A guest post by Anna Espinola Lynnand Clare Hills-Nova
On 23 October, 2019, ARTES, together with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hosted a transdisciplinary session at the University’s Weston Library, focusing on Mesoamerican manuscripts. The event was designed to mark the 500th anniversary of the historic meeting between the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) and the Aztec ruler Moctezuma the Younger (1466–1520), just outside Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), on 8 November 1519. Attendees included students, academics and representatives of other cultural institutions.
Attendance at this exclusive event was by invitation only. Would you like to take part in similar visits in the future? Join ARTES today!
The afternoon began in the Weston Library’s Visiting Scholars’ Centre. On view were the Selden Roll (MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72 (3)) alongside two modern books produced by Alfonso García Tellez,using the traditional, amate paper-based techniques evidenced by rare Pre-Hispanic codices and rolls.
The session began with Sir John
Elliott’s essay on the Cortez-Moctezuma encounter before moving on to
presentations by Giuseppe Marcocci (University of Oxford), Emily Floyd (UCL), and
the Bodleian Libraries’ Head of Conservation, Virginia Lladó-Buisán.
Giuseppe followed Sir John’s paper
with a consideration of the roles vision and visual culture took on in the
encounter between the Spanish visitors and the Mexica. Turning to contemporary
accounts of the encounter that emphasize vision, as well as representations of
the imagined or real Other, Giuseppe pointed to visual asymmetries active in
colonial contexts as they participated in relations of power.
Emily, meanwhile, provided a reading
of the pre-colonial Selden Roll as it expressed the formation of a new cycle of
rule in central Mexico. She discussed the multiplicity of ways the Roll can be
read, and invited further conversation as to possible representations of time,
succession, generation and regeneration. Regarding the name of the Selden Roll,
Emily noted that this was associated with its colonial history of collecting more
than with the Roll’s actual content, commenting that ‘The Roll of New Fire’ had
recently been adopted as a more appropriate title for it.
Virginia followed up with insights
into the processes and materials used in creating the Roll, drawing upon the
results of recent research. Participants in this session had the unique
pleasure of getting up close to the Selden Roll and asking those experts
present questions about anything from shifts in hue or line quality, to
contexts of production in pre-colonial and colonial environments, and on the
multivalent symbolisms in the Roll.
Following a compelling period of conversation around and about the objects, the afternoon concluded with a visit to the Weston Library’s Talking Mapsexhibition, where the Codex Mendoza (Bodleian Library MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1) was on display. Here, they were able to extend the conversation regarding the authorship, readership and linguistic referents of the pre-colonial Roll of New Fire versus the colonial era’s Mendoza Codex.
Images courtesy the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture is a quarterly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing the most current international research on the visual culture of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, as well as that created in diaspora. A defining focus of the journal is its concentration of current scholarship on both Latin American and Latinx visual culture in a single publication. The journal aims to approach ancient, colonial, modern and contemporary Latin American and Latinx visual culture from a range of interdisciplinary methodologies and perspectives. The journal was first published in January 2019, and three issues are now available on the journal’s website.
The Metropolitan Museum Journal presents richly illustrated studies of works in the Museum’s collection, including prominent as well as lesser known pieces, and relating them to works in other collections. The journal’s editorial board has recently announced that starting with volume 55, authors who publish in the Metropolitan Museum Journal (MMJ) will no longer be responsible to provide or pay for high-resolution images. The editorial office at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will acquire all high-resolution images and obtain English-language, world publication rights for print and electronic editions of MMJ. Journal authors will no longer need to spend time and effort on securing images. Click here for more information on this innovative policy.
The 58th Biennale of Venice opened on 11 May. Here is a
(non-comprehensive) list of Iberian and Latin American artists represented at
the exhibition, which runs until 24 November 2019, and at accompanying events.
Mexican artist Teresa Margolles was awarded a Special
Mention at the event’s opening ceremony. By shifting existing structures from
the real world into the Exhibition halls, Margolles creates sharp and poignant
works that deal with the plight of women grossly affected by the narcotics
trade in her native country. Her work Muro
Ciudad Juárez. 2010 can be found in the Biennale’s central pavilion at the
Giardini, entitled May You Live in Interesting Times and curated by Ralph
Other Latin American artists invited to participate in the Biennale’s international exhibition (split between the Giardini and Arsenale) are Jill Mulleady (born in 1980 in Uruguay), Gabriel Rico (born in 1980 in Mexico) and Tomás Saraceno (born in 1973 in Argentina).
The international exhibition is accompanied by 89 national participations. Spain’s pavilion, located at the entrance of the Giardini, showcases Perforated, a collaboration between Itziar Okariz and Sergio Prego. Through performance, video, and sound, Okariz explores the displacements between the subject, the language, and its physical presence. Prego’s sculptural works relate to architecture, calling materiality into question through the use of lightweight, flexible materials that allow the form to only exist in a specific state or as a result of a continuous action on the constituent material. Both artists reiterate the alternative functions of the body in our technified society.
Brazil’s pavilion, Swinguerra, takes its title from a combination of swingueira, a popular dance movement in the north-east of Brazil, and guerra, war. Wagner & de Burca’s work focuses on the powerful expressions of popular culture in contemporary Brazil, and their complex relationship with international and local traditions.
exhibition, La casa empática, paintings, drawings, photographs, and
mural works by Yamandú Canosa are arranged as a ‘landscape-territory’ of the
world, an inclusive and empathic ‘total landscape’. The total landscape is
completed by the intervention on the facade and by the starry sky installed in
the ceiling of the pavilion.
de las tres ventanas. Venezuela: Identidad en tiempo y espaciois the pavilion of Venezuela.
Three metaphorical windows— thresholds for light, air, and the gaze—symbolise
the long construction of collective history and an all-encompassing narrative filled
with challenges and rebellion. Venezuela aims to promote its libertarian
identity, woven over the centuries, and share it in a clear gesture of
invitation to the complicity of others.
Other national pavilions are located in the Arsenale. Argentina’s
exhibition, El nombre de un país/The Name of a Country is a punk,
Frankensteinish bestiary that flaunts a high-fashion collection attitude. Mariana
Telleria traces a highway with an infinite number of linguistic lanes,
activating confusion—mixing things together, building monsters—and sustaining
viewers’ awareness in a continual state of transit.
Pavilion, Altered Views, Voluspa Jarpa offers a proposal for
decolonisation through a review of European history. Altered Views
comprises three reversed cultural spaces/models: the Hegemony Museum,
the Subaltern Portrait Gallery, and the Emancipating Opera. The
project collects concepts that defined colony: race and cross-breeding,
subordinate male subjects, cannibalism, gender, civilisation and barbarism,
monarchy and republic, appealing to a critical view from a transtemporal
Mexicois represented by Actos de dios/Acts of God by Pablo
Vargas Lugo. This exhibition which speculates on the life of Christ to generate
a non-linear narrative that raises new questions. What would happen if the man
who was chosen to redeem humanity had set out to fulfil all the predictions
made by the prophets about his life without being certain that he could
“Indios antropófagos”. A butterfly
Garden in the (Urban) Jungle, the exhibition of Peru,
is a paradox: a post-conceptual exploration of the fiery sensory impact of
Amazon culture on certain (neo)Baroque horizons in Peruvian art, namely in Christian
Bendayán’s work, where it is energised by a critical reconsideration of the
Amazon as a constructed image.
Other national exhibitions are dotted around Venice. In Cannaregio, the Dominican Republic presents Naturaleza y biodiversidad en la República Dominicana. This is the country’s first independent national pavilion at the Biennale. It offers a reflection on ecological threats affecting the luxuriant local nature, the Earth and humankind.
Next to the Dominican Republic is Guatemala’s
Interesting State. The term
‘interesting state’ evokes a woman who is pregnant. Acts of violence against
women constitute the denial of existence. Guatemala is an ‘interesting State’ because
of the persistence of this devastating phenomenon. Art therefore becomes an
ethical instrument, in which the seductive aesthetic nature of the works is
there to serve an indispensable social denunciation and an essential
opportunity for redemption.
Portugal’s pavilion, a seam, a surface, a hinge or a knot, features artist Leonor Antunes reflecting on the functions of everyday objects and contemplating their potential to be materialised as abstract sculptures. The artist is interested in how craftsmanship traditions from various cultures intersected in the work of Venetians such as Carlo Scarpa, Savina Masieri and Egle Trincanato. Elements of the exhibition are fabricated with Falegnameria Augusto Capovilla, one of the still-active Venetian carpentries that worked closely with Scarpa.
The Cubanpavilion, located on the island of San Servolo and entitled A cautionary environment/Entorno aleccionador brings together installations, paintings, and interdisciplinary works on allegorical themes of the times in which we live. The invited artists, Alejandro Campins, Ariamna Contino, Alex Hernández and Eugenio Tibaldi, discuss the relationship between man and the environment.
The Biennale’s programme is accompanied by a series of collateral events. Catalonia
in Venice’s To Lose
Your Head (Idols) documents the complex life of statues, which some
artists today recreate and reflect upon. This multi-authored exhibition
explores the theory of art reception and documents the complex life of public
statues in our time. In a world of images, iconoclasm and iconodulia, it questions
the fetishism of images as living entities and encourages conversations as a
way to foster human happiness, awareness and freedom.
The latest works by the
contemporary Portuguese sculptor Joana
Vasconcelos (born 1971) are being displayed under the title What
are you hiding? May you find what you are looking for at the
Venice Biennale on the island of San Clemente across the Palazzo Kempinsky
gardens and in the church of San Clemente itself, supported by the film
production company MGM. In the church the exhibition shows her large-scale
floor sculpture Madragoa (2015–2019),
inspired by Lisbon’s buildings and façades, which explores the intersections of
sculpture, architecture and painting. This piece has new elements specially
created for it since it was first shown in Macau in 2015. In the gardens
Vasconcelos is displaying I’ll be Your
Mirror #1 (2019), a giant Venetian carnival mask made of mirrors, which the
sculptor recently showed at the Guggenheim, Bilbao in a solo show. Also on show
in the gardens is Betty Boop PA
(2019), a high-heeled shoe crafted out of saucepans, which proposes a revision
of the “feminine” in today’s world by bringing together two tropes of a woman’s
private and public image.
Di Donna Galleriesin New York announced its exhibition Surrealism in Mexico, on view until 28 June, 2019, which explores the creative moment that emerged between 1940 and 1955 as an international community of artists fled World War II in Europe and settled in Mexico. The exhibition features paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and collages by artists including Lola Álvarez Bravo, Leonora Carrington, Esteban Francés, Gunther Gerzso, Kati Horna, Frida Kahlo, Agustín Lazo, Matta, Gordon Onslow Ford, Wolfgang Paalen, Alice Rahon, Bridget Bate Tichenor, and Remedios Varo, with loans from distinguished private collections, corporate collections, and non-profit foundations in Mexico, the United States, and Europe.
Founded and directed by José Carlos Mariátegui, the Peruvian magazine Amauta was one of the most influential cultural and political periodicals of the early 20th century. The exhibition of more than 250 works follows Amauta’s development as a platform to explore the diversity of the avant-garde artistic production in Peru, Argentina, and Mexico and the debates that shaped the art of Latin America during the 1920s. This exhibition, organised by Beverly Adams, Curator of Latin American Art, Blanton Museum of Art, and Natalia Majluf, Director and Chief Curator, Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru addresses the avant-garde production of a vast network of artists and writers connected with Amauta. and includes works in a variety of forms ranging from paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs through to popular ceramics, many by lesser known artists as well as pieces by Tina Modotti and Diego Rivera. A large network of correspondents in Latin America and Europe fed the magazine, which had a print run of 3-4,000, and gave Amauta an international impact.
Click here for more information on this exhibition.
The exhibition will travel from Madrid to the Museo de Arte de Lima (20 June – 22 September 2019); the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (17 October 2019 – 12 January 2020); and finally to Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, Texas (February 16, 2020 – 17 May, 2020).
As reported by The Art Newspaper, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is looking to enlarge its Latin American art collection. The museum has created a new endowed curatorial post, the Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art, currently open for applications. It has also made significant new acquisitions of art from the region, from a 17th-century Peruvian carpet to artworks by Mexican artists Miguel Covarrubias, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera, and Chilean artist Roberto Matta.
Exhibition of more than 70 works that focuses on the relationship between Kahlo’s paintings and the traditional Mexican ‘folk art’ by unknown artists that she collected and championed as part of her celebration of Mexican nationalist culture. On loan to the exhibition are some 40 pieces of folk art from the San Antonio Museum of Art, which are similar to the ceramics, textiles, toys and figurines which Kahlo collected. These are displayed alongside eight paintings by Kahlo on loan to Boston, including her Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940), and her early Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia), recently acquired by the MFA. A section of the exhibition will explore how the small painted ex-voto ‘retablos’, of which Kahlo collected some 400 examples, inspired her own work such as The Suicide of Dorothy Hale, which she painted in 1938. The exhibition is supported by the Darwin Cordoba Fund for Latin American Art.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s unique and immediately recognizable style was an integral part of her identity. Kahlo came to define herself through her ethnicity, disability, and politics, all of which were at the heart of her work. Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving is the largest U.S. exhibition in ten years devoted to the iconic painter and the first in the United States to display a collection of her clothing and other personal possessions, which were rediscovered and inventoried in 2004 after being locked away since Kahlo’s death, in 1954. They are displayed alongside important paintings, drawings, and photographs from the celebrated Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art, as well as related historical film and ephemera. To highlight the collecting interests of Kahlo and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, works from the museum’s extensive holdings of Mesoamerican art are also included.
Kahlo’s personal artifacts—which range from noteworthy examples of Kahlo’s Tehuana clothing, contemporary and pre-Colonial jewelry, and some of the many hand-painted corsets and prosthetics used by the artist during her lifetime—had been stored in the Casa Azul (Blue House), the longtime Mexico City home of Kahlo and Rivera, who had stipulated that their possessions not be disclosed until 15 years after Rivera’s death. The objects shed new light on how Kahlo crafted her appearance and shaped her personal and public identity to reflect her cultural heritage and political beliefs, while also addressing and incorporating her physical disabilities.
Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving is based on an exhibition at the V&A London curated by Claire Wilcox and Circe Henestrosa, with Gannit Ankori as curatorial advisor. Their continued participation has been essential to presenting the Brooklyn exhibition, which is organized by Catherine Morris, Sackler Senior Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and Lisa Small, Senior Curator, European Art, Brooklyn Museum, in collaboration with the Banco de México Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, and The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and The Vergel Foundation.
Raúl de Nieves: Fina, the first solo museum exhibition by Raúl de Nieves (b. 1983, Michoacán, Mexico), will feature new work in a site-specific installation developed for the Cleveland Museum of Art at the Transformer Station. Narrative facets of the installation will be informed by de Nieves’s experience of Mexican cultural traditions, considered through the lens of this moment in history. These will unfold in relation to the particular architecture of the Transformer Station. As a whole, the installation will be characterized by the artist’s ongoing interest in transforming humble materials into spectacular objects that alter the spaces around them.
De Nieves, who lives in New York, traces his artistic practice back to his childhood in Mexico: at school and alongside family members, he learned traditional Latin American sewing and beadwork that now permeate his art in multiple ways. At the age of nine de Nieves migrated to San Diego with his mother and two brothers. Later he moved to San Francisco and finally to New York, where his multimedia practice, including painting, sculpture, and performance, has taken shape. De Nieves has presented solo projects and performances at The Kitchen and the Watermill Center, New York (both 2017), and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2016). He has participated in major contemporary art surveys, including Documenta 14 (2018), the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and Greater New York at MoMA/PS1 (2015). His work is part of the Swiss Institute for Contemporary Art’s inaugural exhibition in its new building that opened in New York in summer 2018.
The photographs of Graciela Iturbide not only bear witness to Mexican society but express an intense personal and poetic lyricism about her native country. One of the most influential photographers active in Latin America today, Iturbide captures everyday life and its cultures, rituals, and religions, while also raising questions about paradoxes and social injustice in Mexican society. Her photographs tell a visual story of Mexico since the late 1970s—a country in constant transition, defined by the coexistence of the historical and modern as a result of the culture’s rich amalgamation of cultures. For Iturbide, photography is a way of life and a way of seeing and understanding Mexico and its beauty, challenges, and contradictions.
This is the first major East Coast presentation of Iturbide’s work, featuring approximately 125 photographs that span her five-decade-long career. Organised into nine sections, the exhibition opens with early photographs, followed by three series focused on three of Mexico’s many indigenous cultures: Juchitán captures the essential role of women in Zapotec culture; Los que viven en la arena (Those Who Live in the Sand) concentrates on the Seri people living in the Sonoran Desert; and La Mixteca documents elaborate goat-slaughtering rituals in Oaxaca, serving as critical commentary on the exploitation of workers. Thematic groupings highlight Iturbide’s explorations of various aspects of Mexican culture, including fiestas, death and mortality, and birds and their symbolism. Her more recent work is presented in two series related to Mexico’s cultural and artistic heritage, featuring plants—mainly cacti—in “intensive care” at the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Gardens, as well as El baño de Frida (Frida’s Bathroom), a selection of photographs in Gallery 335 depicting personal belongings in Frida Kahlo’s bathroom at the Casa Azul that had been locked away for 50 years after the artist’s death.
Iturbide’s powerful and provocative photographs are anti-picturesque, anti-folkloric. Her work embodies her empathetic approach to photography and her deep connection with her subjects, asking questions through its capacity for imaginary associations. Drawn primarily from Iturbide’s own collection, Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico also includes the Museum’s recent acquisition of 37 works by the artist, as well as loans from museums and private collections throughout the US and Mexico. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications.
Click here for more information on the exhibition, and here for the accompanying publication