Friday, April 20, 2007

Latin American Art

As the bus pulled out of the Estacion in San Miguel, we flipped the leg rest open and pushed the button to let the seat ease back for a "La-Z-Boy" ride to Mexico City or DF (day ef-fay) as those of us who live here say. We munched on a small sandwich and drink we had been given as we boarded the bus and watched the countryside roll the outskirts of Queretaro and then East. Three and half hours later we stepped off the bus in DF, collected our luggage and walked into the the North bus terminal. It is huge, probably larger than the original Cancun airport. We bought tickets for a taxi to the Centro and in less than 10 minutes after the bus pulled in, we were on our way to our hotel. Bus travel in Mexico is most civilized...."Executive" style bus travel, that is.

We had come to DF for a special treat. We wanted to see the Revelaciones, Las Artes in America Latina 1492-1820 at the Antiguo Colegio San Idelfonso. To find out more about this traveling exhibition you can read about it from its previous venue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Or you can buy the 7-1/2 pound book covering the research and the exhibition. I had heard that this was a must see exhibition because there was art from all of Latin America included which we might not ever have the opportunity to see again but also because there was so much information about the history and culture of Mexico and the other Latin American countries.

After checking into our hotel in the historic center of DF, we went off to find the museum and see if we needed to buy tickets ahead of time. Actually Tuesday is a "free" day in museums in Mexico and I don't think we would have had any trouble seeing the exhibition on a Tuesday, certainly not from the looks of the museum at 4:15 PM. Because it was a free day, the ticket office wasn't open but the lady at the information desk told us that we would not have to wait in line if we came back at 10:00 AM the next morning. We arrived at 10:15 AM and had only one person in front of us waiting for tickets.

The museum is a wonderful old colonial building that has seen other lives but is now the museum. It was being prepared for some special event in the patio. Maybe a wedding? Great boxes of white flowers and huge tall crystal vases were being delivered. I'd have loved to see the final setting. But our job was to proceed to the galleries housing this exhibition.

There was an overview of the art in each gallery in both Spanish and English although the individual pieces were only identified in Spanish. What surprised me and certainly demonstrates that I learned a lot from the exhibition was a map of the trade routes to Latin America during the time period covered by the exhibition. Of course I expected Spain and Portugal, and I knew that there were influences from Africa in some parts of Latin America but the Far East was also a strong influence in the history and culture.

As you would expect the art produced for religious use was the major part of the exhibition....paintings, silver and gold religious vessels, candlesticks, sculpture and furniture. It was interesting to see indigenous art combine in things like the use of feathers in religious themes. While I'm no knowledgeable on religious art, I've always felt that the Mexican and Latin American religious art was more bloody than the European religious art.

We were almost to the end of the exhibition before we started to see portraits and anything that wasn't strictly for religious use. From my cultural background, every time I find some of the Mexican writings or paintings naming the offspring of interracial marriages, something in my head recoils. But this was very much the vogue in Mexico in the 1700's to do this. And the paintings do not seem to be critical, just illustrations of the child of a mestizo and a negro, or a mestizo and a Spaniard, or.....there seemed to be a name for the child of any pairing. In a museum in San Christobol I once saw a huge chart with all the designations.

I'm really glad that we took the time and went to DF for this exhibition but while we were there we also took in as much of the historic center as we could so over the next few days, I'll write more about the restaurants and some other museums that we saw. For those of my readers who are in San Miguel de Allende, the exhibition is just a bus ride away.


Babs said...

Sounds wonderful - have read lots about it. Hope to see it in July!Did you go to any of the MACO events?

Billie said...

Barbara, I think this exhibition comes down in June.
What Is MACO?

Babs said...

It is the mexico City Art Fair that is going on right now! Zillions of galleries and people from all over the world who collect Latin American art are in Mexico..........