Above: “Virgin of the Tailors,” Cusco, Peru, circa 1750, on loan from Museo Pedro de Osma, Lima
Late-colonial New Spain was awash with conflicting energies: American-born Spaniards (Creoles), like their North American counterparts, felt a growing desire for independence, yet needed their identification with Europe to cement their sense of superiority over the racialized indigenous, African, and mixed-race lower classes….”
And 18th-century fashion statements as recorded in paintings and sculpture became a tool to exhibit the claimed superiority of those with pure, or at least high, percentages of Spanish blood flowing through their veins. On display at the Blanton Museum of Art through January 8, Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America focuses on the societal role of textiles in conveying class distinctions.
Above, Charles Umlauf’s 1956 “Poetess” represents a tribute to his wife, Angeline Umlauf (1915-2012), as his muse.
Born in rural Michigan, Karl (Charles) Julius Umlauf (1911-1994) was the sixth of eight children of a family of impoverished European immigrants. The family moved to Chicago when Umlauf was eight years old, and it was in elementary school there that a teacher spotted and began nurturing his artistic talents. The teacher helped him earn summer scholarships at the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduation from high school, he was able to study at both the Art Institute and the Chicago School of Sculpture.
There is Eugene Delacroix’ “The Massacre at Chios,” with its 1824 showing in the Salon de Paris igniting European concern about tragedies occurring during the Greek War of Independence.
There are Francisco Goya’s “Fatal Consequences of Spain’s Bloody War with Bonaparte, and Other Emphatic Caprices,” prints so controversial they were not published as “The Disasters of War” until 1863, 35 years after his death.
There is Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” his 1937 painting of the German bombing of a Basque town that attracted the world’s attention to the atrocities occurring during the Spanish Civil War.
And now there is Vincent Valdez’ haunting 2016 black-and-white monumental depiction of Ku Klux Klansmen in “The City I,” owned and currently on exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art.
This could be any city in America. These individuals could be any Americans. There is a false sense that these threats were, or are, contained at the peripheries of society and in small rural communities. . . . It is possible that they are city politicians, police chiefs, parents, neighbors, community leaders, academics, church members, business owners, etcetera. This is the most frightening aspect of it all.
Vincent Valdez was born and raised in San Antonio; an artist about whom we boast. Yet you want this enormous painting stretching across the gallery wall to please be a scene from any other city in America. Please not here. Not my neighbors.
The KKK and other racist groups exist throughout the country; denial does not help; you cannot simply wish them away. They might indeed be your neighbors.
The menacing eyes peering out from the holes in the white hoods glare at you, following you around the room. There is no place to hide.
We have interrupted their gathering. The group looks warily at us as we look at them; no one appears to be welcome here.