Monthly Archives

April 2015

Exhibitions, Faculty, Graduate Student, Presentations, Research, Students

Other Worlds: The Natural and Supernatural in Andean Art

William Barnes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History.  His research interests include the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas, particularly those in Mesoamerica and the Andes.  His principal research focus is upon the imperial Aztecs of Central Mexico and how their art intersects with ritual and the Mesoamerican calendar.  He is currently teaching a course on the art of Mesoamerica, to be followed in the fall by a course on the early colonial art of Latin America.

Other Worlds: The Natural and Supernatural in Andean Art

Other Worlds: The Natural and Supernatural in Andean Art

On a cold day in November, a number of UST graduate students accompanied me to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) to talk about ancient Andean art and culture with a wonderfully receptive group of MIA docents and guides. For the most part, the students were presenting research they had undertaken in their 2014 spring semester graduate seminar entitled “New Research in the Ancient Andes.” Instead of standing behind a podium and reading from notes while PowerPoint slides fly by behind them, Katherine Joy, Zach Forstrom, Clare Monardo, and Nicole Sheridan were free to walk around gallery 255 and point to concrete examples of Andean art while discussing their salient features and historical context. Not only were they able to address the actual objects from their graduate studies, they also discussed what initially drew them to the works and why they were chosen for this installation — as they, along with eight of their graduate colleagues, had actually curated the gallery 255 installation from the extensive Andean works held in the MIA’s collection. Entitled Other Worlds: The Natural and Supernatural in Andean Art, the installation, on view until April 26, was almost entirely the work of that spring seminar class.

(Left to right): Nicole Sheridan, Dr. Andy Barnes, Zach Forstrom, Katherine Joy, and Clare Monardo

(Left to right): Nicole Sheridan, Dr. Andy Barnes, Zach Forstrom, Katherine Joy, and Clare Monardo

The graduate students selected works related to a number of important themes that the seminar discerned during their study of the broad scope of artistic production in the ancient Andes. These included “Andean Elites and Rulers,” “Feasting and Ritual,” and “The Natural and Super-Natural Worlds,” the final being the category from which the installation title was drawn. In the grouping of their chosen works, the seminar participants intended to show how Andean art was used to illustrate social differentiation, aspects of ritual and political obligation, and the role that depictions of the natural world and the supernatural realm played in legitimizing political authority and maintaining balance and harmony between all levels of the Andean cosmos.

The works are strategically placed so that the viewer can physically walk one through the central ideas of the exhibit’s organizers. On the title wall hang two textiles, a central art form of the Andes whose design cues informed almost all other art forms and designs of the region. When worn, these textiles served to distinguish its wearer from other individuals in the region or communities. The one to the left is a 19th century Aymara llacota (a mantle worn by both men and women) likely woven on a traditional backstrap loom, while the other is a much earlier Huari elite tunic, likely worn by a member of the ruling class. Its elaborate design contrasts with the simplicity of the later Aymara piece, with its stylized depictions of Huari men bearing puma or jaguar-like attributes. The small hats worn by many of these figures are the very same as the MIA’s example 8th-10th century CE Huari four-cornered hat placed in the vitrine right in front of the work.

A Moche fineline pot is next to the small four-cornered hat. This pot depicts one of the famous Moche messengers who, aside from wearing animal inspired costumes, seemed to have served a role in carrying communications between Moche cities in the north coast of Peru (1-700 CE). From this central point in the gallery one can turn to investigate works that depict feasting and rituals, the objects of ritual (that allowed one to contact the supernatural), as well as depictions of super-natural creatures themselves.

I, and all the participants in the seminar, would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers, Curator of African Art and Department Head, Arts of Africa and the Americas, along with his curatorial staff, registrar Kenneth Krenz, and the collections and exhibit design staff for the help they provided in putting together this installation. Despite the challenges it posed for them, this entire exercise wound up being a wonderful opportunity for our graduate students to develop a museum installation in such a hands-on and practical manner.

 

 

Graduate Student, Research

Understanding Herbert Bayer’s Colorado Enviroment

Kate Tucker is an art history graduate student completing her qualifying paper on Walter Paepcke’s patronage of Herbert Bayer’s design initiatives at the Container Corporation of America and the Aspen Institute. She was awarded the Art History Department Graduate Research Grant to help make this project possible. Kate will be presenting her qualifying paper research at the Art History Graduate Forum on May 22.

Picture 1: Herbert Bayer

Picture 1: Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer lived in Colorado for 28 years [Picture 1]. During this period he was able to employ his Bauhaus training through a total design of the Aspen Institute and advance the visual communication initiatives at the Container Corporation. Walter Paepcke, chairman of Container Corporation, was the patron that convinced Bayer to move to the small town of Aspen. Together they made the location into a culturally thriving resort destination. To further understand Bayer’s design work produced during this period, I recently took a trip to Denver and Aspen. This was made possible through a travel research grant provided by St. Thomas. The grant provided funds for airfare to Denver, and a rental car and lodging in Aspen. Without this grant, the trip would not have been possible.

Picture 2: Herbert Bayer Archive and Collection at the Denver Art Museum

Picture 2: Herbert Bayer Archive and Collection at the Denver Art Museum

Picture 3: Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas

Picture 3: Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas

The first stop on the trip was to the Herbert Bayer Archive and Collection at the Denver Art Museum [Picture 2]. The museum holds over 8,000 pieces of art and extensive documentary material on the artist. One of the things that most interested me in the collection is the original paste-ups from Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas [Picture 3]. This atlas was published in 1953 for Container Corporation after a five-year undertaking. The book, which had a limited release of 30,000 copies, was produced as a memento for Container Corporation’s customers and shareholders. It contains over 1,200 individual and unique charts, diagrams, detail maps, and pictures. The collection of paste-ups reveals the early sketches of the finished project of the atlas. Pencil drawings were later fulfilled in the final rendering [Picture 4]. Bayer developed a system of agricultural markers on these paste-ups that would be fine-tuned in the final version [Picture 5]. The paste-up’s pages reveal the overall layout and the tight spaces for text, which Bayer would write and edit himself to maintain its cohesive order and focus on the visual images.

Picture 4: Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas

Picture 4: Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas

Picture 5: Final Version of Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas

Picture 5: Final Version of Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas

I spent a lot of time at the museum looking through scrapbooks of Bayer’s wife, Joella. She also compiled photo albums that included pictures ranging from Paepcke, Bayer, and Gary Cooper socializing in Aspen [Picture 6], to a lively party called “Come as Your Neurosis.“ [Picture 7]. While the scrapbooks revealed how Bayer was perceived and praised for his contributions, the photo albums show the jolly side to Bayer’s life in the mountains.

Picture 6: Paepcke, Bayer, and Gary Cooper

Picture 6: Paepcke, Bayer, and Gary Cooper

 

Picture 7: Come as Your Neurosis

Picture 7: Come as Your Neurosis

After Denver, I drove three hours to Aspen. The mountain drive is beautiful and along the highway there are a series of ski towns, while Aspen is far off the main drag. The travel made it clear that back in the 1940s, Aspen was a place of new discovery. Paepcke was the one who brought attention and enthusiasm to the revival of the town.

Picture 8: Kaleidscreen

Picture 8: Kaleidscreen

I stayed at the Aspen Meadows. The first thing I saw as I approached the retreat center was Kaleidscreen, one of Bayer’s art installations [Picture 8]. I was surprised by how small it looked against the background of the Aspen Institute and mountains. My impressions from photos had been greatly misled. As I entered the lobby, Bayer’s presence was felt throughout [Picture 9]. Every corner was filled with original Bayer artworks, posters from the “Great Ideas” advertising series at Container Corporation, even Bayer’s universal type was used at every opportunity, including in the bathrooms [Picture 10].

Picture 9: Lobby

Picture 9: Lobby

Picture 10: Example of Bayer’s universal type

Picture 10: Example of Bayer’s universal type

Bayer designed the majority of the buildings on the Aspen Institute campus in the 1950s in the vein of Bauhaus and International Style. Paepcke selected Bayer to design the environment for his pet project. Prior to my visit I was skeptical about how much of Bayer’s original designs would still be present over a half of decade later. I was pleasantly surprised at the clear intention to restore and maintain the spaces in their original mid-century modern design. Bayer’s use of primary colors from his Bauhaus days was still intact, as seen on the mural outside of the health center [Picture 11]. Even the sgraffito mural outside of the Koch Seminar Building looked as it did when it was first installed [Picture 12]. There has been a clear vision to maintain the design of these buildings through restorations, even long after Paepcke and Bayer’s death. There is a sense of timeless serenity felt at the Aspen Institute that speaks to the cohesive vision the Bayer applied to the space.

Picture 11: Mural

Picture 11: Mural

Picture 12: Kate outside of the Koch Seminar Building

Picture 12: Kate outside of the Koch Seminar Building

Bayer’s design of the Aspen Institute has been carefully carved into its natural landscape. His work in Aspen inspired the visual communications at Container Corporation. The beauty of the atlas speaks to Bayer’s love of nature and freedom to find design solutions when given the opportunity from a wealthy patron. The trip to Colorado solidified my understanding on how the interdependence between Paepcke and Bayer correlated with the design initiatives at the cultural retreat and corporation.