Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum opened their fall season with a series of strong, captivating exhibits, including the group show Chicano State of Mind and Take 10, which features art from legendary performer Cheech Marin’s personal collection. Yonder Peasant…The Photography of Pedro Guerrero is part of this roster of stellar exhibits, one that should not be missed.
Guerrero’s career as a photographer included a range of notable highlights, including the 20 years he spent shooting the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. A young Guerrero, who is from Mesa, approached Wright with his portfolio in 1939, and the architect gave him a job documenting his work. Pedro spent the next year photographing Wright’s Taliesin and Taliesin West estates, until world events found him serving as a photo officer in Italy during World War II. When he returned in 1945, Guerrero sought out Wright once again and became Wright’s on-call photographer.
Guerrero based himself in New York City, where his career started to flourish. He created quite a name for himself, not only for documenting Wright’s creations but also for his magazine work in prominent magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Home and Garden and Architectural Forum, showcasing the intriguing work of modernist architects such as Philip Johnson and Edward Durell Stone.
Guerrero’s subjects were not limited to architecture. Some of the most iconic pieces he photographed for his magazine clients include actor/director John Huston’s castle in Ireland and Julia Child’s kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The latter happened in 1962 in correlation with the publication of Child’s first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The spread was for House and Garden, and Pedro’s widow and archivist Dixie Guerrero says that the famous chef cooked duck à l’orange for the magazine folks that day.
Dixie, a writer, met Pedro at Taliesin West in 1987. She reached out to the Mesa Contemporary’s curators because, in addition to her admiration for the venue, she felt that it was important for Pedro finally to have an exhibit in his hometown.
“We wanted to honor both Pedro and the Guerrero family. They have deep roots in Mesa. The family owns a sign company that has existed since the 1920s. It was wonderful to have dozens of family members in attendance.”
“Dressed Up for Easter” is a silver gelatin print, like Guerrero’s “Studio Self-Portrait,” that—also like the self-portrait—isn’t exhibited often (exhibits of Guerrero’s work are often of an architectural focus). The former is a sweet and universally classic shot that highlights familial cohesiveness while subtly exemplifying the individuality of each member. In the latter, the artist himself is featured at his desk; the waning sun creates patches of light across his body. In a shirt and tie, minus the suit jacket, Guerrero enjoys a cigarette as the smoke swirls in waves around him. All signs point to it being the day coming to a close, and Pedro’s expression is intense as he squints a bit from the light, perhaps pondering the occurrences that took place prior to this moment.
“Picnic at Taliesin” shows Wright and other creative minds lounging in the tall grass, while “Robert Llewellyn Wright House” offers an alluring look at this Maryland home, which Wright constructed for one of his children.
Mesa Contemporary’s associate curator, Tiffany Fairall, says,
“The exhibition provides a brief snapshot into the remarkable life and career of this significant artist, who came from provincial Mesa and gained access to some of the most pivotal artists of the 20th century.”
Yonder Peasant…The Photography of Pedro Guerrero
Through January 17th
Mesa Contemporary Arts