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Iconic Cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa's L.A. Exhibition Impacts Both Sides of Mexico-U.S. Border

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First Posted: Oct 25, 2013 03:39 PM EDT
Gabriel Figueroa
Portrait of renowned Mexican cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa, is a part of his exhibit called "Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa--Art and Film" at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in conjunction with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Photo : Photo: Flickr)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is embracing the impressive work of world renowned Mexican cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa (1907-1997), with "Under the Mexican Sky" that incorporates film, photography, paintings, drawings, prints, capturing the essence of the great "Gaby."

"This is an exhibition of passion, an exploration of how art can approximate the desire, tragedy and longing of the human condition. It is Mexican. It is American. It is the product of a beautiful collaboration between two countries that have been torn apart by bricks, wire and lead-headed politicians who cannot stop the immigration of art across the boundaries of law, land and time through the magic of film," said The Hollywood Reporter.

A group of materials were loaned to the exhibition from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, further proving Figueroa's remarkable connections that he generated on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border.

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"From the early 1930s through the early 1980s, Figueroa (1907-1997) helped forge an evocative and enduring image of Mexico, according to the LACMA. "Among the most important cinematographers of the so-called Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, Figueroa worked with leading directors from Mexico, the United States and Europe, traversing a wide range of genres while maintaining his distinctive and vivid visual style."

Figueroa, who spoke of creating "una imágen méxicana," was surrounded by other powerful artists, including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Edward Weston and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. These artistic innovators of their time "sought to convey the country's transformation following the trauma of the Mexican Revolution." Later, Figueroa adapted his approach to the very different sensibilities of directors Luis Buñuel and John Huston, among others.

Figueroa came to the States from Mexico City in the 1930s to study with Academy Award winning cinematographer Gregg Toland. Highly regarded by fellow industry professionals, Figueroa shot over 230 films including "Night of the Iguana for Huston," "The Fugitive" by John Ford and "Two Mules for Sister Sara."

Integrating film into the galleries, beside paintings, photographs and sculpture has become an increasing popular art form. This past year, hundreds of moving images have been added into LACMA's exhibition program.

"Moving images are one of the most powerful art forms that has ever existed -- we all agree on that," LACMA Director Michael Govan "It is very present and it also helps us think about our society -- the way we think now. The politics, the culture that is in this (exhibition) is as important as what is in any other medium."

Figueroa fans and cinema enthusiasts agree.

"Gabriel Figueroa is one of the most underrated and greatest cinematographers of all time. This looks amazing!" wrote a fan of Figueroa's work, Jason Outenreath on cinematography.com.

"Americans while naming their favorite cinematographers rarely venture outside of a name that ends in ASC (all of whom are amazing artists by the way!), but there is an immense wealth of talent all over the world. I think Figueroa is on the same level as Gregg Toland, Hal Mohr, Leon Shamroy, any of the great American cinematographers."

Gabriel Figueroa's "Under the Mexican Sky" exhibition at LACMA runs until Feb. 2, 2014.

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