Clara de Tezanos, Por maniobras de un terceto

JTF (just the facts): Self-published in 2019 (here). Hardcover with spiral binding, 118 pages, with 176 photographs. Includes a poem by Mabel Lassus. In an edition of 200 copies, signed and numbered. Design by Clara de Tezanos and Alejandro Cartagena. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Clara de Tezanos is a Guatemalan artist who studied photography in Paris and worked in Europe in the early years of her career. When she moved back to Guatemala in 2009, Tezanos co-founded the photography center La Fototeca and the GuatePhoto Festival, and the process of moving back to South America also forced Tezanos to question her own identity and place in the society.

In her earlier series Todos somos Marías (translated as “we are all Marias”), she reflected on the patriarchal structures of society. And in 2018, Tezanos self-published Piedra-Padre, Universe, dealing with a figure of a father, childhood, ancestors, and our place in the universe. Her most recent photobook explores these themes even further. Titled Por maniobras de un terceto (meaning “by maneuvers of a third” in Spanish), it brings together photographs from Tezanos’s archives of the past ten years, including various self-portraits and images of her family.

Por maniobras de un terceto is a hardcover book with a large spiral binding. It has a beige linen cover, with a simple illustration done with a golden thread that depicts two people fencing and another in between. A black and white photograph on the end papers documents what looks like a family event: a man holds a newborn with a few people standing around. The photograph looks like it was taken a few decades ago and we assume this is the moment Tezanos was introduced to the world, but the binding splits the image into two parts. The narrative that follows uses this breaking mechanism to create a layered visual labyrinth of archival family images, photographs, and illustrations. In building up her overlapped visual narrative, Tezanos utilizes a collaging technique, often adding new elements over a few spreads, the page flips building a constantly evolving and rebalancing flow.

Por maniobras de un terceto immerses us in a visual maze, where Tezanos claims her space within the context of her ancestors and the universe, using oblique references and linked metaphors. The book opens with a black and white image of a woman standing between two men; they are formally dressed and their faces are cropped out, but we can see the woman smiling – perhaps these are Tezanos’ parents. This is followed by a full spread of a blurry sphere, and over a few pages she adds a progression of a man moving forward to take a jump, either leaving the enclosed bubble or more abstractly breaking free.

A few spreads later there is an engraving showing two people surgically disassembling an animal for a medical study, adding another separation to the list. In the next few spreads, the same graphic is layered with Tezanos’ nude self-portrait and an image of a woman’s profile, creating the impression that Tezanos is closely examining her own identity and its divisions. Throughout the book there are various photographs of the artist: we see her as a baby, as a young girl with long hair down, and as a grown up woman standing nude with green trees in the background, the page turns collapsing the passing time into one integrated whole. Tezanos actively uses the spiral to emphasize and bring the visual elements closer together.

In addition to self-portraits and photographs of family members, Tezanos includes many pictures of nature: tree branches against the sky, hills covered with greenery, a seashell, seagulls, sometimes connecting their textures to skin, flares of light, and views through windows. Closer to the end of the photobook, there is a full spread depicting two baby cows in a meadow, with an image of a seashell placed on top, to which she then adds a small family photo. In the spreads that follow, Tezanos keeps replacing the added image, piling one atop another, bringing in a photo of her father holding her as a baby, then a photo of her parents, then a self-portrait, then a horizontal photo of an audience, then the universe, and finally another image of an audience. Through this editing process, the visuals connect and transform, creating conversations between family, relationships, and the universe, blending them together into one nested experience. 

The book ends with a short poem, dated 1950; perhaps it was written by a Tezanos’ family member. It considers pride, determination, and personal freedom, and seems like a fitting conclusion to the visual narrative. Through this work, Tezanos defines herself as an independent woman, connected to her ancestors, and centered in the universe, eager to be fulfilled. She expressively uses the split-bound format to build and share this vision, creating a continuum from the uniquely human to the cosmic. 

Collector’s POV: Clara de Tezanos does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

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