[1] [2]

[3] [4]

(1) Yolanda Andrade, "Dos Tiempos," Mexico, photograph, 1990.
(2) Yolanda Andrade, "Las Muertes Hilanantes," Mexico, photograph, 1990.
(3) Mariana Yampolsky, "El Mandil," photograph.
(4) MarianaYampolsky, "Huipil de Tapar," photograph.

by Margarita Nieto

(Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica) Photography has probably been one of the most forceful visual expressions to have emerged in Mexico. Its history begins scarcely three years after its European invention and quickly extends throughout the country. It has flourished through the work of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Tina Modotti, Pedro Meyer, Graciela Iturbide, Flor Garduño and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, names which reference both a continuity and a tradition. Mexico's own intense awareness of timeless space has in turn informed, inspired and intrigued the eye and works of Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sergei Eisenstein, among others.

For these outsiders the fascination with people and things Mexican involves an opportunity for a proximity and awareness with and toward the 'other.' Thus Weston's obsession with the construction of the photograph, the aesthetic counterpoint between image and composition which embodies the relationship between the subject/object and the viewer-photographer creating a conflictive dichotomy of distance and intimacy.

For those working within the culture, photography is simply the only means of creating a language, a construct of meaning and interpretation between the self and the world. This is precisely the case with Mariana Yampolsky and Yolanda Andrade.

Yampolsky, born in the United States and educated at the University of Chicago, has been absorbed by and in Mexico since 1944 when she went there to work at the Taller de Gráfica Popular (the Graphic Arts Workshop, a legacy of the Mexican Arts Renaissance). In the late forties she turned to photography, studying under Lola Alvarez Bravo.

In her works there is always a fierce relationship between her humanistic view and the human landscape that is her focus. Her initial ideals remain unchanged. Drawn to Mexico to work in an environment of social commitment through art, her photographs are testimonials to the nobility and pathos of the voiceless masses. She shares a particular interest in the subject of women with her friend and essayist Elena Poniatowska.

In Puesto de Naranjas (Orange Stand) a curvalinear reiteration between the oranges and a child, curled against the mother's rounded thigh, evokes a universal sense of tenderness, while simultaneously illuminating the pathos of a socio-economic problem. Mujeres del Maguey (Women of the Maguey), on the other hand, evokes the strength and solidarity of womankind through a generational scan that captures three ages of women.

These are visions shared by Yolanda Andrade, born in the southern state of Tabasco and educated at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. Possessed of an uncanny ability to capture the extraordinary within the ordinary, her work is often an interplay between people and things that creates a fantastic, at times quasi-surreal dialectic.

In La Fortuna (The Fortune), loteria cards spread out in front of two children. They become a cosmic labyrinth. In El Doble (The Double) a man stands outside a store window unaware that the manniquin in the window is his replica.

In the works of these two women it is as if the camera is empowered to illustrate the subtlties that lie within our perceptual field and which we, ironically, ignore because of their very proximity. Photographs about life in a lived space, they become mirrors of our own images, of our personal worlds. We move thus, beyond what seems to be there (clothing, hair styles) and move magically, as it were, into the shared labyrinths of the human condition.