Meet a Curator: Kristen Gresh

Museum Council

Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Curator of Photographs, describes her close relationship and collaboration with Graciela Iturbide on “Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico.”

You worked closely with Graciela Iturbide on the planning and installation of the exhibition. How would you describe that collaboration?

It was a real honor to work with Graciela throughout this project. From the day I first met her in Mexico City, she opened up her home, her archives, and her personal collection. She generously shared her world with me—from personal stories to access to her rare vintage work. Graciela's generous and empathetic spirit, and the many conversations we had, helped inform and enrich both the exhibition and accompanying catalogue. Our close collaboration also led to the opportunity to make an important acquisition for the MFA collection, and arrange for the loan of a significant number of works from Graciela's collection.

How do Iturbide's photographs capture Mexican society and its rich culture?

Graciela is always drawn to photographing the unexpected, and it is through her realistic and frequently dreamlike and suspenseful images that her work tells a visual story of Mexico since the late 1970s—a nation in constant transition, defined by the coexistence of the historical and the modern. Her surprising juxtapositions and intimate portraits of the human and natural world alike reveal the rich syncretism, diversity, and inequalities in Mexican society, while expressing an intense personal and poetic lyricism.

What do you think about pairing this exhibition with the photographs that are in a gallery adjacent to “Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular” on Level 3?

I am pleased with the pairing and really feel that Graciela’s photographs provide a powerful composite portrait of Kahlo’s suffering and resilience. The photographs connect these two artists of Mexico, each of whom has seen her art as a form of therapy and escape.

Can you give us a sneak preview of the upcoming Howard Greenberg Collection exhibition?

“Viewpoints: Photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection” celebrates 20th-century photography as an art form as well as a social, cultural, and political force. The featured works include iconic European photographs from the 1920s and 1930s as well as a wide range of socially conscious works—powerful visual testimonies of Depression-era America, politically engaged street photography, exceptional examples of wartime photojournalism, and compelling depictions of African American life from the 1930s through the Civil Rights movement.