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Block Museum Acquires Major Work

November 7, 2006 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, ILL. --- The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University recently acquired a major work by Guatemalan-born artist Luis González Palma, one of the leading photographers working today.

Block Museum supporters James and Pamela Elesh contributed funds for the purchase of the work, titled “Loteria I,” for the museum's permanent collection.

González Palma's artwork is represented in major collections throughout the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“Loteria I” (1988-91) is a composite of nine images that combines photography, bitumen (a tar-like substance) and the artist's manipulation of the print through slashing and abrasions. 

González Palma creates his photographs in a painterly manner, altering each by hand to achieve a powerful pictorial effect. By incorporating nontraditional techniques -- such as applying bitumen to the surface -- the artist expands the expressive possibilities of photography.

The work's title, “Loteria,” refers to a Mexican game played with pictures representing objects and concepts, such as the moon, the devil and death. The artist arranged his photographs like a loteria card, similar to a bingo card.

“González Palma's piece alludes to the displaced spiritual and cultural world of Guatemala's indigenous people,” said Corinne Granof, associate curator, Block Museum.

“'Loteria I' focuses on the faces or bodies of Mayan men and women and incorporates symbolic props, including wings, feathers, rope, skulls and flowers. Their evocative arrangement refers to timeless rituals and the mystery of life cycles. By leaving parts of the photograph untinted, the artist achieves a mystical effect.”

Selections from a prior gift from James and Pamela Elesh -- a collection of self-portraits by the German artist Lovis Corinth -- will be on display at the Block Museum's Print, Drawing and Photography Study Center Jan. 19 through March 18, during the Winter 2007 exhibition, “Lovis Corinth: Weimar Period Prints.”

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