The Wittliff Collections launch 25th anniversary exhibition schedule
with photographs by MARIANA YAMPOLSKY
On view May 16 through December 11, 2011
SAN MARCOS, Texas—THE EDGE OF TIME: Photographs of Mexico by Mariana Yampolsky marks the beginning of the Wittliff Collections’ twenty-fifth anniversary exhibition schedule at Texas State University-San Marcos. This show from the permanent holdings runs from May 16 through December 11, 2011, with other celebratory exhibitions to be added in August. The Wittliff Collections are located on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State in San Marcos. Admission is free and open to the public. Hours and directions are at: http://www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/about/visit.html.
MARIANA YAMPOLSKY (1925–2002)—one of the major figures in twentieth-century Mexican photography—played an important role in building the Wittliff’s contemporary Mexican photography archive, now one of the largest in the nation. In 1994, Yampolsky met with Connie Todd (then assistant to founder Bill Wittliff, now director, retired) in Mexico City to discuss Bill’s idea of a Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection. Yampolsky put them in touch with virtually every outstanding photographer in the country. She also talked to the artists themselves, enthusiastically promoting the project, and in so doing, authenticated what was then a little-known repository to the Mexican photographic community.
The Edge of Time exhibition honors Mariana Yampolsky’s role in the Wittliff Collections’ history with nearly 60 silver-gelatin photographs of Mexico she created during the 30-year span of 1964 to 1994. “Reflecting moments,” as she said, “in the lives of people that others perhaps don’t see or don’t value,” Yampolsky’s images capture rural Mexico with infinite respect and care, the situations, traditions, customs, and rituals of those who live there, and the weight of religion and the creativity in daily life. Her pictures—made elegant by her expert understanding of light, detail, and composition—function as works of art while offering vital evidence of moments in Mexico’s history when ways of life that have endured for centuries face the onslaught of modernization.
Mariana Yampolsky’s great heart beats for the gente—the common people of Mexico. Look at her photographs—look at the four old women chatting as they wait for the priest, look at the mother gently caressing her child—these people have wiggled their toes in the earth—have since time immemorial, suffered a fiery, tortuous history of abuse, poverty, neglect for a thousand years, and yet endured to create a vibrant culture filled with art, music, ritual, and mystery. . . . Mariana pays them the greatest of tributes: to see them as they are—not as exotic objects for the lens, but as fellow and equal travelers on this spinning globe. And they in turn pay her the greatest of tributes as well: to go on about the business of their daily lives as she photographs. There’s no arranging here, no posing, no invasion, but rather a shared moment in time between kindred spirits—a simpatía. —Bill Wittliff
The Edge of Time: Photographs of Mexico was originally organized by the Wittliff Collections in 1996 and toured with Exhibits USA from 1996 through 1999. It is also the title of the second volume, published in 1998, in the Wittliff’s award-winning book series with the University of Texas Press. Still in print, it is available for purchase through the Wittliff’s online gift shop.
Mariana Yampolsky was born near Chicago in 1925 and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1948. She first visited Mexico in 1944 and moved there a few years later, establishing her Mexican citizenship in 1954. Eventually accepted as an integral part of Mexican life and art and recognized as one of the country’s premier photographers, Yampolsky also worked as an engraver, illustrator, editor, lecturer, curator, and book designer.
In Mexico, Yampolsky became the first female member of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphic Arts Workshop), working as a printer and engraver; later she was the first woman elected to their board of directors. In the late 1940s, she began experimenting with photography, taking her first class from Lola Álvarez Bravo. Since then, her works have appeared in over 10 books and been featured in 45 solo exhibitions and 110 group exhibitions all over the world. Currently her photographs reside in more than 15 major collections, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Yampolsky also worked for a number of years with the Ministry of Education, coordinating the illustration of free textbooks and a series of art books as well as editing a children’s magazine series.
Prior to her death on May 2, 2002, her friends and husband, Arjen Van der Sluis, founded the Mariana Yampolsky Cultural Foundation in her former house in the historic district of Tlalpan in Mexico City.
For further information, contact Carla Ellard, curator of the Wittliff Collections’ Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512.245.2313.