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Acclaimed Photographer José Ángel Rodríguez at Galería Atotonilco

Horses swimming

By Susan Page

Documenting life in indigenous Mexican villages has been the lifelong passion of José Ángel Rodríguez. At age 15, he began studying photography with actor and teacher Alejandro Parodi and, by age 17, he had devoted himself to documenting life in the slums of Mexico City. In his early 20s, he spent several years working closely with the great Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. He shoots all of his work with film and develops it in his own laboratory.

Photography Exhibition
By José Ángel Rodriguez
Opening Sat, Sep 19, and Sun, Sep 20, 12-5pm
Galería Atotonilco
185 2225

In 1978, Rodriguez’s deep interest in learning about his own ancestors led him to a Cora Indian village in the Sierra de Alicia, where he lived for many months. Living with these people allowed him to discover a magical world, rich in ceremonies and rituals, deeply rooted in shamanism, folk medicine, and native traditions. With his keen eye and honed skills, he was able to capture the spirit of these people and to create a lifeline between their ancient way of life and us, the viewers of his remarkable photographs.

Since 1980, he has made his home in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, where he has focused his camera on the many villages of Maya people in southern Mexico and Guatemala. During the civil war in Guatemala in the 1980s, Rodríguez thoroughly documented life in the refugee camps in Chiapas and Campeche, where many Guatemalans fled to safety. Fortunately, all refugees were safely repatriated by 1993.

He also richly documented the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas that took place in the 1990s.

Rodríguez’s published books began with Ceremonial Lives, published in 1991, and include The History of Amate, Art, and Protest in a Mexican Village, which portrays in achingly beautiful photographs the Nahua amate painters of the High Balsas River in Guerrero, including their protest against the building of a dam. In his book entitled Lok’Tavanej, his images complement the poetry of several Mexican poets. His photographs complement poetry in several of his other books as well.

Rodríguez was invited to Vienna, Austria, in 2005 to document the construction of two stone pyramids and to exhibit a retrospective of his photographs at the Center for Cultural Relations with Mexico there. He has exhibited his work in one-man shows in numerous Mexican locations and in Ontario, Canada, in addition to his retrospective in Vienna.

We have an extraordinary opportunity here in San Miguel to view a large selection of Rodriguez’s images. They provide another window into the indigenous village life that is also conveyed by much of the folk art displayed in the gallery. The gala opening of the San Miguel show will be held on Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20, from noon to 5pm. Rodríguez will be present at the opening. The show will be up throughout October and November. Directions to the gallery are in the gallery’s ad in this issue and on the website: 415 185 2225.


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