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First major exhibition to reposition the history of 18th-century Mexican painting opens
Installation photograph, Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, November 19, 2017 - March 18, 2018, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici, the first major exhibition to reposition the history of 18th-century Mexican painting, a vibrant period marked by major stylistic changes and the invention of compelling new iconographies. Co-organized by LACMA and Fomento Cultural Banamex, A.C. in Mexico City, this exhibition foregrounds the connections between Mexican painting and transatlantic artistic trends while emphasizing Mexican painting’s internal developments and remarkable pictorial output. More than 100 paintings are presented in the exhibition, many on view for the first time and restored for this exhibition.

Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici is curated by Ilona Katzew, curator and department head of Latin American art at LACMA, with guest co-curators Jaime Cuadriello, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Paula Mues Orts, Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía, both of Mexico City, and Luisa Elena Alcalá, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid of Spain. The exhibition opens in Mexico City at the Palacio de Cultura Citibanamex-Palacio de Iturbide (Fomento Cultural Banamex, A.C.) (June 29–October 15, 2017), before traveling to LACMA (November 19, 2017–March 18, 2018) and subsequently to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (April 24–July 22, 2018). Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici is presented as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative and is one of a handful of historical exhibitions focusing on the legacy of Latin American art before the 20th century.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking of an engrossing chapter in art history,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Over the last six years, the co-curators have traveled all over Mexico to uncover new materials; many restored specially for the exhibition and photographed for the first time. This is a groundbreaking reassessment of the field, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this important undertaking and advancing new scholarship.”

Ilona Katzew, project director and a noted expert in the field, stated, “The eighteenth-century is a particularly rich period in the history of Mexican art, which has not yet received its due attention. In organizing this exhibition, we hope to open up a vista on a sophisticated and innovative body of work, one that is contextually rich and highly rewarding to look at and study, and share our collective enthusiasm for this fascinating chapter of global art history.”

In the 16th century, European artists immigrated to Mexico to decorate newly established churches and complete artistic commissions. Some of these artists and their families formed workshops in Mexico that endured for several generations. By the 17th century, a new generation of artists born in the Americas began to develop their own pictorial styles that reflected the changing cultural climate as well as the desires of their patrons, both religious and secular. The 18th century ushered in a period of artistic splendor as local schools of painting were consolidated, new iconographies were invented, and artists began to group themselves into academies.

During the 18th century, painters were increasingly asked to create mural-size paintings to cover the walls of sacristies, choirs, and university halls, among other spaces. The same artists produced portraits, casta paintings (depictions of racially mixed families), painted folding screens, and finely rendered devotional imagery, attesting to their extraordinary versatility. The volume of work produced by the four generations of Mexican artists that spanned the eighteenth century is virtually unmatched elsewhere in the vast Hispanic world.

Painters also became more aware of their own contributions, largely owing to the sizable number of pictures that were exported to Europe, throughout Spanish America, and within the viceroyalty itself. This awareness led many educated painters not only to sign their works and emphasize their authorship but also to make explicit references to Mexico as their place of origin through the Latin phrase Pinxit Mexici (Painted in Mexico). This expression eloquently encapsulates the painters’ pride in their own tradition and their connection to larger, transatlantic trends.

Exhibition Themes
The exhibition combines a chronological and thematic approach, and includes seven major sections:

Great Masters introduces the works of some of the leading painters of the day around which others congregated; the notion of a local tradition and intergenerational ties is emphasized. Since the 16th century, educated painters in Mexico City had organized themselves in guilds. By the 18th century, their most distinguished members (some of whom descended from long lines of illustrious painters) also established informal academies. The academy organized by the brothers Juan and Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez around 1722, for example, evidences the artists’ growing interest in revitalizing their art.

Master Story Tellers and the Art of Expression illustrates how works were designed to convey complex stories. Conceived as series, these works decorated the interiors of churches, convents, colleges, and other public spaces, where they became activated through their particular arrangement, including as part of altarpiece-ensembles. During the 18th century narrative painting underwent a resurgence, which is evident in its more organic and idealized (and at times idyllic) sensibility. The artist’s increasing interest in emphasizing domestic interiors and details of everyday life helped to establish a more intimate connection with the viewer.

Noble Pursuits and the Academy explores the efforts of artists throughout the 18th century to form art academies. The introduction of academic principles in Mexico is generally connected with the arrival of Jerónimo Antonio Gil from Spain and the establishment of Mexico’s Royal Academy of San Carlos in 1783. This perspective has overlooked the earlier trajectory of local artists, who long sought to have painting recognized as a noble, as opposed to a mechanical art. In the 18th century painters organized several independent academies (c. 1722, 1754, and 1768), where they actively engaged in discussions about the theory and practice of their art. They also attempted to elevate the status of painting by writing and referencing art treatises, by equating their task with that of the supreme creator, and refashioning their image through their self-portraits.

Paintings of the Land brings together a compelling group of works representing local subjects. The expression “paintings of the land” (pinturas de la tierra) recurs often in contemporary panegyric literature and artistic inventories to describe works unique to Mexico—either made there or representing aspects of life in Mexico. Many of the works included in this section, such as vedute (large-scale paintings of a cityscape or vista), casta paintings (depictions of racially mixed families), folding screens with fête gallant scenes (amorous figures in pastoral settings), and depictions of Indian weddings, are peppered with colorful local elements. The works brilliantly exemplify how Mexican painting could simultaneously fulfill artistic, political, and documentary purposes.

The Power of Portraiture illustrates the various modalities of the portrait genre. In the 18th century, Mexico saw an upsurge in portraiture associated with the economic growth of the viceroyalty, and different social groups, particularly within urban contexts, commissioned artists to paint their likenesses. In a hierarchical society such as New Spain, which placed a premium on nobility of birth, piety, wealth, titles, and merits, portraiture had the power to convey both corporate and personal messages. Through portraiture people could fashion and refashion their identities and project them onto society. Portraiture also fulfilled a genealogical role, designed to preserve the memory of families and institutions—religious and secular. Dress and other attributes became an essential part of the genre.

The Allegorical World looks at a highly inventive group of works that became prevalent in the 18th century. Often commissioned by ecclesiastical orders to instruct in issues of faith, allegorical images are fascinating manifestations of a culture that relied increasingly on its own visual metaphors. These images became particularly popular, in part, because of the versatility of allegorical language that could express many things simultaneously. Allegorical paintings can be broadly divided into four categories: guides to inner spirituality for nuns and monks within cloistered life, teaching or mnemonic tools to aid in the practice of piety, symbols that promoted local devotions, and commentaries to extol (or even criticize) figures of power. Some allegories were conceived as largescale paintings that covered the walls of different institutions and religious spaces, while many smaller ones were designed to awaken piety within the context of cells and oratories.

Imagining the Sacred features a stunning selection of paintings that copied holy effigies, many considered miraculous. Copying holy images became part of a long tradition that engaged the best painters of the day. Although most subjects were universal, sacred painting saw significant developments in 18th century Mexico. Painters updated age-old formulas: the resulting richness of themes, pictorial approaches, and devotional complexity is noteworthy. The most visible public images were large paintings representing specific sculptures that were known for performing miracles. Intimate devotional experience was more commonly channeled through smaller paintings, many on copper, in which painters demonstrated great precision and skill. These works reflect the extent to which art, belief, and society were inextricably

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