A Contested Art
Modernism and Mestizaje in New Mexico
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
304 Pages | 6 x 9 | 20 color and 13 b&w illus.
When New Mexico became an alternative cultural frontier for avant-garde Anglo-American writers and artists in the early twentieth century, the region was still largely populated by Spanish-speaking Hispanos. Anglos who came in search of new personal and aesthetic freedoms found inspiration for their modernist ventures in Hispano art forms. Yet, when these arrivistes elevated a particular model of Spanish colonial art through their preservationist endeavors and the marketplace, practicing Hispano artists found themselves working under a new set of patronage relationships and under new aesthetic expectations that tied their art to a static vision of the Spanish colonial past.
In A Contested Art, historian Stephanie Lewthwaite examines the complex Hispano response to these aesthetic dictates and suggests that cultural encounters and appropriation produced not only conflict and loss but also new transformations in Hispano art as the artists experimented with colonial art forms and modernist trends in painting, photography, and sculpture. Drawing on native and non-native sources of inspiration, they generated alternative lines of modernist innovation and mestizo creativity. These lines expressed Hispanos’ cultural and ethnic affiliations with local Native peoples and with Mexico, and presented a vision of New Mexico as a place shaped by the fissures of modernity and the dynamics of cultural conflict and exchange.
A richly illustrated work of cultural history, this first book-length treatment explores the important yet neglected role Hispano artists played in shaping the world of modernism in twentieth-century New Mexico. A Contested Art places Hispano artists at the center of narratives about modernism while bringing Hispano art into dialogue with the cultural experiences of Mexicans, Chicanas/os, and Native Americans. In doing so, it rewrites a chapter in the history of both modernism and Hispano art.
Published in cooperation with
The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University
“In this compelling study, author Stephanie Lewthwaite deftly locates Hispano New Mexican artists of the 1930s and ’40s in the folds between two, often opposed art historical discourses: high modernism and regionalism. Her deterritorialized account weaves together the careers of artists in New Mexico and New York in a meticulously documented critique of unilateral perspectives. This book tells the amazing stories of five artists each of whom was simultaneously an insider and an outsider, entangled with people, values, and events in ways impossible to categorize in simple terms. It deserves to be read widely for its knowledgeable engagement with the problematic aspects of modernism: Who owns it? Who practices it? What is it?”—Claire Farago coauthor of Transforming Images: New Mexican Santos in-between Worlds and Art Is Not What You Think It Is
“Lewthwaite masterfully rewrites the history of art in New Mexico. She reveals Hispano art as dynamic and packed with energy, a world away from the staid Anglo vision of eternal Spanish villages and whitewashed churches. Smart and sophisticated, A Contested Art is a must-read for historians of twentieth-century art, visitors to New Mexico, and fans of the American Southwest.”—Pablo Mitchell, author of Coyote National: Sexuality, Race, and Conquest in Modernizing New Mexico, 1880–1920
“In A Contested Art, Stephanie Lewthwaite retraces the lives and work of Hispana and Hispano painters, sculptors, and photographers. She shows how they labored at the confluence of regional traditions, primitivism, myth, and transnational currents to pioneer a critical modernist aesthetic whose legacy today endures.”—John Nieto-Phillips, author of Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s–1930s
“Invented boundaries between nations, eras, styles, races, and genders too often separate mestizaje from modernism, and belonging from critical distance. In A Contested Art, Stephanie Lewthwaite shares the artistic roots and routes of Patrocino Barela, John Candelario, Edward Chávez, and Margaret Herrera Chávez to reveal the dynamic Hispano art traditions of modern New Mexico. Follow their journeys to an art all New Mexico’s own.”—Flannery Burke, author of From Greenwich Village to Taos: Primitivism and Place at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s