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Friday November 28, 2014
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Manuel Alvarez Bravo

 

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views into acute poetry. "One has to put blinders on him till the destination of the day is reached, or he is out of film before he gets there," a friend has observed.

Though acclaimed by colleagues around the world as a master photographer, and the recipient of several prestigious awards, Alvarez Bravo — one of whose prints recently sold for $54,970 — remains so little known that even the UMMA misspelled his name on its exhibit publicity. Tucked in a closetlike, nearly hidden space around the corner from a prominently displayed Ansel Adams exhibit, the works don't draw many visitors. Given that probably every Ann Arborite has at one point owned an Ansel Adams calendar, T-shirt, or tote bag, I wish the museum had chosen instead to spotlight Alvarez Bravo's differently beautiful but equally deserving work.

The sinister Box of Visions presents a woman holding a cloth like a tent over her head, her body encased in a festively decorated box into which three battered viewing boxes are inset. How Small the World Is depicts a tiny woman and man on a vast sidewalk next to a wall over which hang pennants of immaculate white laundry, hinting at commonalities connecting separate lives. Window to the Choir (left) shows a tiny window deeply set in a narrow street of hill-shaped houses seemingly carved and smoothed from solid rock. It prompts an immediate desire to climb the inches-wide stairs and touch the sun-warmed domelike wall.

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