Exhibits offer bilingual treasures for the eye–and palate

Post by Andrea Kirsh

First, Tesoros at the Art Museum

Asiel Timor Dei
Asiel Timor Dei, Artist/maker unknown (Bolivian), c. 1680. Oil on canvas, 160.5 x 110.5 cm. Museo Nacional De Arte La Paz, Bolivia. (Museum publicity shot)

Tesoros, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s survey of the merging of Spanish and indigenous visual traditions in the art of colonial Latin America is big and splashy and expensive (free for museum members but $20 for others, $17 for seniors and students; on you can find half-price tickets for selected times). Paintings of archangels carrying muskets (the seventeenth-century equivalent of semiautomatics) are only some of the treasures, which also include church vessels made in Mayan-style ceramic, nineteenth-century paintings documenting racial intermarriage (castas), Mexican furniture with chinoiserie lacquer decoration and blue-and-white pottery inspired by Chinese export ware. Globalization is nothing new.

Second, Living Traditions at Taller

a Huichol turtle, from the exhibit at Taller Puertoriqueno

For a great value, as well as a bargain coda to the PMA’s exhibition you might check out Living Traditions: Puerto Rican and Hispanoamerican Arts and Crafts at the Taller Puertorriqueno, 2721 N. 5th St., just above Lehigh. This community organization often presents exhibitions and programs every bit as professionally as its larger colleagues, and has the only Spanish/English bookshop in the area. Living Traditions, which is free (donations gratefully accepted), is up through Jan. 13. The material, drawn largely from the Museo de las Américas in Old San Juan, presents a lively demonstration of the continued negotiation among cultures in the Carribean. It includes a Day of the Dead Altar, a contemporary Peruvian retablo by Nicario Jimenez (who turned the traditional form into a vehicle for political and social commentary) and a group of contemporary santos.

jar tibor
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s tibor shown here is missing its lid.

And the tibor (jar whose shape derives from Chinese prototypes) here is a first cousin to two in the Tesoros exhibition; the one at Taller is complete with its lid, while those at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are topless.

Third, nearby sabor

Besides, the trip up North 5th offers a choice of appropriate eats, Mexican at Taco Riendo (1301. N. 5th, just above Girard, with such rare specialties as sopes and tripe tacos), or a choice of Puerto Rican restaurants within a block or two of Taller Puertorriqueno; ask for recommendations at their gift shop.

Living Traditions will remain up at Taller until Jan. 13, 2007. Tesoros at the PMA runs until Dec. 31, 2006.

–Andrea Kirsh is an art historian living in Philadelphia. See her Philadelphia Introductions essays on emerging artists at inliquid.