Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico, Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
The photographs in Luces y Sombras reflect a broad span of Mexico’s modern history, beginning with the post-Revolutionary era up until the present day. With work by 28 photographers, both native Mexicans and foreigners, this exhibition provides vivid testimony to the character of life in a nation in the throes of reinvention, modernization and continued change, over the course of the last century. The exhibition reflects many themes embraced by photographers in Mexico: the landscape, urban life, fantasy and, especially among younger generations, gender and invented situations infused with symbolism.
The exhibition begins with works by photographers active at the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution, a chaotic struggle for political power as well as a movement to redress the tremendous inequalities between rich and poor that had long existed. Particularly for Americans since the 1920s, Mexico has been a part of our cultural imagination; it has attracted artists, writers, scholars and free spirits who have drawn boundless inspiration from its people and culture.
The earliest photographs in this exhibition, by the Americans Edward Weston and Paul Strand, manifest the cultural values that came to the fore in the decades following the Revolution, when Mexican politicians and intellectuals alike endeavored to re-envision their nation, speaking to the elevation of Mexico’s indigenous population.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo, considered Mexico’s first truly modern photographer, reveals the urban milieu as an environment marked by mysterious or ironic juxtapositions. He also photographed people, taking as much interest in anonymous persons as with celebrated artists like Frida Kahlo.
Later works by such figures as Manuel Carrillo, Mariana Yampolsky and Graciela Iturbide continue to reflect the emphasis that Mexican photographers have placed on everyday people and the survival of indigenous communities. Recent generations of photographers have found new purpose in documenting these communities, being keenly aware that their ways of life continue to wane amidst urbanization, migration and the influence of popular Western culture and mass media.