by David William Foster. University of Texas Press, October 2014. 230 p. ill. ISBN 9780292768345 (cl.), $65.00.
Reviewed January 2015
Clayton C. Kirking, Chief, Art Information Resources, New York Public Library, firstname.lastname@example.org
David William Foster has written extensively on the urban cultural production of Latin America, in particular, treating women's history, queer theory, and sexual identities. The preface to the current volume establishes that this study grew from inspiration the author found in a 1999 exhibition at the International Center of Photography: Myths, Dreams, and Realities in Contemporary Argentine Photography. (Indeed, artists from that show are represented in the current study.)
The substance of the book is, in fact, heavily weighted toward Argentina and Mexico, where the author has done the greater portion of his work. This "weighting" is not surprising, given the fact that Argentina and Mexico—along with Brazil—comprise a large portion of the cultural production of what is currently thought of as Latin America. The content of the volume is, nevertheless, true to its title and does present a needed introduction to the feminist, queer, and post-masculinist perspective of these three countries.
The audience for this work is clearly a scholarly and academic one. This is established within the title itself, and further, in the style and tone of the text. Foster's effort is a significant contribution to a subject that has not been treated in any profound way and this volume is one for which there is an eager audience. But, there are problems with this book; some of these may be as much issues with ineffective editing as with a lack of aggressive refereeing.
It is manifestly apparent that the acquisition of images to illustrate this welcome text was a stumbling block for both the author and the publisher. Credit must be given to the artists who made their work available. However, most of the works reproduced here in black and white are, in fact, surrogates for color prints, while this is not necessarily a huge compromise, three chapters are without illustrations. They would be welcome, even given that the work is aimed at a highly sophisticated audience.
In at least one case, an image [Marcos López, Asado criollo] is critically cropped, without notation. In another instance, Dolores (Lola) Álvarez Bravo is identified as Dolores Bravo Álvarez; the error is reproduced in the index. Most confusingly, in a long discussion of Tomando sol en la terraza López's brilliant riff on Manuel Álvarez Bravo's La Buena fama durmiendo (1938), there is no discussion of, or reference to, the iconic Bravo image.
Despite these issues, the book's subject is without a doubt a worthy and timely one. The sturdy volume is well conceived with copious notes, a bibliography, and an index. It should be considered for deep collections of photo-historical theory and related LGBT collections. However, for this reviewer, a reference to mole poblano as "...a chocolate and chili paste..." would prohibit acquisition.