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Throckmorton Fine Art opens exhibition of photographs by Brazilian photographer Valdir Cruz
Valdir Cruz, Aroeira brava.

NEW YORK, NY.- Throckmorton Fine Art announces a special 25th anniversary exhibition of photographs by Guggenheim Award-winning Brazilian photographer Valdir Cruz (born 1954) at its New York gallery from December 7, 2017 through February 24, 2018.

Presences: Faces of the Rainforest is the latest collection of images in the Valdir Cruz series - “Guarapuava: Images of an Eternal Return.” It comes during the 25th year of collaboration between the Brazilian-born documentary-photographer and Spencer Throckmorton, and is the seventh solo exhibition at Throckmorton’s New York gallery on East 57th Street.

Spencer Throckmorton says “Valdir Cruz’s exquisite photographic essay on ‘Guarapuava,’ the photographer’s Brazilian birthplace, has been said to bear out Tolstoy’s observation that to be universal one only needs to talk about his own village. Over the past three decades, Cruz has chronicled this unique and ephemeral place where the people and the landscapes create an indelible impression on the viewer.
“Valdir Cruz photographs resonate with collectors and curators. They have been acquired by The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, and other institutions and private collectors.”

Cruz was born in Guarapuava, in the Southern State of Paraná, in 1954 and while he has lived primarily in the United States for more than thirty years, much of his work in photography has focused on the people, ecology and landscape of Brazil. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996 for Faces of the Rainforest, a project documenting the life of indigenous people in the Brazilian rainforest from 1995 to 2000 as well as additional Guggenheim support with a publication subvention award in 2000. Cruz shares his time between his studios in New York City and São Paulo.

In the essay curator Rubens Fernandes Junior produced for the show catalog, he says, “For over thirty years Valdir Cruz has produced regular records of Guarapuava. His images are not commonplace; many people consider that documentation of a town means looking at the urban space and photographing it through its public roads and imposing buildings, but here, contrary to what one might think, is a space where different ethnicities that make up Brazil coexist – Europeans, native peoples, and Africans – whose boundaries are surrounded by exuberant waterfalls and breathtaking landscapes. This rare initiative distinguishes this essay’s uniqueness with an unconventional exercise in constructing memories. Instead of a cartographic reading of streets and buildings, he chose to portray local people, local events such as cattle drivers’ dislocations, and landscapes that still pulse in the imaginary created by his childhood memories. This is a keen record of a local dweller in his own land.”

Three presences dominate this collection of photographs by Valdir Cruz: water, trees and human beings. Among highlights – Throckmorton’s “Presences” exhibition includes Valdir Cruz “Raízes” images of native trees, its “Waterfalls,” and many “Faces of the Rainforest” Cruz encountered in his 30-year odyssey.

Among subjects chosen by Cruz is the Chief of the Wai-Wai, an Archer, a Makuxi Woman, a Man with Painted Body and Face, a Karabo Mother and Child, a Yanomami Baby, a Boy with a Bow and Arrow, Makuxi Youth, a Yanomami Girl Playing in a Hammock, The Hunt, an Afternoon Ritual dance, and a series of Waterfalls as well as the many indigenous Trees of the Rainforest.

As noted in the show catalog, the magnetic center of Cruz’s work is Brazil’s southern Paraná state, where a vast network of tributaries and waterfalls expunges the boundaries between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Especially in Iguaçu, with its gigantic waterfalls, one has the sense of the earth itself in constant motion, Water seems to come from every corner of the forest, not merely from the rivers that meet there. Water is a force throughout this part of the world, and everything is process, not fixity. You can hear the water when you can’t see it – like the ocean. But unlike the ocean, its motion is not repetitive but one of ceaseless transit. “Immersive” is the word used by Rubens Fernandes Junior to describe Cruz’s capacity to convey a viewer to that place. But where, exactly?

Throckmorton adds that, “Valdir Cruz is as much an anthropologist as a photographer and documentarian. He immortalizes an extinct way of life as gauchos and cattle recede into the horizon. Beyond the faces and expressions of the Brazilian people, Valdir uses the distinctive landscapes and magnificent waterfalls of the region to complement this body of work. Valdir Cruz’s images open a discussion about ecology and how human interaction has clashed with efforts to exploit or preserve our environment.”

The “Raízes” or roots series of photographs focuses on the tallest trees using extreme viewpoints to illustrate the exaggerated sense of towering growth of the trees in the rainforest. The motion of the trees is all upward, a struggle against gravity and time.

Cruz was raised in rural Brazil but has spent 25 years living in New York City. The contrast between these two environments could not be more pronounced and it shows in his images of the people of his native Brazil. The images are all heavily shadowed, dappled by light, as it falls through the tree cover where the people live. He never lets a viewer forget where his subjects are. The way they hold their bows and spears, nurture their children and decorate their bodies demonstrates how natives have made a world within a world for themselves despite continuing efforts to limit their autonomy.

Cruz evokes a resounding presence in his portraits. They represent a sliver of time in which the native Brazilian resides. While each is bound by nature and time, in Cruz’s portraits they are acknowledged. Much of this is noted in the catalog for Presence which includes Lyle Rexner’s commentary, “People exist in a context, of course, bounded by nature and time. Yet in the end Cruz’s portraits affirm the absolute sovereignty of another person, another presence, another subjectivity, independent of circumstance. He is not a documentarian or photojournalist. He does not come to witness or report or explain or extol. He photographs his subjects either straight on, confronting him and his presence, or looking away from the camera, lost in thought or observing elsewhere. For him, as an artist and a human being, the strongest form of advocacy and the foundation of moral responsibility is simply to acknowledge the person in front of you.” He ends with “Of course, that encounter with the other is the place where self-comprehension must begin.”

Although Throckmorton Fine Art is known for its silver, platinum, and vintage prints, this exhibition is a collection of large-format pigment on paper. Over the course of twelve years, Cruz and his master printer, Leonard Bergson, developed a proprietary printing process by which to create large-format original pigment-on-paper artworks.

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