Sunday, July 27, 2003

Desert Flower

I spend quite a bit of time in the Reno area, mostly because I have family there. Back when I was a kid, my father was more than a bit of a gambler. In fact, my childhood bore an uncanny resemblance to a Damon Runyan story, but that is a posting for another day. I remember going to Reno back in the sixties. In those days it was Las Vegas' black sheep cousin. Vegas had class and Tahoe was, well Tahoe, but Reno was a downandouters stop off on his way to the skids. Today you can still find some of "old Reno", the biggest little city in the world, but there is a new Reno sprouting out of the desert, with the influx of high tech and retirees there is a demand for more than just gambling, buffets, and revival acts.

One of the best examples of this modern Reno is the new Nevada Museum of Art. Earlier this year I attended the inaugural exhibit of Mexican art, which featured works by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Of course the interest at the moment in Rivera and Kahlo has been spurred by the film that came out last year, but these works are more than just the flavor of the month.

I remember a number of years ago when van Gogh was all the rage. There was the major touring exhibition of his works and you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a van Gogh print. Every college dorm room had a self-portrait or a sunflower print. Sometimes this sort of mass acceptance has the tendancy to trivialize art and make a certain artist's work seem cliche. Nonetheless, great work remains great work and Frida and Diego's work is worth seeing.

At the same exhibit they had some works by lesser known Mexican artists, and as a photographer, I was struck by some of the striking images of Mexican peasant life that were hanging. I came accross this exhibit of work by the photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, that is currently showing at NY MOMA. I believe that some of these were hanging in Reno at the time. Take a look.

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