lecture - Art History 55B Lecture 1 -Pre-Columbian...

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Art History 55B Lecture 1 -Pre-Columbian literally means before Christopher Columbus, but for most Pre-Columbianists, it refers to events prior to the Spanish conquests of Mexico (1521) and Peru (1534) -The Pre-Columbian World: Mesoamerica = Middle America, Lower Central America, South America = Andean region…these are the only regions that really produced pieces that we today call “art” Modes of Writing -Pre-Columbian artists were usually also scribes. They were literate in their own ways. Many artists had high social status -Specialists can now read about 80-90% of their writings. -Examples: 1. the Andean khipu - a series of knotted cords or strings that are attached to a main string, the cords are different colors and the knots are different. Andeans could read a khipu like a book for history counts, treasury, poems, etc. 2. Maya hieroglyphs Technologies -there were no wheeled vehicles in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans -llama (carried heavy loads) -digging stick (no plows, this is how they planted their crops) -tumpline (cord that goes around forehead and back to carry things) -balsa raft (especially Andean region) Excavating the Past -the oldest strata, or layers, are at the bottom; the most recent strata are at the top -much information acquired from “digging through time” Sources of Information -archaeology -preconquest art/artifacts (for Mesoamerica, not Andean region) -ethnohistory (documents made after the Spanish conquest that include actual writing, during the colonial period) -ethnography (you can observe current people and see practices and beliefs that are very old) Modern Uses of Pre-Columbian Art -identity politics: ex. murals in San Diego -popular art: ex. Mexican calendar paintings (1930-1950) -“fine” art: ex. Diego Rivera’s “The People’s Demand for Better Health”, Mexico City…main detail taken from Tlazolteotl, from the Codex Borbonicus -commerce: ex. fashion photos in magazines, cereal box cover -advertising
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Lecture 2 -art historian and ethnohistorians are similar, work with pictures a lot -Mesoamerica had more pictures than Andean region How much – and how – do we really know? The Spanish Conquest and the Problem with Colonial Sources -Colonial period = 1521-1850, pre-Columbian = 1521-2000 BC -Preclassic (formative), period in which the earliest artifacts are discovered that we would call art, classic, postclasstic What distinguishes colonial and pre-Columbian? Spanish conquest itself -Spanish conquest “The Conquest of Tenochtitlan”, second half of 17 th century oil painting, the rest of the country pretty much yielded after this conquest of the island city, you can see that the artist knew the Spaniards had acquired allies -“The Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops” by Emanuel Leutz, 1848 oil, based somewhat on William Prescott’s modern account of the takeover, décor in painting is Mayan, shows triumph over “inferior” people, this is tied to the Mexican American war in the sense that
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lecture - Art History 55B Lecture 1 -Pre-Columbian...

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