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"Retrato en Voz Alta: Photographs by Mexican artist Allan Fis" opens in Washington
Javier Marín.

WASHINGTON, DC.- AMA | Art Museum of the Americas presents Retrato en voz alta (Out Loud Portraits), an exhibition of photographs by Mexican Allan Fis curated by Graciela Kartofel. Ambassador Emilio Rabasa, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OAS, opened this exhibition on Wednesday, March 5 at 6pm.

It is fitting that this body of work be exhibited at AMA’s F Street Gallery. After all, AMA’s belief in the transformative power of the arts now reaches across nearly a century of the OAS/Pan-American Union’s visual arts program, and here we see some of AMA’s collection’s most prominent artists with the lens turned back on themselves. Fis’s portraits of José Luis Cuevas, Pedro Friedeberg, Roberto Cortázar, and Manuel Felguérez, among many other significant modern and contemporary artists, reveal the gazes of those who have produced work now housed by AMA. As a body of work, Retrato en voz alta is of the lineage of powerful, communicative art that has shaped the OAS’s AMA | Art Museum of the Americas.

According to exhibition curator Graciela Kartofel, a New York-based Argentine art historian and critic, Allan Fis’s portraits highlight their subjects’ faces, transmitting emotions, expressions, and obsessions, revealing very personal gestures of 24 of Mexico’s most renowned visual artists. Each artwork is a retrato en voz alta (out loud portrait) due to their intensity as well as the whispered intimacy of the black-and white photography. Fis’s work offers a glimpse into the intrinsic and intellectual quality of his subjects. Fis dedicated a full decade to this project. In the book’s prologue, Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, president of Mexico’s National Culture and the Arts, calls the work and the book it birthed “truly unique.”

The balance of technique and creative license raises many questions. Fis describes his method in these terms: I used analog materials, photographed in medium format negative black-and-white film, and printed them by myself in my dark room… Each original is 11” x 14” silver-gelatin print, all on fiber paper. Then the photos were scanned for the book production. Irma Zermeño’s interviews with each artist subject offer unusual dialogues. This is a curated traveling exhibition, where each image’s intellectual and visceral impulses converge, and then transcend – out loud.

Fis’s photographs turn the lens on artists, representing those who ordinarily are the ones depicting other subjects. It is an ambitious project that aims at maintaining itself reflected as a resounding portrait of those who have invested themselves in creating and dedicating their entire lives to art.

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