Ten Mexican photographers use their own bodies to address taboos in their rapidly changing country, and to express complex ideas about culture, tradition and politics, in the highly personal show “Exposed/Expuesta,” at the Light Factory through Oct. 13.
Several highly staged, introspective photographs are hard to parse, but are compelling in the way they provoke conflicting feelings of melancholy, urgency, desire and fear.
In his quiet but unnerving self-portraits, Luis Enrique Pérez covers his body with hair, eggshells and other materials.
Antonio Lozano’s “The Revenant” centers on a creature that, having ostensibly returned from the dead, looks fearsome at first glance. But the three images presented here reveal it to be contemplative, small and unthreatening.
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Some works are celebratory.
Luis Arturo Aguirre’s candy-colored photographs are inspired by his interests in tranvestism and pop culture, his childhood fascination with his sister’s dolls, and the vibrancy of his hometown of Acapulco.
Roberto Tondopó’s “Chantas/En Transito,” a video inspired by the Fiesta Grande in the town of Chiapa de Corzo, centers on chuntas, men who dress as women for the festival. (Tondopó is also a chunta.) Except for an occasional eyeblink or other small involuntary movement, these revelers are mostly still, giving this work a strange, entrancing tension.
While Tondopó’s video presents a festive aspect of life in the state of Chiapas, photographs by Carlos Leon and Diego Moreno reflect the challenges of life there.
Moreno depicts his family mostly naked, their vulnerable, sagging bodies posed in modest surroundings. Leon’s terrifying images are based on a single childhood photo he has manipulated so that he appears to be covered in scratches, scars and pustules.
Carol Espíndola challenges the way women are depicted in art by collaging herself into famous paintings. In her version of Sandro Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” she is alone and crouching on her shell, as if about to escape the pressures of perfection.
Andrés Juárez Troncoso’s work has its origins in the artist’s childhood wonderment about the Virgin Mary -- that, despite there being only one, she is depicted in myriad ways, often as an exquisitely clothed beauty. Here, Troncoso presents imagined virgins, with their imperfect (and not necessarily female) bodies and adornments.
Muxhes -- males who in accepted pre-Columbian tradition take on typically female tasks, including caretaking and the domestic arts -- are the focus of Nelson Morales’ work. Morales now considers himself muxhe; he is the subject of two of these photos, all of which address the complexity of this third gender and the different ways these men incorporate the feminine into their lives. (Morales in an artist-in-residence at McColl Center for Art + Innovation through Dec. 5.)
Ana Casas Broda’s photographs, from her photo essay “Kinderwunsch” (German for “the desire to have children”), are intimate and a little discomforting. Abundant in chaos and flowing milk, they examine the power, tenderness and exhaustion of motherhood. In several, her children have drawn on her in felt-tipped pens, resulting in marks that resemble injuries or ritual scarification. The final photo is a beatific scene, with mother and child bathed in the heavenly light of a TV screen.
While “Exposed/Expuesta” may not be suitable for children -- or some adults, for that matter -- it is not intended solely to shock. Instead, it is a thoughtful exposition of multiple realities, vivid depictions of a world that is not black and white, but infinite shades of gray and more.