Alejandro Cartagena: Photo Structure / Foto Estructura at Chrysler Museum of Art, September 4, 2020 – January 3, 2021

“Through a process of construction, destruction and reconstruction, Alejandro Cartagena explores the formal and theoretical structures that shape the meaning of photographs. For his latest project, the artist sifted through landfills on the outskirts of Mexico City to collect thousands of discarded photographs — portraits, snapshots and tourist views. Using figures, faces and other details from the found photographs, he reconfigured the original compositions by either moving the cut fragments or removing them entirely. The altered photographs remain strangely whole and strikingly familiar, compelling the viewer to consider what gives a photograph meaning. His arrangements reveal that seemingly crucial aspects of an image are both central and incidental to our ability to understand the works. Cartagena’s projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues.” — Chrysler Museum of Art

“For years I’ve been collecting photographs… At some point, the images started to show themselves as a structure of… how society has used photography to dictate the way in which we should look in front of the camera….This body of work is an attempt to understand how that structure has been built…,” Cartagena said.

Cartagena_01_Narcissus

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Narcissus / Narciso, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_02_Women.In.Skirts

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Women in Skirts / Mujeres con faldas, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_03_Family.Vacation

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Family Vacation (after Roma) / Vacaciones familiares (despuès Roma), 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_04_Family.Vacation

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Family Vacation (after Roma) / Vacaciones familiares (despuès Roma), 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_05_Boy.Doing.Things

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Boy Doing Things / Niño haciendo cosas, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_06_Faces

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Faces / Rostros, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_07_Flying.Babies

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Flying Babies / Bebès voladores, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_08_Monsters

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Monsters / Monstruos, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

Cartagena_09_Group.Presence

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, b. 1977). Detail from Group, Presence / Grupos, Presencias, 2019. Altered gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © Alejandro Cartagena

“Alejandro Cartagena’s photographs appear at first as simple cut-outs and collages, but by simply manipulating the picture surface, Cartagena explores the entire structure of the medium and our relationship to it,” said Seth Feman, Ph.D., the Chrysler Museum’s Deputy Director of Art & Interpretation and Curator of Photography.

Alejandro Cartagena: Photo Structure / Foto Estructura is co-organized by the Chrysler and George Eastman Museum of Rochester, N.Y.

Images courtesy Chrysler Museum of Art.