Individual exhibition – Photographs by Juan Manuel Figueroa
August – September 2011
Juan Manuel Figueroa Aznar [1878, Caraz, Ancash – 1951, Paucartambo, Cusco] is considered one of the most outstanding representatives of the development of photography of Cusco between beginnings and the first half of the 20th century.
A multi-faceted artist, he conceived of himself as a painter, without suspecting that one of his subsidiary and intermittent practices would be appreciated in the few but important anthologies of Peruvian and Latin American photographic art.
His predilection for portraiture brought him closer to photography and to a trendy technique, photo-oil or colored photo, a technique that combined the varnishes of the Western pictorial tradition with modern tendencies. In the manner of Max T. Vargas in Arequipa, in whose study he worked as a backdrop painter, he introduced a practice very rare for the time: portraying Indians in the studio, a scenario reserved for the wealthy. In the 1920s he associated himself with the intellectual circle of indigenismo of Luis E. Valcárcel, who appointed him artistic director of the Peruvian Mission of Inca Art that toured La Paz, Buenos Aires and Montevideo in 1923, bringing with him a team of musicians and Cuzco actors who were recorded by the photographer’s lens. During those years he met the photographer from Cuzco, Martín Chambi, with whom he worked on several occasions. Together they traveled to the city of Machu Picchu in 1928 as part of the famous expedition of the Prefect Vélez. A selection of the photographs they made of the monument was published in the book Cusco histórico, edited by Rafael Larco Herrera with texts by Luis E. Valcárcel six years later. In their documentary plates and their portraits, the motifs and characters -solemnes, almost timeless-emerge from shadows and chiaroscuro that transport the Baroque rembrantino. In August 2011, Wu Gallery presented the first solo exhibition dedicated entirely to his work; and in May of this year, the exhibition Juan Manuel Figueroa Aznar: Splendor and sunset of the noble Cusco under the curatorship of Gustavo Buntix was exhibited in the Museum of Italian Art within the program of the First Photography Biennial of Lima.