courtesy photoPre-revolutionary Mexico comes to life in postcards on view at the Main Library.

Postcards send a message from Mexico in early 1900s

“A Little Piece of Mexico: The Postcards of Celebrated Photographers Guillermo Kahlo and his Contemporaries,” a show drawn from the personal collection of San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia, is truly extraordinary.

On view through Dec. 29 in the Jewett Gallery at the San Francisco Public Library’s main branch, the exhibit of more than 200 historical postcards from the early 1900s is varied and rich, boasting images of diverse people and their customs, war and conflict, generals and traitors, and nature and architecture.

In addition to works by Willhelm Kahlo, a German photographer (who changed his name to Guillermo) and the father of famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the exhibit also includes photos by Abel Briquet of France, F. Leon and Felix Miret of Mexico, Caecilie Seler of Germany and CB Waite of the United States.

Sold at bookstores, tourist areas, transit stations, cafes and restaurants, the postcards offer a vibrant view of life in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century, before the country’s revolution in 1910.

Kahlo’s artistry is particularly remarkable. But his images, with their environmental sensibility and folk-art quality, do not necessarily seem commercial, as exemplified by “Indio Cargando Totomostle,” a picture of a worker carrying bananas.

Some of the postcards are accompanied by large reproductions. The poster-sized “Plaza con la Cathedral” shows a large public park, with rich greenery and a plaza in the foreground. In the background, but also dominating the photograph, is the cathedral, detailed and dramatic.

The show is presented by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco, the Office of Research and sponsored programs of San Francisco State University and the City Lights Foundation.

IF YOU GO

A Little Piece of Mexico

Where: Jewett Gallery, Main Library, 100 Larkin St. S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, noon to 5:30 p.m. Fridays, noon to 4:30 p.m. Sundays; closes Dec. 29

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 557-4400, website

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