Seven Latin American gems to discover at the Toronto Contact Photography Festival

We pick some of the artists with a Latin American background participating this year in Contact, the largest annual photography festival, showcasing over 200 exhibitions and programs in greater Toronto throughout this month.

Jorge Lozano, ‘Mode of Production’, 2009. Film still.

Contact is the largest annual photography festival globally, showcasing over 200 exhibitions and programs throughout May in greater Toronto, with an outstanding selection of Canadian and international lens-based artists, all of them free and open to the public, with some exceptions at major museums.

The Festival’s Core Exhibitions are comprised of collaborations with major museums, galleries, and artist-run centres, as well as site-specific public art projects. The Featured and Open Call Exhibitions present a range of works by local and international artists at leading galleries and alternative spaces across the city. The Festival also includes a wide range of programs including a book fair, a symposium, lectures, talks, panels, and workshops.

Some of the artists featured in this year’s program are from Latin America or have a Latin American background. They’re part of the creative effervescence that visual arts are currently experiencing throughout the region.

Here are seven of them you shouldn’t miss.

1. Jorge Lozano

Configurations (A Space Gallery) is a two-person exhibition that brings the parallel practices of Mike Hoolboom and Jorge Lozano into dialogue. Both are prolific and pioneering video artists who celebrate an impure cinema. Their works are being shown together for the first time in a gallery for several reasons, not least of which is to create an opportunity for unlikely juxtapositions, to produce an open field of reading for their viewers.

Colombian-born activist and filmmaker Jorge Lozano has created over 100 works since 2005, making him one of Toronto’s most tireless visual artists. His work explores the politics of Canada and Colombia, the contemplation of life, the philosophy of being and the emotions we feel through visual poetry.

He co-founded the aluCine Toronto Latin Festival, and recently, his work expanded to the genre of multi-screen docu-installations. MOVING STILL_still life, a series of seven interviews presented in a simultaneous chorus, premiered at the Ryerson Image Centre in 2015.

2. Isabel M. Martínez

Isabel M. Martínez, ‘Distance, Illusion and Otherness’ #1 and #2, Diptych.

Isabel M. Martínez spent her formative years in Santiago de Chile. She has exhibited internationally in solo and curated group shows in galleries, art centres, festivals and biennials in Canada, the UK, the USA, Chile, France, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, and The Netherlands. Notable exhibitions include the Museo Nacional de la Fotografia (Bogotá), Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Tenerife), Theoretische Kunstprojekte (The Hague), and the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.

Using analogue methods, Martínez distills in These Things Take Time (Angell Gallery) the medium of photography to its key elements: light, time, and chemistry. Shapes are delineated through masking, and burnt onto negatives by light precisely regulated as it enters the camera. Forms float atop rippling textures derived from tampering with the film’s emulsion. Viewing Martínez’s images prompts contemplation of elemental forms of consciousness. Her works appear to vibrate, emitting a silent hum that is mysterious, transfixing and moving.

3. Alejandro Santiago

Alejandro Santiago, ‘Closet’.

To piece together his family’s history, artist Alejandro Santiago visited the home that his grandparents fled after the Cuban revolution. His installation El Camagüeyano (Church Street Pop-Ups) reimagines a domestic space in Camagüey and the intersections of memory that it contains. It explores the impact that migration has on generations of family as it attempts to weave the fragments of memory, history, and present day reality.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, Alejandro Santiago began his photography career documenting the US tour of rock band 311 at the age of 18. With Miami as a backdrop, the multicultural city helped foster a diverse and soulful perspective on life and art. While studying digital design at Parson School of Design in New York City he began his journey of experimenting and studying with photography, lighting and design; the result led to a blend of gritty, street photography, matched with a keen aesthetic eye for form and design.

In 2012, Santiago was awarded Photo District News’ “The Shot” competition for his photos of Toronto’s Caribana festival. He won Adorama’s Best Shot of 2012 for his image Crossing Queen’s Quay. He divides his life & work between Miami and Toronto.

4. Mirna Chacín

Mirna Chacín, ‘Winter Blues’, 2019.

The exhibition Subject to Change (Arts Etobicoke) presents the works of Venezuelan Mirna Chacín and Salvadoran Eli Carmona, two contemporary artists who are developing a personal and engaged visual system to claim, make, and describe their own narrative as artists whose practices navigate through identity, nationalism, modern migration, and belonging. The imagery is both straightforward and poetic.

Chacín discovered her passion for photography as a means of artistic expression during her time as an Architecture student at the University of Zulia, in Venezuela, in the late 80s. Her first individual exhibition, Viviendas (Moradas, 1989-1990), was exhibited in art galleries in Venezuela, Uruguay, Italy and Canada. The following individual exhibitions include Voyage Made Clear, A Bike’s Tale, The Visitors, Exuberance, and the Paraguaná project, a media arts installation exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zulia.

Shortly before immigrating to Canada in 2011, the University of Zulia (LUZ) awarded Mirna a Gold Medal for her artistic achievements in Venezuela. In Canada, he has received grants from the Arts Access Fund of RBC Bank and the Arts Council of Toronto. She lives in Toronto, works as an independent photographer and is an active member of The Neighborhood Arts Network and the G44 Center for the Contemporary Photography.

5. Eli Carmona

Eli Carmona, ‘Uprooted’, 2019.

The other artist featured at the Subject to Change exhibition, Eli Carmona (they/them pronouns), is a Salvadoran-born artist also based in Toronto. Their work includes casual/street photography, motion graphics, and graphic design. They mean to create a relationship between identity and the spaces they navigate as a queer-latine-nonbinary person.

Ana Rodrigues, CN Tower.

6. Ana Rodrigues

The Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce launches the fourth edition of the project Exchanging Glances: Images of Two Cultures (Society of Sound), focusing on the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Toronto.

The work made by the Carioca photographer Ana Rodrigues and Canadian DiVito portrays Toronto and Rio with their thrilling, exotic, and creative aspects as effervescent centres of culture, art, and business, highlighting their human, creative, and innovative aspects.

Ana Rodrigues has participated in exhibitions in Buenos Aires, Beirut, Amman, Quito, Lisbon and Rio. She is a member of Páprica Fotografia and works with audiovisual and architecture. She created the collective Escambal, that promotes photography since 2010.

7. Ángel Torres

Angel Torres, ‘Gran Teatro de la Habana’, 2018.

Ángel Torres has been shooting for arts and business publications in Toronto while creatively exploring portraiture, nature and urban landscapes. His work appears in Toronto’s corporate, art, LGBTQ and media sectors and he has exhibited also in Germany. As an independent entrepreneur, he balances community charity with a pursuit for constant improvement to benefit an eclectic clientele.

Torres’ project Cuba Libre 2019 is part of the group exhibition Back to the Roots at The Continental Dance Club.