The Mario Cravo Neto retrospective at the Throckmorton offers us the opportunity of taking an in-depth look at Brazil’s best known fine art photographer, who died last year at the relatively early age of 62.
As with many South American photographers, such as Manuel Bravo, FIor Garduno, and Luis Gonzalez Palma, among others, Neto’s work resonates with the off-key music of surrealism. South American artists, in general were more sympathetic than their northern counterparts to the surrealist esthetic with its search for the marvelous and the irrational. One can speculate that a continent steeped in Spanish Catholicism with its taste for blood and fascination with death might well prove a fertile ground for surrealist sympathies. Whatever the truth of this, it is fairly obvious that a strong surrealist streak runs through modern South American work. Neto’s is no exception. In beautifully crafted black and white prints, he created image after image in which oddness and ritual take center stage. The magic of stones, of voodoo, and of objects themselves, permeate his pictures with an inner light.In Neto’s imagery clear links are also visible to an earlier generation of photographers, such as Man Ray, and–in the soft, nostalgic ballet portraits–to the more romantic Joseph Sudek. These latter images have an old-fashioned feel, and are rather sentimental in fact. Perhaps Neto’s romanticism needed the ballast of the surreal to avoid an excessive sweetness. Their inclusion in the show, however, shows the range of his work, giving us deeper insight into the sensibility of this gifted Brazilian artist.