Gerardo Suter: Labyrinth of Memory

Written by:
Arthur Lazere
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Gerardo Suter: Labyrinth of Memory, an exhibition of the work of one of Latin America’s leading photographers, draws together pre-Columbian images, human figures and primal themes, providing a unique and thought provoking visual experience. The exhibition covers several periods of the artist’s work, grouped by theme and time.

El archivo fotografico del profesor Retus (The Photographic Archive of Professor Retus), is composed of architectural photographs taken from 1983 to 1985 which emphasize the artist’s medium, using gelatin silver prints, acids, and artistic laboratory techniques to impart age and subtle effects to the photographs. Suter silhouettes ancient monuments against expansive dramatic skies, giving them an even more imposing appearance. These lonely structures seem to stand as ancient temples to human ideals.

In his collection Desde la tierra del dia y la noche (From the Land of Day and Night) and De esta tierra. Del cielo y los infiernos (Of this Earth, Heaven, and Hell), the dramatic lighting and painstaking composition are reminiscent of Maplethorpe. But unlike Maplethorpe’s work, Suter is not placing emphasis on the person as a subject. All of his subjects are masked or posed to hide their features. There is an absence of faces in Suter’s work – he says that he especially avoids showing the subject’s eyes in his pieces, because he is not interested in portraiture or images of individuals. These figures, photographed wearing primitive masks, represent more elemental images. In El animal de las sorpresas (The Animal of the Surprises), a young man, or perhaps a woman, is shown in a horned mask, ineffectively hiding its face behind its hands. The hollow eyes of the mask stare back at you emptily. The image evokes man’s tribal roots, hiding mysteriously from us and yet exposing the mysterious to us.

In the collection entitled Codices, Suter further explores this theme, combining Latin American images with images of human suffering, bondage and sacrifice. Disturbing, fascinating, timeless – Suter’s images make us witness to imagined events from a distant past.

In his most recent collections, Anahuac and Geografia de la memoria (Geography of Memory), Suter uses the human body to tell his story without the use of masks or architectural elements. His style has evolved to elucidate the same complex themes with economy of means, using light, shadow and a few rudimentary props. El sueno de un recuerdo (The Dream of a Memory), focuses on a pair of dramatically lit hands forming a circle; the universal symbol at once embodies the circular nature of life, its strength and its fragility.

The exhibition provides an opportunity to observe Suter’s work develop over a 15 year period. It leaves the powerful impression that behind these photographs of people and primitive subjects we share in the essential mysteries of life itself and the forces that drive humanity. The exhibit is also a testament to the unique effectiveness of photography as an art.

– Jerry Becerra

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