Maiolica Olé: Spanish and Mexican Decorative Traditions featuring the collection of the Museum of International Folk Art, by Florence C. Lister and Robert H. Lister with Foreword by Robin Farwell Gavin. 2001, Museum of New Mexico Press, paperback $32.50, ISBN 0-89013-389-1, also in hardback. 176 pages, 160 color plates.

Maiolica is hot right now. Very collectable and sought after. This book highlights 144 examples of historical pieces made between the 17th and 18th centuries. Mexican maiolica began with the Spanish conquest in 1521.

This is a beautiful book that will make collectors very happy to get additional reference material. The pictures are wonderful and show the pieces, flaws, wear, and all. There is a bibliography for additional references as well as a full list of illustrations. We applaud whenever a museum takes the time to document collections and expand on the research associated with it. Collectors will love it.

Arte Latino: Treasures from the Smithsonian Museum by Jonathan Yorba. 2001, Smithsonian Institution and Watson-Guptill Publications, paperback, $19.95, 112, 50 color photos, ISBN 0-8230-0321-3.

Any time we can see and appreciate some of the wonderful things that Smithsonian has in its collection, it’s a good day. I only wish this book had been available when we saw this traveling exhibit in El Paso. But the exhibit will be in Santa Fe at the Museum of Fine Arts from late June until September. So we will get a second chance to see the pieces with the background information.

The exhibit has art from many Latino origins: New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Mexico, California, Cuba, Guatemala, and maybe others but only three of the fifty artists are identified as to place of birth. Odd? But in any case the book is very nice and the color photos of the pieces are wonderful. Some of the New Mexicans represented are: Pedro Antonio Fresquis, Gloria López Córdova, Charlie Carrillo, Ramón José López, Felix López, Horacio Valdez, Irvin Trujillo, Luis Tapia, José Benito Ortega.

For those who love to see New Mexican devotional art in the context of international Latino art, this is a well done and quality publication. Get it at the Museum of Fine arts store in June.

El Favor De Los Santos, Produced by KRWG-TV New Mexico State University, $25 plus shipping and handling. 56 minutes & 38 seconds.
The folks at KRWG-TV (Las Cruces PBS affiliate) are very proud of their video El Favor De Los Santos. And with good reason. In 2001 it won a documentary emmy for the region and the Hispanic Journalism TV Photos First Place award. We like it because someone had the foresight to do both a wonderful book on the exhibit and this video so the exhibit would live on for those who appreciate and those who do research.

The video is the highest quality showing selected retablos and ex votos from the exhibit but more importantly putting the tradition in context all the way back to the Aztecs. It links the traditions in Mexico and New Mexico seamlessly. Many guests talk about their history with the images. One particlularly interesting older lady talked about how the santos are like lawyers who interceed for us with God. The video is a great overview for religious history classes. We highly recommend this video.

Casa Mañana: The Morrow Collection of Mexican Popular Arts, edited by Susan Danly, Introduction by Ilan Stevans. 2002 University of New Mexico Press, Hardback, $32.95, ISBN 0-8263-2805-9, 211 pages, 34 color photos and 90 B&W.

Dwight Morrow was Ambassador to Mexico from the United States in the late 1920s. He and his wife Elizabeth fell in love with the folk art of Mexico and collected it while there. Casa Mañana was their weekend home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In it was their textile, pottery, and lacquerware trays. In 1955 one hundred and fifty-five pieces of their collection were donated to the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College.

This book is not picture heavy but does have a pictorial checklist of the Collection as well as some beautiful plates of the pieces and political memorabilia of the time. There are essays by Jill Meredith, Ilan Stevens, Susan Danly, James Oles, Anthony Lee, and Rick López. There is an extensive bibliography as well as in depth notes. The book is a must for students of Mexico and Mexican art. It does more of a job of putting the art in context than other similar books. It reminds the reader that there was a fluid political and social climate that influenced everything that went on in Mexico.

Paintings of the Southwest, edited by Arnold Skolnick and Introduction by Suzan Campell. 2002 University of New Mexico Press, paperback, $$, ISBN 0-8263-2843-1, 128 pages, many color plates.

Books on art need to serve a purpose. Do they provide new research, area picture or reference book, or do they act as a guide for other artists? I can’t figure out what this book wants to be. It is very pretty as one page after another of paintings - divided by short quotes from notable people but why? It is a small book so it is not the usual coffee table book. The best I can figure is that it is a book for tourists.

It is flawed in its exclusion of some major painters in New Mexico: Frank Applegate, Eliseo Rodriguez, John Nieto, or anyone in the contemporary Hispanic or Native American schools of art. You might say it doesn’t show contemporary but it indeed does with Alyce Frank, Wilson Hurley, and Morris Rippel. It does have work from Native Americans, Pablita Velarde and Fritz Scholder but Hispanics don’t exist. It is a pretty, little, flawed book for people who want to look at a pretty picture and don’t know any better. But again I have to ask, “What is the purpose for this book?”

Mexican Architects: Tradition & Modernism by Fernando de Haro & Omar Fuentes. 176 pages, 245 color plates, hardback, $45, ISBN 968-7471-06-9.
Mexican Architects: Space, Light & Color by Fernando de Haro & Omar Fuentes. 224 pages, 256 color plates, hardback, $45, ISBN 968-5336-00-8.

For anyone who loves beautiful pictures of stunning rooms and homes in a tropical setting this series is for you. These books are part of a six book series of coffee table books. For lovers of everything Mexico these are great to have. The books are published by Arquitectos Mexicanos Editores and distributed by AGD (800-284-3580).

Sin Nombre: Hispana and Hispano Artists of the New Deal by Tey Marianna Nunn. 2001, University of New Mexico Press, hardcover, $50.00, ISBN 0-8263-2399-5, 205 pages, 70 color plates and 75 B&W.

It is sad that this book could not have been published while the exhibit of the same name was up at the Museum of International Folk Art. It is new information that could have been helpful to those interested to have the visual stimulus and the book together. Instead it came out almost a year later. It is important to have a literary record of this time in New Mexico. One of the only other books/published items of that time was the Portfolio of Spanish Colonial Design in New Mexico — it isn’t even listed in the bibliography. We were disappointed that more names of the WPA artists could not be unearthed. It also is a bit unnerving that in a scholarly book there is a strident undertone. While the author talks about the “Blue Books” of the period and how they are used today there is no information about them. An accompanying book on the ”Blue Books” would have been helpful or passages from them in Sin Nombre at the least. This is a start for documenting a historical period that has had little attention and maybe other scholars can take it one step further.
First published in Tradicion Revista, Volume 7, No. 1, Spring 2002.
Copyright 2002. May not be reproduced in any form without written permission.