One Work: Yolanda López’s “Tableaux Vivant”

Yolanda López’s “Tableaux Vivant” series (1978) makes up twelve color photos illustrating the artist as a girl using running shorts and tennis shoes, embracing numerous presents: smiling toothily while thrusting one fist in the air and clutching a package of paintbrushes in the other; standing in coy contrapposto with her head cocked to one side, left hand resting on her hip and ideal arm displaying the brushes; or lunging forward, wielding the brushes like a sword. This renowned operate in López’s oeuvre, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, likewise places the artist as a saint: she stands in front of a body-height, hand-painted mandorla, while at her feet is a makeshift altar of daily items organized on a standard Mexican blanket, amongst them a potted plant, a ceramic container, a Wonder Woman comics, little American and Mexican flags, a pomegranate, a vase of flowers, and– most considerably– a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, along with a red prayer candle light devoted to her, and a picture of the associated Aztec fertility goddess Tonantzin.

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An effective sign of womanhood in Mexican culture, the Virgin of Guadalupe is generally illustrated as a simple and passive Mary, preserved in a halo of light with her head bowed, eyes downcast, and hands in reflective prayer. By contrast, López appears happy and active as a modern-Chicana-as-Virgin, surrounded by signs developing that she is a feminist, artist, and professional athlete. An example of efficiency for the cam, a category artists engaged specifically in the 1960 s and ’70 s to dabble gender functions and identities, the series reveals López beginning to explore her own often inconsistent identities: standard Mexican American culture was not constantly congenial to feminist concepts, and second-wave U.S. feminism in some cases omitted females of color. López experienced those stress throughout her life; certainly, this is her very first solo museum exhibit, and it opened simply one month after her death at the age of78 Her long, significant profession progressed from this lively seed.

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