The 104th Annual College Art Association Conference was held February 3-6, 2016 in Washington D.C. The Art Museum of the Americas hosted a reception for scholars and friends of Latin American art that included a gallery talk by curator Dr. Abigail McEwan, who spoke about the current exhibit, Streams of Being.
In addition, ALAA organization sponsored two sessions:
“New Geographies of Abstract Art in Postwar Latin America,” Co-Chairs: Mariola V. Alvarez, Colby College; Ana M. Franco, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá
- Jennifer Josten, University of Pittsburgh, “Carlos Mérida’s Cold War Abstraction”
- Maria-Laura Steverlynck “Public Lifescapes: Gonzalo Fonseca’s Designs for Life and Play (1964-1969)”
- Lauran Vanessa Bonilla-Merchav “Fighting for the Abstract: Manuel de la Cruz González and Geometric Abstraction in Costa Rica”
- Abigail J. McEwen, University of Maryland, “Con los ojos de sus pechos ella lo observa: Zilia Sánchez’s Mural in Cement”
- Camila Maroja, Brown University, “Vontade Construtiva: Latin America’s Sensitive Geometry”
“Emerging Scholars,” Chair: Maya S. Stanfield-Mazzi, University of Florida
- Ximena Alexandra Gomez, University of Michigan, “Our Lady of Copacabana in Early Colonial Lima: Investigating an Indigenous Confraternity’s Statue of the Virgin”
- Georgina G. Gluzman, Universidad de San Andrés, “Looking for the “Modern Woman Artist”: The French Example and its Reception in Fin-de-Siècle Buenos Aires”
- Michel Otayek, New York University, “Lights and Shadows in the Hinterlands: Ethnographic Endeavors of Grete Stern and Bárbara Brändli in 1960s Argentina and Venezuela”
And many other ALAA members contributed to panels and sessions throughout the conference. Congratulations to all our members who presented at this year’s CAA conference!
Arvey Book Award
The Arvey Book Award was announced by Charlene Villaseñor Black of UCLA, chair of the Association of Latin American Art Book Award Committee, who spoke on behalf of the committee which also included Professor Tatiana Flores of Rutgers University and Kimberly Jones of the Dallas Museum of Art. The committee offered the following words:
We are delighted to be here to announce this year’s winner of the Annual Margaret Arvey Foundation Award for the best scholarly book published on the art of Latin America from the Pre-Columbian era to the present. This is the thirteenth year that the award is being given, and it was an exceptional year. We had 17 excellent submissions this year, making our job to choose one winner difficult – although the reading was very pleasurable. The number of submissions and their high quality speak to the vibrancy of the study of Latin American art. We would like to thank Professor Patricia Sarro and President Elisa Mandell, who offered advice to us throughout the process. A very special thanks is due to Margaret Arvey, for funding this prestigious award and for her continued support for the study of Latin American Art. Without her, this award would not be possible.
The committee is honored to present the Winner of the Thirteenth Annual ALAA Margaret Arvey Foundation Award for the best scholarly book published on the art of Latin America – Barbara E. Mundy, The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City (UT Press, 2015).
Mundy’s extremely learned, sweeping new history of the transformation of the Aztec capitol of Tenochitlan in the wake of Conquest breaks new ground with its extensive new research on the city as well as its theoretical innovation. To summarize its focus, allow me to quote the author herself: “In 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan died. In 1521, Mexico City was born, and it lives today.”
Mundy’s innovations here distinguish this study. In contrast to earlier histories of the city, which focused on its destruction in the 16th century, she brings to light indigenous Nahua survivals and contributions to its remaking after 1521. She employs a rich array of primary sources — codices, maps, texts, sculptures, architecture, ceremonies. She theorizes the city’s transformation, employing three key concepts drawn from Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau: spatial practice, representational space, and lived space. She convincingly demonstrates that indigenous influence on the built environment has previously been seriously underestimated.
A major emphasis in her text is the importance of water in Tenochtitlan-Mexico City – an island in a lake, surrounded by other lakes. She considers the city’s waterworks, or its hydrographic profile, dating back to the 15th century and into the late 16th. She suggests the importance of water imagery in the self-presentation of Nahua rulers, re-reading such important monuments as sculptures of the water diety Chalchuitlicue, and the so-called Throne of Motecuzoma II.
Continued native control over the environment of Tenochtitlan/Mexico City was, of course, dependent on alliances with the conquerors, and in particular, with the Franciscans. Mundy carefully documents these alliances, as well as the important roles played by native city leaders throughout the sixteenth century. She concludes with a consideration of memory and the old city, a poignant corrective of historical amnesia that has erased indigenous contributions to and memories of its spaces. As she notes, cities can be destroyed – their buildings razed — but spaces live forever. Mundy’s magisterial study of the spaces of Tenochtitlan-Mexico City will similarly live on in our memory for decades as a model for how to approach art and architectural history.
Congratulations, Professor Mundy!
This year’s selection process was difficult, given the many outstanding selections we received. In fact, it was so difficult that this year, in addition to the award winner, we have chosen another book to be given an honorable mention.
This year’s winner of Honorable Mention is Claudia L. Brittenham’s The Murals of Cacaxtla: The Murals of Cacaxtla: The Power of Painting in Ancient Central Mexico. University of Texas Press, Austin, 2015.
The Murals of Cacaxtla: The Power of Painting in Ancient Central Mexico presents a vivid analysis of a distinctive Epiclassic (650-950 CE) site situated firmly within an interactive and artistically flourishing Mesoamerican landscape. The author, Claudia Brittenham, guides the reader across the historical and spatial layout of Cacaxtla, progressing through seven chapters dedicated to relatively successive mural programs at the site. The individual murals are examined in detail, with Brittenham addressing many of the crucial interpretive questions that arise from such explorations, drawing richly on local, regional and historical comparisons. The study is thus both intensely focused on a particular site and its unique mural arts while also genuinely comprehensive in placing Cacaxtla within its Mesoamerican cultural sphere.
While the book is thoroughly illustrated with a striking number of color photographs, the success of the volume arises foremost through the author’s engaging text and thorough approach to the mural scenes. Throughout her study, Brittenham invites the reader to engage with her in exploring the import and impact of such impressive Mesoamerican mural arts. The reader comes away from the volume with a comprehensive vision of Cacaxtla, its monumental facades and their effect within the local and cultural Mesoamerican landscape. We are thus delighted to recognize this contribution to the field of art history as Honorable Mention in the 2016 ALAA Book Awards.
Thanks to everyone who attended this year’s CAA. Look for 2016 Business Meeting minutes to be included in the next newsletter and ongoing announcements via the listserv!