Pablo López Luz was born in 1979 in Mexico City. His work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions in international museums and galleries such as: SFMOMA (San Francisco, USA), Fondation Cartier (Paris, France), International Center of Photography (New York, USA), Sommerset House (London, UK), Museum of Modern Art (Mexico City, Mexico), among others. Some of his most notable awards include: The Syngenta Photography Award, exhibited at the Sommerset House in London, The Alt+1000 Photography Award, awarded by the Alt+1000 festival in Rossiniere, Switzerland. In late 2014 his second monographic collection, Pyramid, was published under the editorial house RM, and designed by Editions Toluca. Today we take a closer look at this series and have asked Pablo a few questions about the work.
Pyramid was born out of questioning two core concepts: history and the role it performs in the contemporary world, as well as the joint creation of our notion of identity. Throughout history, the Mexican population has been victimized by the superposition of different historic layers and cultural impositions, culminating in the creation of a hybrid society that persistently struggles to define its own identity. Contemporary society, as a result, oscillates between alien (foreign) ideals of modernization and an increasingly fragile link to an elusive past. It would seem then that, in most cases, pre-Hispanic reinvention generally obeys a social need to maintain the relevance of an increasingly diffuse heritage, rather than a continuum of shared identity. To provide another example: the emergence of neo-pre-Hispanic architecture in government buildings and national monuments during the first half of the 20th century obeyed the ideological need among the ruling class to strengthen a Mexican sense of nationalism.
The following photographs describe a voyage through modern ruins, decorative archaeologies and pigmented stairways that collectively pay tribute to a historic past, one that will in all likelihood be omitted from the new discourse of Latin American progress. ∆
Hey Pablo, how’s it going? We are so thrilled to be able to talk to you about work that you hold so dear to your heart.
Hello AB! Thank you for showcasing my work (Pyramid project), it´s an honor for me!
So let’s start with the basics. How did you get into photography, and through your artistic journey how have you begun to narrow in on your subject matter?
I´ve had a long and close relationship with the art world. My father is a gallerist in Mexico City, so, as you can imagine, a lot of my childhood activities were directly related with the Mexican art world: museum exhibitions, artist studios, etc. However, my first direct contact with photography came when I was a young kid. My father had a very close friend of his from Germany who would travel around the world to exotic destinations. He would make beautiful photographic essays of his jorneys, some of which actually made it to the pages of travel magazines. Whenever he visited Mexico, we would get together for dinner where he would mount a slide show with the photographs of his latest trip. Right after dinner, we would sit for hours listening to the stories about his journeys, while enjoying the beautiful, colorful, images projected on the wall. It was a very enjoyable experience, one which we will never forget. It was around this time when I got my first small camera.
What was the inspiration for your series Pyramid? You mention in your statement that your work is about “history and the role it performs in the contemporary world, as well as the joint creation of our notion of identity.” Can you speak to this?
Pyramid is a project that was born out of those two main concepts: history and its role in the contemporary world, as well as putting into question the idea of a local identity. Throughout history, Mexico has been confronted with a superposition of different historic layers which have culminated in a hybrid society that persistently struggles to define its own identity. Contemporary society, as a result, oscillates between foreign ideals of modernity, and an increasingly fragile link to an elusive past. This link between pre-colombian mexico and the contemporary city is what I am most interested in. In other words, does our historic past play a definite role in the modern city in terms of an identity continuum or does it only serve as a vindication to an official nationalistic narrative.
How does the “contemporary landscape” play a role in your work?
It plays a very important role. Most of my earlier projects, as well as the photographic essay about the US-Mexico Border that I worked on after Pyramid are landscape-oriented. In 2006, when I started to work on my Terrazo project, photographing the outskirts of Mexico city, I became aware that while choosing to photograph a specific landscape, I was also taking a political or social view point of what I would be portraying. With Terrazo, I was interested in commenting on the relationship between man and the space that he inhabits, as well as the everyday problematics and idiosyncracies of this megacity. With each of the later landscape-oriented projects that I worked on, the focus became more and more specific, as well as the social and political issues that I was to addressing. With Pyramid, because of it´s thematic, conceptual and aesthetic necessities, the approach and distance towards the subject matter needed to be different from that in previous projects.
So Pyramid is your second monograph collection to be published. How was this experience different than the first?
Both books where designed (Olivier Andreotti) and edited (Alexis Fabry) by Editions Toluca in Paris, whom I have been working with for almost a decade, and whom I consider an invaluable team, as well as close friends. My experience working with them for both books has been nothing but positive. Comparing both publications, the main difference between my first book¨Pablo Lopez Luz¨ and ¨Pyramid¨, is that the later is focused on one single project, whereas my first book was conceived as a summary of four different projects. Therefore, the visual conception of each publication is very different. ¨Pyramid¨ was envisaged as a more personal, and original publication closer to the idea of the ¨artist book¨ whereas the other was thought about more as a survey of images, or catalogue, of my previous projects. For Pyramid, Olivier Andreotti´s amazing input and overall proposal for the design of the book made him essential for the final conception of the book. I was lucky to work with such an amazing designer. The publication, was essential for the final conception of the book.
Although excitement is often found in what the viewer can pull from the imagery separate from the artist statement, is there an overarching message you hope your audience takes from the photographs?
I believe that while there are general themes and obsessions running through my different projects: the relationship between man and the space he inhabits, the relationship between history and the present, etc, there are also other specific ideas or concepts behind each project, and this is why artist statements are important. However, I also believe that viewers approach images or art works from within their personal biographies and intuitions, resulting in different or personal interpretations of the work. Therefore, there is definitely a limit to the messages that can be conveyed, and at the same time, this is precisely the way in which the conversation can be enriched.
His first monographic publication Pablo Lopez Luz was published in early 2011 by Editorial RM. His photographs have also been included in several books and catalogues including: Uneven Growth, Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (MoMA), Landmark The Fields of Landscape Photography (Thames and Hudson), amongst others.
To view more of Pablo’s work, please visit his website.