Yesterday’s eyes

A photo of a model in traditional Mexican garb in front of the World's Fair's British pavilion is one of the images in QMA's exhibit that was displayed at the 1939-40 World's Fair. Image courtesy Luis Marquez Archive, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
By Morgan Rousseau

The Queens Museum of Art is running an exhibition of the works of Luis Márquez, showcasing historic photographs and memorabilia from the New York World’s Fair that took place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

“Luis Márquez in the World of Tomorrow: Mexican Identity and the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair” will be on view through March 6.

The exhibition features an award-winning photographic account by Márquez, whose work highlighted folkloric Mexico with an eclectic range of photographic styles. The photographs were brought from the collections of Universidad Nacional de México and Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City.

Most photographs were digitally reproduced from photographic negatives and are on display in the United States for the first time ever. There are also five vintage prints that were originally exhibited at the fair.

The photographic negatives were rediscovered by curators Itala Schmelz and Ernesto Peñaloza in the Luis Márquez photographic archive at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.

“This exhibition is the result of 10 years of research of almost 300 photos taken by Luis Márquez at the New York World’s Fair. They intrigued us so much that we asked ourselves how Márquez arrived at the fair and in what historical context he worked,” Schmelz and Peñaloza said in a statement through QMA.

Traditional Mexican folk costumes were also taken from the Mexican collections, to contextualize the folk-art element of Márquez’s work.

According to QMA Director of Exhibitions Hitomi Iwasaki, Schmelz put great efforts into gathering fair memorabilia to complement Márquez’s photographs.

“Itala came here to research the World’s Fair archives. She went to MoMa, The Museum of the City of New York and The New York Public Library,” Iwasaki said, adding that the memorabilia provides an interesting backdrop for Marquez’s work. The memorabilia includes newspaper clippings, advertisements, and interviews from the time of the fair.

“They wanted to bring [the photographs and memorabilia] back to the original location in New York as part of the bicentennial that took place,” Iwasaki said.

A good portion of the photographs at the exhibition involve images of sailors who were asked by Márquez to pose with models and folk dancers. Other photographs showcase the Mexican pavilion building, sculptures, fountains and general views. For his work, the fair awarded Márquez first place in its own photography contest.

Iwasaki said one of her favorite photographs at the exhibition is an untitled work from 1940 that shows a model posed in front of British pavilion, an exhibition print from original negative taken from the archive at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Admission to the exhibition is by suggested donation of $5 for adults and $2.50 for seniors and children. Members and children under five are admitted for free.

More from Around New York