Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art: Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano

By Museum of Modern Art | Go to book overview

PRE-SPANISH ART

To a public educated in European ideals of art, any esthetic manifestations not related to them may easily provoke a strong reaction because of their strangeness. However, if this impression, which may at first be frankly hostile, or perhaps merely disconcerting, is repeated and strengthened by contact with other works in similar style, it can engender a new kind of plastic understanding. Thus, when we are confronted with a whole culture and style entirely independent of any Asiatic or European influence, as with the aboriginal art of America, we may see it as a new revelation, and everyone may experience, now in the twentieth century, an artistic discovery of America.

For this reason, we believe that this exhibition of pre-Spanish art in New York ought to give a new vision to the public, above all to the artists of the United States; we hope it may be translated into works of modern American art rooted in the older art of our own continent. Of course we do not urge the servile copying of the works of art exhibited, or that motives be integrally adopted by modern artists; but there is something in each esthetic perception which remains after the object that has produced it has been forgotten, something which remains as a subconscious stimulant to the imagination of the artist, something which may motivate inspiration. It is in this sense we hope that the exhibition of pre-Spanish art may prove fruitful to the public and to the artists of the United States.

Mexico, because of its geographical situation between the two great continental areas of North and South America, forms a point of union, not only geographically but culturally; this is apparent even in the beginning of its culture. The more we advance in the study of aboriginal history, the more important appears the role of the continental isthmus region, beginning in Mexico and including Central America, as the obligatory corridor through which the cultural movements have had to pass from south to north, or vice versa. Moreover, this Central American region is the home of a series of important cultures which exercised a powerful influence on the centers of sedentary culture in the United States, and also on the barbaric tribes that wandered over the plains; to them must have come the almost legendary accounts of the existence of large cities abounding in food, rich in jewels, dazzling in the magnificence of their buildings, and redoubtable in the power of their innumerable warriors.

Certain parts of Mexico were obviously connected from very remote times with the indigenous culture of the southwestern part of the United States, and of the region of the Mound-builders.* Likewise it is certain that the Central American region was influenced from the south; there is, for example, no doubt that the art of smelting and working metals was introduced from the regions of South America.

Thus, Mexico is not only the obligatory passageway between the cultures of the north and of the south, but at the same time is a great center of culture in the pre-Spanish epoch; for this reason it has a leading role in the study of aboriginal art.

Of the two great cultural sources in America, one in the Andes and the other in Mexico and Central America, we have not yet been able to decide which is the first in point of time. Neither the investigations of archaeologists nor those of botanists have been able to determine which of these two regions first discovered agriculture, a matter of great importance, for the cultivation of corn is the basis of the development of all the great civilizations of the Americas. Undoubtedly there existed some very ancient connection between these two great cultural centers, but we have not yet been able to find how and when it first occurred. But from the artistic viewpoint, there is a relationship, indefinable, perhaps, but very real, between Peru and Mexico, which makes it possible to consider all inter-tropical America as one "artistic province."

____________________
*
See G. C. Vaillant, "Some Resemblances in the Ceramics of Central and North America". Medaillon Papers, No. 12. Gila Pueblo, Globe, Arizona, 1932.

-23-

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Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art: Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Corrections 2
  • Veinte Siglos De Arte Mexicano 4
  • Title Page 5
  • Contents Indice 7
  • Committees · Acknowledgments Comites · Reconocimientos 8
  • Foreword of the Mexican Department of Foreign Affairs 10
  • Preliminar De La Secretaria De Relaciones Exteriores De Mexico 10
  • Foreword of the Museum of Modern Art 11
  • Preliminar Del Museo De Arte Moderno 12
  • Introduction 14
  • Introduccion 17
  • Pre-Spanish Art 23
  • Arte Prehispanico 26
  • Colonial Art 67
  • Arte Colonial 71
  • Folk Art 109
  • Arte Popular 111
  • Modern Art 137
  • Arte Modprno 141
  • Brief Biographies 183
  • Datos Biograficos 190
  • Bibliography Bibliografia 197
  • Pre-Spanish Cultures of Mexic0 *
  • Colonial Art in Mexic0 *
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