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South American Nudes by Marcos Zimmermann at Couturier Gallery
Ismael posando con dos llamas (Ismael posing with two llamas), Cerro Marcos Marcos Zimmermann, Makipunku, Bolivia. 2006. Gelatin silver prints, 12 x 16 in; 16 x 20 in; 20 x 24 in. Photo: Courtesy Couturier Gallery.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Couturier Gallery presents Marcos Zimmermann’s exhibition “South American Nudes” through April 17th, a selection of 30 gelatin silver prints from his recently published book Desnudos Sudamericanos (Ediciones Lariviere, Buenos Aires, 2009). One of Argentina’s premier photographers, Zimmerman’s new body of work, “Desnudos Sudamericanos,” is a series of nude portraits of men of South America revealed with surprising frankness and sensitivity. This series of male nudes is, for Zimmermann, another approach to viewing the “landscape” of his South America as very distinct from the photographic landscape books of South America he has previously published.

Desnudos sudamericanos (South American Nudes), a six year project that took Marcos Zimmermann through seven South American countries, is a daring and challenging accomplishment. Although implied by the nature of nude photography itself, Zimmermann’s photographs do not deliberately refer to his subjects’ sensuality nor are they intended as erotic images though, depending on one’s point of view, it is certainly possible to construe them as such. Zimmermann’s objective with Desnudos is to document South American individuals in their natural environments:

“These are photographs of real people, and the frank exposure of their bodies is no more than a way of further revealing their truths, both shoe that are personal and those of their environment. The way they have exhibited themselves shows their history, their fears, their hopes. The scenes behind them hint a another half to their lives. I set out to take portraits that would reflect this dual dream, aiming to photograph men whose faces showed signs of the land where they were born, its landscape and climate. Bodies showing traces of their past, hinting at their ways of loving and perhaps even providing an indication of their future. As part of this search, I have portrayed children who had not yet lived their lives, young men who had just very recently discovered their manhood, mature fathers, and old men whose lives had almost run their course, and who no longer had any fears. I photographed youths who had the appearance of their countries, gauchos as sensual as their land, and virile males with the scent of South America upon them. All were asked to pose as what they were.”

The subjects are not so much stripped of their clothing as they have barriers removed, lending the images a feeling of frankness physically expressed in their willingness to show themselves in their natural form and setting. One reason for the stark nakedness is “…[an] attempt to recover the profound meaning that the nude represented originally in art, with models stripped of all that is external as a way of expressing a commitment to purity and truth.”

Although the subjects are many, their stories and backgrounds varied, Zimmermann emphasizes that “…All the men photographed here are but one man. One man echoed thousands of times throughout South America. I had carried him within me for a long time before I photographed him, he has been a part of me for many years. Men like this have changed the way I look at the world with a word, or a gesture.” “These photographs are testimony and a portrait of the different faces that this Southamerican [sic] man has, of his environment and of his way of life.

Many of his subjects who agreed to be photographed (and were remunerated) are of the working class and the modeling work was a much needed opportunity. In the works titled “Mario, porter, Rodríguez Market, La Paz, Bolivia.” and “Ramón, gaucho, Highway 2, Provence of Buenos Aires, Argentina, “one sees the weathered expressions, spent bodies, calloused hands and feet reflected in their belongings or tools of their trade. At the same time, an intense stare or a resolute jaw line belies an approachability or openness revealed in their eyes. Francisco the miner as well as Miguel Ángel and Ismael, two other gauchos photographed, also have the clenched fists and weathered look that a hard life fosters. These are people who populate the countryside’s and mountains, yet do not appear different from those who live in the city. They carry something in common more than their nudity, something that cannot always be described in words. For Zimmermann, the characteristics all these men share is their culture, heritage, families and struggles. This is reinforced by the exposure of their maleness, which figuratively levels the field and guarantees one commonality. It gives the viewer a startling revelation seeing a culture familiar to many presented in unexpected bare truth. Some of these images are deliberately based on familiar photographs of toreadors, gauchos, farmers, however, the viewer is “shocked” into re-examining what is at first quickly dismissed as “déjà vu.”

Marcos Zimmermann was born and educated in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is world-renowned as a photographer and his work is included in the Televisa Foundation A.C. in Mexico; Paine Webber Group Photographic Collection in New York: Photographic Collection of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts; Antorchas Foundation in Buenos Aires; The Bank of America Art Collection of New York; Cabinet des Estamps et de la Photographie of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris; as well as in many private collections in USA, Japan, Italy, France, Switzerland, Chile and Argentina. Zimmermann has been awarded honors including the Fundación El Libro's 1996 Prize for Best Argentine Art Book, the Pirámide de Oro in 1995 for Best Photographic Work of the Year, and the Leonardo Prize awarded by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His photography books deal with Argentina and by expansion with the current exhibition, South American identity, history and places.

Zimmermann, having already captured the vast expanses of Patagonia and other South American vistas, transitions to this series of “human landscapes” whose topography and context is as varied and diverse as the land itself. The stories and their tellers are parts of a longer tale which “…have their roots in many different worlds. [Their] history consists of occasional moments of brilliance outnumbered by many dark chapters.” Each is unique yet universal in their humanity as seen in faces and gestures; stories remain veiled behind the pose and eyes, only alluded to by surroundings, possessions, homes or workplaces, subtle body gestures or lines on the faces. South American Nudes is a glimpse into a place that, for many, seems remote and hidden. It is significant in its role as a historical social document. It is a privileged chance to look behind the figurative walls and barriers of an allegedly male-chauvinistic, machisto culture, to be educated by Zimmermann’s lens craft and see the undeniably complex and sometimes misunderstood and misrepresented men of South America.

Couturier Gallery | Marcos Zimmermann | South American Nudes |

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