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Jeu de Paume: Tina Modotti : The Eye of the Revolution


The Jeu de Paume pays tribute to Tina Modotti (1896-1942) through a major exhibition, the largest ever dedicated to this photographer and political activist of Italian origin in Paris.

The exceptional career of Tina Modotti has never ceased to fascinate: her work mainly produced between 1923 and 1930,  is striking for its dazzling character. It was in post-revolutionary Mexico that her political consciousness was forged as well as the particular style, both sensitive and critical, with which she captured social movements and inequalities on the spot without ever neglecting the aesthetic aspect of photography.

The exhibition brings together nearly 240 prints as well as archival documents and period magazines on loans from international museums and private collections. The exhibition traces the unique career of this revolutionary photographer and activist, friend and interlocutor of painters such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Tina Modotti spent most of her life in the heart of turmoil. Her life was marked by some of the most important world historical events of the 1920s and 1930s, which she personally experienced, sometimes on the front lines. She emigrated to the United States at the age of 16. In San Francisco, she found work as a seamstress before being employed as a model for a prestigious fashion store, finally launching herself fully into cinema in 1918. In Los Angeles, in 1921, she met Edward Weston : she first became the photographer’s model, then his lover. In 1923, they moved to Mexico, where the couple opened their studio: Tina Modotti’s photographic career officially began.

His artistic work developed through contact with Mexican intellectual and artistic society but also with the Mexican Communist Party.
Her powerful images made her the instigator of photojournalism in the country.
On a creative level, she found her place in the battle between formalism and committed art as a reflection and component of social reality, a crucial debate during these years when the world changed radically. Long studied solely through the prism of the influence of Edward Weston, Modotti’s photographic work finally stands out in its singularity.
It is to the study of Tina Modotti as a photographer that this chronological and thematic exhibition designed in five parts invites us.

“I do not seek to produce art but honest photographs, without resorting to tricks or artifice, while the majority of photographers continue to seek artistic effects or imitate other art expressions. This results in a hybrid product, which does not allow us to distinguish its most significant characteristic in the work: its photographic quality.” – Tina Modotti,
Sobre la fotografía [On photography], in Mexican Folkways, vol. 5, no 4, oct.-déc. 1929


Tina Modotti : L’Oeil de la Révolution
February 13 – May 12, 20204
Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde
Jardin des Tuileries
75001 Paris

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