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Exhibition: Private/Public

Posted: March 25, 2014

Ex-voto (Saint Michael and Devil), c.1880. Oil on tin, 7” x 10”

Private/Public: Images of Devotion from 19th and Early 20th Century Mexico

Opening March 27, 2014 inside the Braunstein Gallery 

Curated by Emmanuel Ortega and featuring works from both a private Las Vegas collection and the Museum's Braunstein Collection the images in this exhibition represent more than a group of small religious paintings. They embody the complicated artistic nature of Christian iconography, symbolism and private/public forms of devotion that were established in México as the norm by the nineteenth century. Objects on display include ex-votos and retablos (small tin oil paintings presented as offerings in churches and sacred sites), wooden sculptures and milagros (small hand crafted silver offerings). These objects are the visual result of 400 years of private/public devotional practices that begun to take shape in México after 1521. 

During the sixteenth century, Retablo art flourished in post conquest México, beginning in Central México and then steadily growing in popularity throughout the country. Traditional Christian imagery brought from Europe were soon overflowing with color and design elements that reached back 10,000 years. The visual and material culture of this exhibition embodies the complicated artistic nature of Christian iconography, symbolism and private/public forms of devotion that were established as the norm by the nineteenth century. While the format of these visual offerings dates back to fifteenth century Italy, their unique aesthetic disregards European artistic practices. Instead, the formal qualities of the scenes revealed in these ex-votos highlight a specific narrative and obey a design that remains unchanged. It is precisely due to their anomalous relationship to the larger scope of European painting that they should not be admired solely in terms of their projected aesthetic values. Their importance resides in the intricacies of the miracles narrated, the intended reception, and the type of information they reveal about private/public devotional practices in México before and after the independence of 1821.

IN THE NEWS:

With thanks to Christ, the virgins and saints – ex-voto in Mexico – Kristen Peterson, Las Vegas Weekly, April 2, 2014