alejandro cartagena photographs

Alejandro Cartagena

Lost Rivers

May 11 - June 26, 2010
Reception: Saturday May 15, 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

93 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, Canada

Viewing Hours: Monday - Saturday, 2:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.

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Lost Rivers


Circuit Gallery is proud to introduce 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.

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.

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.

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.

Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Lost River #14, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008 Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Lost River #16, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008 Alejandro Cartagena, Untitled Lost River #2, from the Suburbia Mexicana Project, 2008

See more photographs and editions by Alejandro Cartagena available through Circuit Gallery.


Artist Statement

"Through the 1960s and 80s many photographers portrayed and centered their work on industrial and suburban sites; the man altered landscape. It is now, 30 years later, that the inevitable action-reaction to those human acts they pictured would start to show up. Lost Rivers is a representation of nature's non-beneficiaries of our actual urban well-being. In the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León, some rivers and streams have dried out or are in the process of drying after Monterrey's metropolitan area erupted its urban growth and its demand for water. These dried up streams and rivers are one of many unintended consequences of wrongly implemented economical strategies. Relying less on irony and more on a romantic representation of decay, Lost Rivers is a social comment on contemporary Mexican unplanned urban development."


Artist Bio

Based in Monterrey, Mexico, Alejandro Cartagena is receiving international praise and recognition for his photographic work. His work has been exhibited and published internationally and is in public and private collections in Mexico, USA, Brazil and Italy. He is the recipient of several major national grants, numerous honorable mentions and acquisition prizes in Mexico and abroad. In 2009 Cartagena won the Critical Mass Book Award (where the Suburbia Mexicana project will be edited and published as a book), and was named one of PDN´s 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.