Sunday, 31 May 2015

Friday: to the Museo Nacional de Arte

We set out to go to the central post office. On the way we went into the National Art Gallery.

To get there was a walk 400 metres according to Ms Google, five minutes by her counting.

Took us quite a bit longer.

As noted earlier, we walk through a museum, through life, watched over and watching.

To go north on Bolivar, north above Madero, one swiftly leaves behind the tourist mood and in the morning pass serious buffet cafes and, in the next, full tables of women in red jackets, attending a working breakfast.

Watched over... by just another edifice.

We found four rewarding elements to the gallery:

  • The building itself, 
  • The major exhibition of the work of Jose Maria Velasco, 
  • The collection representing history and demonstrating the interweaving between politics, philosophy and art...  and
  •  A glorious collection of the sensual.

The exterior imposing, inside an imposing staircase

directly below this staircase, in the dark between its two lower sections lies this creature
as if left where she fell after a big night in the museum
... and as an anticipation of the earthy naturalism of some of the works upstairs
Fidencio Lucano Nava
Apres l'orgie, 1909
Jose Maria Velasco was a major painter during the period of the Porfiriato when in the second half of the nineteenth century President Porfirio Diaz worked to secure a stronger national identity and strength plus encouragement of science above religious preoccupation. Velasco painted bird's eye view notably of the Valle de México, where Mexico City has arisen, and also some remarkable scientific paintings, including of life in geological periods.

Jose Maria Velasco 1891...detail of this below, the bird whose eye sees the valley
In the Aztec legend of the founding of the city, the god Huitzilopochtli said to settle where they saw
an eagle sitting on a cactus with a snake in its mouth, as now portrayed on the national coat of arms.
Here, half a millennium later the eagle has done with sitting on nopal and is going about domestic duties
safe in the hills.

Jose Maria Velasco, Marine Flora and Fauna from the Palaeozoic, Silurian and Devonian Periods
oil on cardboard
History, philosophy and art in a adjoining rooms is presided over by a somewhat monstrous Columbus. There are noble Aztec pictures, nasty conquistador pictures, priests being nice to conquistador-abused indios, flags of science flown in the face of priests.

Galileo, whose discomfort surely felt by science advocates in this country...
Galileo told by the Inquisition to go home and shut up or come back for a tougher time.

Sensual works from a hundred and more years ago show European influence but seem to have a physical reality, an earthiness, a natural patina and irregularity of flesh not of the classic mainstream. Perhaps partly the materials, but more than that...

Mexico City: holding hands, carrying chair to the gallery lecture.

Then we went on towards the post office a few paces up the street.

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