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Oakland Museum Explores Contemporary Viewpoints on the Spanish Conquest
Delilah Montoya, El Guadalupano (Felix) #2. 1999. Courtesy of the artist.

OAKLAND, CA.- Explore the Arts of the Missions of Northern New Spain in this stunning exhibition exploring the rich artistic legacy of the Franciscan and Jesuit mission churches in northern Mexico and the American Southwest. Many of the missions were exuberantly decorated with lavish paintings, sculpture, furniture, and liturgical objects and vestments. This extraordinary exhibition, which originated at the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (Mexico City), features approximately 110 objects from collections in Mexico, the United States, and Europe---including masterpieces from the missions themselves---shown together for the first time. OMCA is the only California venue for this internationally traveling exhibition and one of only two venues in the United States.

The Oakland Museum of California also presents Contemporary Coda, a companion installation to Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest showcasing contemporary perspectives on the legacy of the Spanish conquest of California. On view, February 26 through May 29, 2011, the exhibition features 17 works by contemporary artists that address issues of immigration and regional connections across the current border; religion and Chicano identity; and the cultural survival of the Native peoples of California. Five centuries have passed since the arrival of Europeans in the Americas; however, issues persist with the legacies of this conquest. Contemporary Coda forms a coda, or end-piece, to the larger context of the exhibition Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest, exploring these issues and how they affect us today.

“OMCA is committed to connecting communities to the cultural and environmental heritage of California,” says Executive Director Lori Fogarty. “Through Contemporary Coda and the larger context of Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest, visitors will not only learn about our state’s history, they will also have the ability to explore the connections between that history and contemporary issues that affect Californians today.”

Featuring artwork created primarily by Native and Latino artists; Contemporary Coda examines the heritage of Spanish colonialism by drawing on traditional Catholic themes, legacies, and iconographies. Many artworks included in the exhibition confront the uneasy history of encounters between indigenous people and the Church. For example, works such as Ester Hernandez’s Wanted (2010) or Alma Lopez’s Our Lady (1999), explore modern depictions of venerated figures like the Virgin of Guadalupe. Carmen Lomas Garza’s Heaven and Hell III (1993) and Harry Fonseca’s The Discovery of Gold and Souls in California (1991–92) consider potent concepts of Heaven and Hell. Other works express devotion through the blending of traditional religious images with high-tech materials, such as Marion C. Martinez’s Librada (2007), depicting a cross made of computer circuit board, ribbon cable, and computer posts.

“The works on view in Contemporary Coda showcase a variety of viewpoints and motivations,” says exhibition curator Drew Johnson. “Through this exhibition and the larger context of Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest, OMCA hopes to encourage reflection on the complex legacy of the mission experience. This story is about all of us, and we hope that this exhibition will create dialogue and discourse about our history and how that history still affects our state today.”

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February 28, 2011

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