and sky blue with the deeper grey and purple notes of tires, spray paint, and bags of litter. The sharply detailed images reveal the lush texture of a bank of swamp greens, as well as the oily surface of a rivulet in the morning light. In many Romantic works, a central human presence unites the composition, serving as an emotional or inspirational keystone to the painting’s moral message. Unlike these scenes, however, Cartagena’s photographs are characterized by their focus on the traces of human presence—trash, graffiti marking a bridge, an empty riverbed—leaving the referent a vacuum.

Cartagena’s deliberate play on these visual tropes renders the desecration of these landscapes aesthetically as well as ethically repugnant. This tension between Romanticism and realism charges Cartagena’s work with both the artist’s love for the landscape and his sadness at its destruction, rendering the photographs simultaneously paean and admonishing elegy.

—JB (Aperture)



See more photographic work from this series by Alejandro Cartagena available through Circuit Gallery:

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Lost River #3, from the Suburbia Mexicana series

Untitled Lost River #4, from the Suburbia Mexicana Series, 2008

Untitled Lost River #4, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

Untitled Lost River #2, from the Suburbia Mexicana Series, 2008

Untitled Lost River #2, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008