Recently, I visited Peru and Ecuador, and I prepared for the trip by reading Kim MacQuarrie’s book, Last Days of the Incas. While I already knew about the Spanish invasion and colonization of Central America, I became fascinated by how 168 conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro, seized control of the Incan empire of 10 million, using brute force, advanced battle tactics, i.e., horses, and deceit. The vestiges and lasting impacts of South America’s bloody and oppressive history are well documented, particularly in the churches throughout the region.
La Compañia de Jesus, located in Quito’s historical center, is a dazzling and mind-blowing testament to the Spanish conquerors’ obsession with gold and religious dominance. The entire interior is covered in gold leaf—4 tons of it! Their desire for the precious metal had everything to do with accumulating wealth for themselves as well as colonizing and controlling access to the rich lands. As MacQuarrie says the conquistadors were “entrepreneurs with guns.” For the Incans, gold was considered sacred but it had no monetary value like it did for the Spanish.
View of the altar
The Jesuits broke ground on the church in 1605 and it was completed 160 years later in 1765. It’s a spectacular example of baroque architecture, craftsmanship and Moorish design influences. It’s an overwhelming sight, especially when you think about its history and what it ultimately “cost” the indigenous culture to help build it.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons
How does one even begin to describe the artistry of Takashi Murakami? Masterful, ebullient, scintillating, sarcastic, historical, technical, profound … words like these don’t seem to do him justice. Lucky for us several of his vast canvases are now on view at the new Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of absorbing Murakami’s world, go now. And make sure to give yourself plenty of time. His paintings are so dense with imagery relating to spirituality, pop and drug culture, and social commentary, you could spend five minutes looking at a tiny corner!
I dare you not be mesmerized by his 82-foot long, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow. It’s a psychedelic head trip involving Hokusai-like wave patterns, earthquakes, historical figures, and comical crazed animals.
One of my faves is the Hustle’n’Punch By Kaikai And Kiki. Don’t be fooled by its riot of pinky tones and smiley flower faces. Look closer and you’ll see mouths open, revealing gnashing fangs. This is quintessential Murakami social critique. Beneath the bright and sunny lurks the grotesque.
Lastly, I leave you with Of Chinese Lions, Peonies, Skulls, And Fountains. How can you resist cuddly puddles of cats atop a cascade of skulls? I know I can’t.
Many moons ago I worked at a gallery in Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. My first day on the job I vividly remember my boss showing me the drawings of a young, Spanish artist, Teo González. A few pieces were to be included in a group show we were mounting. They were small drawings of grid patterns filled in with tiny drops of ink. His work had this intriguing combination of minimalist precision and amorphousness. I was so taken with the specificity of the technique I just had to meet this person and find out more about his process. So I did, and we instantly became friends. Soon after that show he made the bold move to New York City. No surprise to any of us who were aware of his passion and dedication to create art, his career took off. Through the years, it’s been a pleasure to watch Teo’s vision and artistry evolve. He’s had solo exhibitions in NYC, San Francisco, Korea and Spain, to name a few.
So if you’re in the area, go see his stunning solo exhibition on view at the Margaret Thatcher Projects in NYC until June 4th, 2016. His new drip paintings vibrate with color and the patterns breath with life. Here’s a glimpse of the gallery opening and a taste of Teo’s work: