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Getty Research Institute Exhibits Iconic Images of the Mexican Revolution

Exhibition at the Central Library Tells the Story of Mexico’s Past through Period Photographs

The Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), which lasted a decade and transformed the nation, was extensively chronicled by Mexican, American, and European photographers and illustrators. Thousands of images captured a country at war. Never before, and possibly never since, had a country’s struggles been the subject of such scrutiny or fascination. Organized as part of Los Angeles’ celebration of the bicentennial of Mexicos independence and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, A Nation Emerges: The Mexican Revolution Revealed, presented by the Getty Research Institute and the Los Angeles Public Library, chronicles a complex, multifaceted chapter in Mexico’s history. Exhibition on view September 8, 2011–June 3, 2012.

A Nation Emerges, on view at the Central Library, Getty Gallery, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown Los Angeles, from September 8, 2011–June 3, 2012, showcases over 130 photographs, prints, and maps drawn primarily from the Special Collections of the Getty Research Institute. The exhibition also includes a selection of 20th- and 21st-century posters and prints from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, that contextualize the history of the Mexican Revolution for a 21st-century audience.

A Nation Emerges reveals eyewitness accounts of the Mexican Revolution through photographs taken by Mexican and foreign photographers, who set up agencies, particularly in Mexico City and along the Mexican-American border, where they produced images that would become part of the daily news coverage not only in Mexico, but worldwide. Photographers and revolutionary leaders both recognized the importance of photographs in raising consciousness and rallying support for the events and people of the revolution, and the modern-day “photo op” was born.

Images from the revolution continue to inspire today, and folk heroes such as Pancho Villa, Emilio Zapata, and las soldaderas remain part of Los Angeles’s popular culture. Among the most iconic images in the exhibition are Villa riding his horse at a gallop and Villa seated in the presidential chair with Zapata beside him. “While every photograph belongs to a specific event and has its own story to tell, when a photograph becomes iconic, its actual subject is no longer as important as what the image stands for in the collective mind,” said Beth Guynn, senior special collections cataloguer for the Getty Research Institute and exhibition curator.

“A Nation Emerges will allow visitors to explore the ongoing resonance of the Mexican Revolution and the meaning it continues to hold for many,” said City Librarian Martín J. Gómez. “We are thrilled to host this extraordinary exhibition and grateful for the opportunity to bring this important topic to the thousands of people who visit the Los Angeles Public Library every day. We look forward to future collaborations with the Getty Research Institute.”

The Getty Research Institute’s most recent exhibition at the Central Library was the highly acclaimed Julius Shulman’s Los Angeles in 2007. “We have been looking for another opportunity to collaborate with the Library, and A Nation Emerges is an ideal way to commemorate the anniversary of the revolution and share the Getty Research Institute’s collections with a broader audience,” said Thomas Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute.

A rich program of events including lectures, family programs, adult education courses, and curatorial tours is being planned for A Nation Emerges. Enhancing the exhibition, an audio tour will tell the stories behind some of the most significant objects on view. Special programs related to the exhibit will be held at the Central Library, including a program in the popular “Aloud” series.

A Nation Emerges: The Mexican Revolution Revealed has been organized by the Getty Research Institute with support from Edison International and support from the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. The Library Foundation of Los Angeles ( is a non-profit organization that supports all of the activities and programs not funded by the City. The Foundation’s fundraising efforts enhance the Library as a center for literary and cultural learning, thereby enriching the lives of every Angeleno.

Image: Walter H. Horne (1883-1921). Mujeres listas para recivir a Rabago, 1911. Gelatin silver print. Getty Research Institute (89.R.46)

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