Situating Sovereignty: Art and Indigenous Experience in Sixteenth-Century Mexican Missions

Savannah Esquivel
Ph.D. Candidate, The University of Chicago

Wednesday, March 11 at 5:15pm
ARTS Seminar Room  333


How did Indigenous Mexican communities experience the art and architecture of sixteenth-century missions? I situate monastic mural painting in the broader discourse of Indigenous sovereignty and local knowledge systems to displace the traditional narrative of European colonial hegemony that dominates the study of art and religious conversion. Through analysis of the relationship between murals, architecture, and their viewers, I argue Indigenous artists drew on their experiential knowledge of their land to structure new social and political relations through Christian art. This new account of colonial Mexican art thus challenges modern notions of the Mexican missions as primarily places for religious conversion and European colonization.












Style as Strategy in the Codex Durán Paintings (Mexico, 1574-1581)

Kristopher Driggers
Ph.D. Candidate, The University of Chicago
Assistant Curator, Bernard and Jeanette Schmidt Curator of Latin American Art, Tucson Museum of Art

Tuesday, March 10 at 5:15pm
ARTS Seminar Room  333

This paper examines the role of style in the construction of history in the Codex Durán, an Early Colonial Mexican manuscript that depicted the Aztec past. Focusing on three key passages in the paintings, I argue that the indigenous painters of this manuscript engaged style as a tool for arguing their positions in global debates related to Aztec history. The choices made by these painters show us that indigenous artists in the later sixteenth century did not adopt or inherit styles passively, but rather were strategic in deploying style to convey a view of history that would be efficacious in their moment.











Mexican Sentimentality and Visual Nation Building
Emmanuel Ortega, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

Thursday, March 5 at 5:15pm
ARTS Seminar Room  333

In this presentation, I will explore the function of sentimentalist ideology in the visual culture of New Spain and nineteenth-century Mexico. As we commemorate the 500-anniversary of the contact between the Aztec emperor Moctezuma and the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortes, we are forced to re-evaluate the ways in which official artistic production has sentimentalized the terms of that encounter. In Mexican visual and material culture, the power exchanges of that mythical moment have been manipulated and prolonged into a sentimental drama that solidifies the edicts of empire and nation building to this day. As part of an Enlightenment celebration of humane feelings, sentimentality located moral life itself on emotions; as noted by Shirley Samuels, it acts upon the problem of the “body,” what it embodies, and how social, political, racial, and gendered meanings are determined through their differential embodiments. El Indio/the indian/the native body and its subsequent “encounter” with Europe, becomes the activating agent that centers the indigenous presence as the locus of a sentimental mestizo nation in Mexican visual culture.










Anarchism and Revolutionary Art in Greater Mexico
Rosalía Romero, Ph.D., Chau Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art History, Pomona College

Wednesday, March 4 at 5:15pm
ARTS Seminar Room,  333

During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and the following decade, prominent and lesser-known artists drew from anarchist philosophy and politics to create works in print, painting, and muralism. This body of art and visual culture portrayed radical subjects and experimented with realist and expressionist styles, and it shaped the development of modern art in Mexico. This talk will focus on the art and visual culture of the anarchist Magonista movement, the landscape painter Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl), and the political leader and painter Rosendo Salazar, among others. Through an analysis of anarchist art and action, this talk will suggest the need to reframe narratives of modern art in Mexico, long associated with the muralist movement (1920-1940), the nationalist art form supported by the post-revolutionary Mexican state. In analyzing the relation between anarchism and art, this talk will highlight the importance of the U.S.-Mexico border region and of transnational anarchist networks that spanned Mexico, the United States, and South America.









The Other Shore: Sesshū  Tōyō and Ming Dynasty Visual Culture
Steffani Bennett, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University

Thursday, February 27 at 5:00pm
ARTS Seminar Room,  333


The monk-painter Sesshū Tōyō (1420-1506) is medieval Japan’s most celebrated painter. Sesshū is distinguished in the history of Japanese art as the first professional painter to travel to China and the only Japanese painter to study at the imperial academy in the Forbidden City. This talk explores how the experience of travel fundamentally transformed Sesshū’s artistry in its various conceptual and formal dimensions.






“A Complex Mixture”: World Observation and the Making of Architecture History in Japan
Matthew Mullane, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies Harvard University

Wednesday, February 26 at 5:15pm
ARTS Seminar Room,  333

How does one make a world history of art and architecture? During the discipline’s global expansion in the nineteenth century, historians in Europe commonly portrayed themselves as deskbound and adrift in a “mass of information” made of the many books, reports and images that flowed into their offices from formerly inaccessible areas of the world. This paper considers the making of such a history from another metropole, Tokyo, and theorizes how this positional, cultural and political difference changed the way that “observation” (kansatsu) was exercised across several media including writing, drawing, photography and architecture. Looking particularly at field expeditions made towards making the first world history of architecture in East Asia, I show how observation was theorized and practiced as a means to not only know the “complex mixture” of world history, but also “mix” observational traditions from Europe and East Asia in a way that was purposeful and politically efficacious.