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Month: May 2008
Juan Soriano (1920-2006) was born in Guadalajara, son of veterans of the Mexican revolution. Something of a prodigy, he developed his distinctive style after moving to Mexico City when he was fifteen.
According to the exhibition label for this painting (The Dead Girl, 1938, oil on panel, 18 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches (47 x 80 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford, 1947, 1947-29-3),
Soriano painted this 1938 work shortly after seeing a Veracruz household whose front window displayed a dead child dressed like an angel, notifying the neighbors of the baby’s passing. Postmortem images of children were common in Mexican painting (and, later, photography) beginning in the colonial era. While this tradition originally developed in Renaissance Europe, it had a particular importance in Latin America. Mexican modernists Frida Kahlo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Julio Castellanos also created famous examples of this theme.
John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1852) makes an interesting contrast. Both figures are surrounded by flowers, but the flowers in Soriano’s picture only point up the starkness of the figure by their contrast; Millais’ Ophelia seems to be drifting into a flowery world — she holds flowers in her hand and even her dress echoes floral patterns. Millais’ Ophelia holds her hands open to her fate; Soriano’s girl clinches her hands together. In her madness Ophelia stares vacantly skyward; the eyes of Soriano’s girl are pressed tightly shut. The difference reflect the styles of the moment, but they also suggest something of the artists’ temperaments. Soriano’s world is one in which the very edges of the canvas seem to press in on the image with a suffocating force.
Fragile Demon: Juan Soriano in Mexico, 1935-1950 collects 16 early works by the artist. It runs through Sunday.
Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Arte is offering what looks like a strong show of Mexican printmaking from 1920-1950. The full title is México y la Estampa Moderna, 1920-1950: Una Revolución en las Artes Gráficas. Included are works by Diego Rivera, Clemente Orozco, Leopoldo Méndez, and many less familiar artists. Click the image above for a video preview on the museum’s website. The exhibition runs through June 8.
via Jim Johnston
A fellow named James O’Kon claims that the Maya built the longest bridge span in the ancient world.
His theory is based on computer reconstructions derived from a 12-foot high and 35-foot diameter rock formation in the Usamacinta River near the site of Yaxchilan, which flourished between 500 and 700. A similar second structure was discovered in 1992.
O’Kon, who is former chairman of the forensic council of the American Society of Civil Engineers, enlisted the services of his Atlanta engineering firm to create a reconstruction of the bridge.
To my eye the bridge does not look consistent with known Maya architecture.
The full story is at the Georgia Tech Alumni website, which is also the source of the image shown above.
That the ancient Maya produced high-quality textiles will come as little surprise to anyone who has traveled through the modern Maya world. But because few textiles are preserved from ancient times, it has been difficult to confirm that this was the case. Now researchers at the University of Rhode Island have performed a lab analysis of forty-nine samples from a tomb at Copan. The analysis showed a high degree of sophistication in the textiles’ manufacture — one had a count of 100 yarns per inch, which would be high by modern technology and consequently “speaks to the technology they had at the time for making very fine fabrics” according to textiles conservator Margaret Ordoñez.
The story is at ScienceDaily. The article has a weird lead, which claims that “Very few textiles from the Mayan culture have survived.” When will people learn that the Maya culture is still very much alive? And that “Mayan” is the adjective for the language, not the culture?
Image of girl from Momostenango from DavidDennis’ photostream