Consuelo Kanaga, Young Girl in Profile, 1948 / Brooklyn Museum, gift of Wallace B. Putnam from the Estate of Consuelo Kanaga © Brooklyn Museum
Consuelo Kanaga: Catch The Spirit
Feb 15 – May 12, 2024
Fundación MAPFRE
Barcelona, Spain

Consuelo Kanaga: Catch the Spirit traces six decades of work by this seminal figure in the history of modern photography. An unconventional figure deeply committed to social justice, Kanaga (1894-1978) became a professional photojournalist as early as the 1910s. She was also one of the few women to maintain a close relationship with American avant-garde circles, both in San Francisco, with the f.64 Group, and in New York, with the Photo League. In these contexts, her friendship and professional support opened the way for other important women photographers of those years. However, gender inequalities and social conventions limited her ability to devote herself fully to artistic work. She held full-time jobs and devoted weekends to her personal work.

The exhibition, organised from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, which has been the custodian of her archive, features nearly 180 photographs (mostly vintage prints) and a variety of documentary material. While tracing and contextualising Consuelo Kanaga’s work and presenting some of her iconic images, it also focuses on the role of photography in the representation of the African-American world.

In response to the dominant racism, from the end of the 19th century, in cities such as San Francisco, Washington and New York, magazines and novels created by black men and women began to be published. This literary boom was the precedent for what is known as the “New Negro Movement” , which emerged in Harlem between 1920 and 1930, and which also gave its name to the most complete anthology on this cultural current, written by Alain Locke and considered at the time to be “the foundation of the black canon”. Also known as the “Harlem Renaissance”, the movement marked a period of flourishing for black artists, while at the same time appealing to whites to join in this vindication of African-American equality through culture. This is the case of Kanaga, who became linked, through her personal relationships and her photographic work, to the demands for a redefinition of the African-American identity.

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