Sunday, February 27, 2011

Assignment C (blog #3)

Latin American Colonial art poses several interesting questions.

The art seems to have ignored the local culture, scenery, dress codes, and ways of life. It is indeed Europe-lite. It is unlikely people would be clothed the way they are in the paintings, in hot, near-tropical Mexico. Granted, the Christian themes do relate to a third land neither Latin American nor European: the Middle East of Bethlehem, Palestine, and Egypt. But the Italian Renaissance painters had no problems reinventing the Biblical characters essentially as Romans, in looks, dress, and even in the landscapes shown. But when the imagery was imported into Latin America, the painters did not alter it again to fit their own locality.

It is interesting artists were thought lower-class artisans. The general history of art seems to have been of attaching itself to the centers of power and social status. But the subject matter of the paintings do not seem to reflect any poorer-human's themes. They seemingly reflect no themes other than those of the European Renaissance and the later neo-classicism. What of the many wars and the colorful warriors? The adobes? The rainforests? Nothing of the pioneer's ways shows in the paintings. Religion seems to dominate, and all the varied issues of building in the new land ignored, in what the artist chooses to capture on canvas.

One possible conclusion is that patrons drive where art heads, more than the artists themselves. They decide what gets painted, what gets displayed, and, most important, what gets rewarded. And the nobility of new Spain saw themselves as Spaniards, from the beginning all the way to the bitter end of the later revolutions.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blog #3: Planimetricism

The two dimensional rendering of copies of renaissance art taking out the three dimensional perspective provided by modeling - planimetricism - on the face of it sounds technically inferior. It occurs in places like the Spanish colonies and the Slavic world, where artists were unfamiliar with conventions of 3-d rendering, such as overlapping, linear perspective (distant objects as narrower), and atmospheric perspective (showing farther objects as hazier). But psychology research has shown only people familiar with the convention see these monocular cues (visible with just one eye) as indicating depth (Myers 249). The renaissance way of rendering 3-d objects, particularly people, on a 2-d canvas, is not intrinsically building on how the brain constructs 3-d reality from 2-d images on the retina, but is just a convention which, like language, when taught early enough and often enough acquires the trappings of a self-evident truth.
Works Cited
Myers, David G. Psychology. 8th ed. New York: Worth, 2009. Print.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hybrid cultures ot the south

It is odd that in much of Latin America, the settlers and the natives mixed creating a mestizo race. But coupled with it was horrifying excesses of violence and a degrading class system which persists to this day. In North America, settlers and natives did not mix, and the violence was less obvious. The decimation of the indigenous population came through a mix of wars, imported diseases, and forced relocations. Planned slaughters were rare. The difference has often been attributed to the difference in the South and North European cultures of the colonizers but that just seems an after-the-fact explanation.

The difference on the cultural front seems starker. North American culture is essentially European culture continued, with classical Greece and Rome the starting point of way too many lecture courses in both humanities and sciences. Mexican culture is language-wise European, but tradition- and ethnicity-wise a true blend, and hence a novel form. My exposure is limited to Latina/Chicana literature and second-hand readings of the Latin American writers, but they seem to draw little on the classical tradition of Europe. Part of this may be because the political air of that land is different, with socialism and conservatism meaning something starkly different from the Western world's ideas of the terms. But a large part of the divergence seems to be from rooting the works in the old soil of the new land as opposed to the old ways of the new settlers.