Blanton Museum of Art, for one more day, offers this:
Exactly 500 years ago, in August of 1519, an expedition led by the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortés began marching inland into Mexican territory. Just two years later, what today is Mexico City fell to an ethnically diverse army composed of both Spanish and local peoples from other cities, starting a long period of European colonization. This exhibition aims to expand our perspective on these events by featuring a selection of maps, known as Mapas de las Relaciones Geográficas, created by Indigenous artists around 1580. These unique documents show some of the visual strategies used by native communities for the endurance and perseverance of their cultures throughout the so-called colonial period and well beyond.
At the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, 19 maps, nearly 440 years old, are on display — and they look spectacular. “Works on paper are delicate so we’re only allowed to put them on display for nine months out of 10 years,” says Blanton Museum communications director Carlotta Stankiewicz.
The Mapping Memory exhibition contains work by indigenous mapmakers from the late 1500s. The maps demonstrate a very different sense of space than maps drawn by Europeans. They’re not drawn to scale; instead, they’re deeply utilitarian.
A map of Culhuacán, for example, shows rivers running straight, with tiny arrows in the middle, indicating which way they flow. The pathways curve like snakes, with footprints or hoofprints indicating whether the paths can be walked or ridden.
“This was the first museum in the country to have a dedicated curator to Latin American art,” says Simone Wicha, director of the Blanton Museum of Art. The University of Texas at Austin has one of the earliest and largest collections of Mexican and Latin American art and documents in the world — more than 300,000 pieces — which it began acquiring in earnest in 1921. “The interest in Latin America was longstanding because Texas history is Mexican history and vice versa,” Wicha says.
In 1577, King Philip II of Spain wanted to know whom exactly he was ruling and where in his vast kingdom they were. His viceroy in what was then called New Spain had little idea, so he asked the indigenous groups in what is now Mexico, to draw the maps — which are now on view…
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