Cosmopolitanism in Mexican Visual Culture

Cosmopolitanism in Mexican Visual Culture

María Fernández
Copyright Date: 2014
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    Cosmopolitanism in Mexican Visual Culture
    Book Description:

    Since the colonial era, Mexican art has emerged from an ongoing process of negotiation between the local and the global, which frequently involves invention, synthesis, and transformation of diverse discursive and artistic traditions. In this pathfinding book, María Fernández uses the concept of cosmopolitanism to explore this important aspect of Mexican art, in which visual culture and power relations unite the local and the global, the national and the international, the universal and the particular. She argues that in Mexico, as in other colonized regions, colonization constructed power dynamics and forms of violence that persisted in the independent nation-state. Accordingly, Fernández presents not only the visual qualities of objects, but also the discourses, ideas, desires, and practices that are fundamental to the very existence of visual objects.

    Fernández organizes episodes in the history of Mexican art and architecture, ranging from the seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth century, around the consistent but unacknowledged historical theme of cosmopolitanism, allowing readers to discern relationships among various historical periods and works that are new and yet simultaneously dependent on their predecessors. She uses case studies of art and architecture produced in response to government commissions to demonstrate that established visual forms and meanings in Mexican art reflect and inform desires, expectations, memories, and ways of being in the world-in short, that visual culture and cosmopolitanism are fundamental to processes of subjectification and identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74536-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    Cosmopolitanism in Mexican visual culture appears here in a series of case studies taken in historical slices from the seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth century. Cosmopolitanism is understood here as an evolving complex of power relations with material, social, ideational, and affective manifestations, which unite the local and the global, the national and the international, the universal and the particular. To associate cosmopolitanism with power is to suggest its compatibility with violence. I propose that in Mexico, as in other colonized regions, colonization generated and structured power dynamics and forms of violence that persisted in the independent...

  5. 1 Vernacular Cosmopolitanism Sigüenza y Góngora’s Teatro de Virtudes Políticas
    (pp. 26-67)

    On May 7, 1680, Charles II of Spain appointed Don Tomás Antonio de la Cerda y Aragón, Conde de Paredes, Marqués de la Laguna, as the twenty-eighth viceroy of New Spain. On September 7, after a three-month journey from Cadiz passing through the Canary Islands and the Antilles, the new viceroy and his entourage disembarked at the Port of Veracruz. Two more months of travel awaited them, punctuated with welcoming receptions and feasts in officially designated cities between Veracruz and the seat of the viceroyalty. On November 30 the Conde de Paredes made his ceremonial entry to Mexico City. This...

  6. 2 Castas, Monstrous Bodies, and Soft Buildings
    (pp. 68-102)

    It is no secret that traditional discourses of classical architecture are founded on analogies to the human body. In the third volume ofThe Ten Books of Architecture, the Roman architect Vitruvius established what would become a permanent union between the proportions of the (male) body and classical architecture. Vitruvius asserted that the ancient Greeks designed their buildings using measuring units that corresponded to bodily proportions. “It was from the members of the body that they derived the fundamental ideas of the measures which are obviously necessary in all works, as the finger, palm, foot, and cubit”; hence symmetry in...

  7. 3 Experiments in the Representation of National Identity The Pavilion of Mexico in the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris and the Palacio de Bellas Artes
    (pp. 103-140)

    After independence in 1821, the Mexican elites’ previous identification with Spain took the form of a general identification with Europe and later with the United States. This resulted in imitation of European and U.S. cultural patterns. Simultaneously, Mexico’s leaders continued to look at the most developed indigenous civilizations, especially the Aztec Empire, as episodes of their own past. This double identification of the Mexican upper classes with indigenous civilizations and also with foreign powers replicated in a postcolonial era the identity dynamics of the colonial period.

    Architecture was shaped by and also affected these forces. Like other aspects of visual...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 4 Of Ruins and Ghosts The Social Functions of Pre-Hispanic Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century Mexico
    (pp. 141-172)

    Archaeological remains are more than traces of civilizations past. Like other sites of nation-building they serve as stages for the contestation of multiple interests. Official histories, tourist literature, art history, and archaeology often obscure these tensions by focusing on the impressive materiality of the monuments and on deciphering their original significance (Fig. 4.1). While these efforts illuminate our knowledge of the past, they leave out aggregates of individual and collective experiences that also contribute to the signification of the works. Ancient monuments belong to places. As E. V. Walters argued, the significance of a place is inaccessible through rational processes...

  10. 5 Traces of the Past Reevaluating Eclecticism in Nineteenth-Century Mexican Architecture
    (pp. 173-193)

    Nineteenth-century Mexican architecture is widely recognized as eclectic. Especially from about 1880 to the first decade of the twentieth century, Mexican cities exhibited buildings of multiple stylistic tendencies, including neoclassical, Baroque, neo-Gothic, and art nouveau, indicative of a cosmopolitan consciousness. Sometimes an architect would employ various styles in a single edifice. As in the study of colonial Mexican architecture, scholars have attempted to classify the architecture of the period with little success: the buildings consistently elude traditional stylistic classifications.¹

    The Teatro Juárez in Guanajuato (1873–1903), designed by José Noriega and Antonio Rivas Mercado, exemplifies an extreme of the eclecticism...

  11. 6 Visualizing the Future Estridentismo, Technology, and Art
    (pp. 194-220)

    In the twentieth century Mexico extended its reach toward modernity. Technologies such as telephones, electric lighting, automobiles, cinema, and radio; industrial materials such as glass, steel, and cement; modern building styles, air travel, and television were disseminated to a wider proportion of society than in the preceding century.¹ These technologies enabled flows actual and imaginary between Mexico and the outside and extensively shaped Mexico’s cosmopolitanism. As in the culture of the Porfiriato, the country’s modernity was inflected by omnipresent remnants of its ancient and colonial history and by the realities of underdevelopment. Hence representations of Mexico anchored in the cultural...

  12. 7 Re-creating the Past Ignacio Marquina’s Reconstruction of the Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlan
    (pp. 221-273)

    The temple precinct of Tenochtitlan occupies a canonical status in the history of Mexican art and culture. As depicted in the sixteenth-century Codex Mendoza (Fig. 7.1) and described by numerous chroniclers, the site of the precinct marks the center of the Aztec Empire and the foundation of the Mexica capital in 1325. According to Aztec histories, the Mexicas were the last of seven groups to migrate to the Valley of Mexico from a legendary place called Aztlán.¹ They were guided in their migration by their patron god, Huitzilopochtli. In dreams the god informed the Mexica leaders that they would identify...

  13. 8 Transnational Culture at the End of the Millennium Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Relational Architectures”
    (pp. 274-300)

    During the period of December 26, 1999, to January 7, 2000, from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Mexico’s City’s Zócalo was covered by an enormous canopy of light rays, visible from a distance of 15 kilometers. The rays changed position every six seconds, resulting in a new light design. Thousands of participants from four continents and from all the Mexican states created the patterns by manipulating an array of sophisticated technology. These contributions were part of a work of art titledVectorial Elevation/Alzado Vectorial(Fig. 8.1), designed by Mexican Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer on the occasion of Mexico’s government-sponsored celebration...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 301-304)

    The studies in this book demonstrate that cosmopolitanism in Mexico was closely linked to colonization. International learning and belief structures and communication networks established in the colonial period were saturated with indigenous forms of knowledge and expression. These resulted in cultural products that united international with vernacular traditions. This implies that after colonization international culture ceased to be merely imported but became part and parcel of Mexican subjectivity.

    Colonization also created a system of values where European culture protected under the mantle of universality occupied a dominant position. Because in that value system the local in its particularity was opposed...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 305-372)
  16. References
    (pp. 373-418)
  17. Index
    (pp. 419-438)