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In 1913 Italian-born Modotti (1896-1943) immigrated to the United States, where she enthusiastically embraced both radical politics and photographer Edward Weston, the first of many prominent men who would love the charismatic artist. Apart from the formally rigorous, socially engaged photographs that made her reputation, Modotti's most ardent passions were for revolutionary Mexico, where she lived from 1922 to 1930, and for Communist activist Julio Mella, whose murder in 1929 engulfed her in the juicy scandal with which Italian journalist Cacucci opens his dishy biography. Modotti spent the 1930s serving the Soviet Union's interests in many of the world's hot spots, notably Spain during its vicious civil war; commitment to Communism gave her a sense of stability her turbulent personal affairs did not. She died mysteriously four years after her return to Mexico, by rumor at the hands of Stalinist poisoners. Cacucci's fascination with abstruse Communist ideological squabbles may not be shared by all readers, and his methodology is decidedly slapdash: he doesn't provide footnotes, and pages of direct dialogue have no discernable source other than the author's imagination. However, his breathless prose certainly conveys the drama of Modotti's short, intense life. --Wendy Smith
The photographer and Communist organizer Tina Modotti (18961942) lived in a seeming whirlwind of artistic creation and personal and political intrigue. Two new biographies trace her life as she developed her immense artistic skill, loved passionately, and eventually sacrificed her art to her work for social justice through the Communist Party. In a brief and clipped work, Italian journalist Cacucci lays out the machinations of Modottis life. He sketches a chronology of her love lifeincluding her relationships with the young poet known as Robo, the photographer Edward Weston, the Cuban revolutionary Julio Antonio Mella, and the menacing Soviet operative Vidali Vittorioand seems unduly fascinated by the power of Modottis beauty. As a result, she comes off as a frail social climber, and the book is tiring at best. On the other hand, in the most complete and readable biography of Modotti to date, Albers, a curator and writer, portrays a complex woman who made extraordinary life choices in an attempt to unite personal desires with the social realities of her time. While men were important to Modotti (she once playfully proclaimed them to be her profession), she was a thoroughly modern woman who cared most about navigating the wavering balance between life, art, and the need for social change. Albers avoids casting Modotti in a clich, acknowledging that she was never entirely free of either the fear of impoverishment or the encumbering domestic role women were expected to play. Rather, Modottis mind was often absorbed in the minutiae of life: setting up households, making pasta, planning art shows, and facilitating Party efforts. When considered in this context, Modotti seems more inspired workhorse than princessand all the more interesting for the added detail. Libraries can avoid Cacuccis effort, but Alberss is essential. [Photographs not seen.]Rebecca Miller, Library Journa.
-Rebecca Miller, Library Journal
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.