Critics’ Picks

El sueno de los pobres 2 (The Dream of the Poor 2), 1949.

El sueno de los pobres 2 (The Dream of the Poor 2), 1949.

New York

Lola Alvarez Bravo

548 West 28th Street 4TH FLOOR
September 8–November 2, 2006

While the fifty-five photographs on view in this show, the first major exhibition of Lola Alvarez Bravo’s work in more than a decade, seem an abbreviated selection, they nevertheless offer an occasion to appreciate the stunning range and tender character of her oeuvre. As Mexico’s first woman photographer, Alvarez Bravo developed a taste for photography during Mexico’s cultural renaissance in the 1930s—among such luminaries as Manuel Alvarez Bravo (her husband until 1949), Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, Rufino Tamaya, and Julio Castellanos. Her aesthetic, however, was very much her own creation. Though Alvarez Bravo’s early images were a product of photojournalistic assignments, they reveal a personal sensibility that both belies their functional origin and anticipates the deep intimacy of her work in the ’40s and ’50s. During this later period, she frequently chose indigenous people and the underclass as her subjects, offering glimpses of street scenes and wrenching poverty, lyrical and allegorical moments, and more formally experimental pictures, including montages. Some images manage to encompass the full scope of her endeavor, such as the breathtaking Los almiares (Labores) (The Haystacks [Laborers]), ca. 1940. Her nudes and beach scenes introduce a spare yet intense sensuality into her work, from the glistening, tanned body of dancer Maudelle Bass to the forbiddingly spiky yet enticing leaves of an aloe vera. The sampling of images here is often permeated with a sense of solitariness while engaging the eye through a resonating humanism and quiet sublimity.