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“Exotic” Mexican Objects at the DMA and Crow Collection

November 5, 2010

In commemoration of the 2010 bicentennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain, many Dallas-area institutions have hosted events or created exhibitions related to Mexico’s past, present, and future.  In addition to highlighting Mexican and Spanish colonial works in the Museum’s fourth floor galleries, the DMA currently has two special exhibitions celebrating Mexico’s 200th anniversary: Jose Guadalupe Posada: The Birth of Mexican Modernism and Tierra y Gente: Modern Mexican Works on Paper.

For me, one of the most intriguing objects in these galleries is an eccentric folding screen from colonial Mexico.  This screen is elaborately painted and gilded in the European decorative tradition, but its central vignettes are drawn from a Flemish book of moralizing tales.  Additionally, the ornate borders of the screen contain Japanese and Chinese-inspired motifs popular in European Rococo.  This object connects with a recently opened exhibition, Black Current: Mexican Responses to Japanese Art, 17th-19th Centuries, also in celebration of Mexico’s bicentennial, at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

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*Photography by George Ramirez

This exhibition includes Mexican-made objects, such as folding screens and rolled paintings, that were greatly informed by trade via the The Black Current.   This marine trade route, established in the 16th century,  ran eastbound from Manila to Acapulco, bringing goods such as decorative arts, silk, and spices to Mexico.  Approximately 500 Pacific crossings were made along the dark river in the sea, feeding the growing market for luxury commodities in Mexico and generating Asian demand for American resources such as silver.  These exchanges led to an artistic interchange that left lasting impressions on Mexican artists.

Cosmopolitan, Mexican-made objects, such as those in Black Current and the DMA Screen, reference their Asian precursors through the inclusion of Asian-inspired motifs, use of laquer, inlay and shells, and format of the folding screen and scrolls mounted on rollers.  Additionally, they serve as visual documentation of ambitious exchanges between spatially disparate cultures.

Ashley Bruckbauer

Programs and Resources for Teachers Intern

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