he portrait of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Guerrillero Heroico, photographed by Alberto Díaz Korda on March 5, 1960, is considered to be the most reproduced image in the history of photography. Whether this claim can be substantiated or not, Korda's Che is nonetheless a unique image. It has come to symbolise anti-establishment, radical thought and action.
That Che Guevara himself was young and charismatic and brutally murdered with the support of the CIA at only thirty-nine years of age inevitably contributes to the mystique. Guerrillero Heroico is a statuesque image taken from below. It derives from a visual language of mythologised heroes harking back to an era of socialist realism, yet it also references a classical, even Christ-like demeanour.
This exhibition brings together photography, posters, film, fine art, clothing and artefacts from more than thirty countries. The image moves from heroic guerrilla and pop celebrity to radical chic, spoof and kitsch. The vast majority of the aesthetic treatments of Korda's image derive from the Pop idiom of the 60s. While traditional art relishes ambiguity, introspection and chance, the aesthetic of Pop art was by definition a rejection of traditional art and figuration. Pop's egalitarian, "in your face" presentations are a perfect
corollary for Che's anti-establishment values.
This portrait of Che is an ideal abstraction transformed into a symbol that both resists subtle interpretation and is infinitely malleable. It has moved into the realm of caricature and parody at the same time it is used as political commentary on issues as diverse as the world debt, anti-Americanism, Latin-American identity, and the rights of gays and indigenous peoples.
Rashomonesque in its multiple appearances, Guerrillero Heroico has remained fluid yet buoyant. Its meaning is always clear even to those who know little about the man himself.
Trisha Ziff is originally from England and today lives in Mexico City where she became a citizen in 2003. Trisha has curated many international shows including: The Ballad of Katriot Rexhepi, Mary Kelly; Hidden Truths: Bloody Sunday 1972; and Distant Relations: Chicano Irish and Mexican Art Between Worlds Contemporary Mexican Photography.
Trisha has edited a number of books, as well as contributing to many anthologies and magazines.
Trisha is a Guggenheim scholar and is currently completing her PhD at the Metropolitan University of London.