Photographed at close range, a stack of books is transformed into a geometric study of shape and mass, light and shadow. Manuel Alvarez Bravo selected works from his own library for this composition, which suggests a towering form of modern architecture. At the bottom of the stack is Maurice Raynal's 1922 monograph on Picasso, a foundational text that greatly influenced Alvarez Bravo. Picasso's work encouraged the artist to experiment with abstract and cubist compositions. The viewer can only speculate about the contents of the books stacked on top of the monograph, but it is likely that these volumes were equally important to Alvarez Bravo's development as a photographer.
This formal, abstract image indicates that, by 1930, Alvarez Bravo had absorbed many contemporary modernist ideas, even though he lived in Mexico City, far from the main centers of avant-garde artistic production. Because of his location, Alvarez Bravo depended largely on printed words and images as sources of inspiration.
Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser