A picture of a group of middle-aged men in cowboy hats, seated in front of a mural (Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico, 2009) is hung directly across from the front gallery door in Revealing Mexico, an exhibition of photographs by John Mack now on view at Robert Mann Gallery. Aptly courting attention, it is the most legibly poetic photograph in the show, as one can instantly see how much the men in front of the mural have in common with the painted figures behind them. Together, their hats, clothing, and facial expressions all bring to mind hard, manual work, done in the sun, for multiple generations. Between those generations, time and space are camouflaged, so much, in fact, that it's not hard to imagine the 21st century men sinking back into the two-dimensional picture behind them.
|John Mack. Merida, Yucatán, 2009. Silver print. 16 x 20 in.|
|John Mack. San Sebastián Abasolo, Oaxaca, 2004. Silver print. 16 x 20 in.|
|John Mack. Tampico, Tamaulipas, 2007. Silver print. 16 x 20 in.|
|John Mack. Chavela Vargas, Tepoztlan, Morelos, 2008. Silver print. 16 x 20 in.|
|John Mack. Graciela Iturbide, Mexico City, 2009. Silver print. 16 x 20 in.|
|John Mack. Juana Herrera, Punta Chueca, Sonora, 2009. Silver print. 16 x 20 in.|
While one can imagine viewers bringing to John Mack's photographs prejudices about rural life in contemporary Central America that are on the thin side, by no means do their emotive power depend on our eagerness to be push-overs. Many critics have insightfully compared recent paintings or photographs of peasants, farmers, or Central American migrant workers to works by the French Realist painters Courbet and Millet.
John Mack: Revealing Mexico is on view until July 1st at Robert Mann Gallery, 210 Eleventh Avenue, between 24th & 25th Streets, Floor 10, New York.