sábado, 2 de junio de 2018


Miguel Covarrubiaswas invited by the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) that was held on Treasure Island, "to create a mural set entitled Pageant of the Pacific to be the centerpiece of Pacific House, 'a center where the social, cultural and scientific interests of the countries in the Pacific Area could be shown to a large audience.' Covarrubias painted the six murals for GGIE in San Francisco with his assistant Antonio M. Ruiz. The set of murals featured oversized, "illustrated maps entitled: The Fauna and Flora of the Pacific, Peoples, Art and Culture, Economy, Native Dwellings, and Native Means of Transportation. These murals were immensely popular at the GGIE and were later exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Upon returning to San Francisco, five of the murals were installed at the World Trade Club in the Ferry Building where they hung until 2001. The whereabouts of the sixth mural, Art and Culture, are unknown and has been the subject of great speculation
Miguel and Rosa married in 1930 and they took an extended honeymoon to Bali with the National Art Directors' Medal prize money where they immersed themselves in the local culture, language and customs. Miguel returned to Southeast Asia (Java, Bali, India, Vietnam) in 1933, as a Guggenheim Fellow with Rosa whose photography would become part of Miguel's book, Island of Bali. The book and particularly the marketing for months surrounding its release, contributed to the 1930s Bali craze in New York. He also spent time in China, where his work was very influential among artists in Shanghai.
Covarrubias’ style was highly influential in America, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, and his artwork and caricatures of influential politicians and artists were featured on the covers of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair
Covarrubias is also known for his analysis of the pre-Columbian art of Mesoamerica, particularly that of the Olmec culture, and his theory of Mexican cultural diffusion to the north, particularly to the Mississippian Native American Indian cultures. His analysis of iconography presented a strong case that the Olmec predated the Classic Era years before this was confirmed by archaeology. In his thesis of a final cultural battle between Olmecs and Maya he was encouraged by his friend, the Austrian Surrealist and ethnological philosopher Wolfgang Paalen, who even went so far to describe the conflict as one of ancient matriarchal culture with new patriarchal orientations in Maya culture with its dominant adoration of the male sun-god Kukulkan. Both Paalen and Covarrubias published their ideas in Paalen's magazine DYN. Covarrubias interest in anthropology went beyond the arts and beyond the Americas—Covarrubias lived in and wrote a thorough ethnography of the "Island of Bali". He shared his appreciation of foreign cultures with the world through his drawings, paintings, writings, and caricatures.

Girl Wearing a Sarong by the Ocean 
(also known as Balinesa con turbante rosa en la playa) 
signed 'Covarrubias' (lower right) 
gouache on paper 19ox13æin.(48x34cm.) Painted in 1937. 

A. Williams and Y-C. Chong, Covarrubias in Bali, Singapore, Editions Didier Millet, 2006, p. 37 (illustrated in color as cover of Asia Magazine, April 1937). Asia Magazine, April 1937, cover (illustrated in color). 
Miguel Covarrubias’s fascination with Bali originated with his frst trip to
the Indonesian island in 1930. He traveled there from New York with his wife, the artist Rosa Rolando, on their honeymoon. Spending six months
on the island, the Mexican artist took extensive notes and made numerous sketches while Rolando took hundreds of documentary photographs of
Bali life and customs. During the long voyage home on an ocean liner, Covarrubias produced gouaches and oil paintings based on his sketches and his recollections.
Covarrubias exhibited thirty-two of these gouaches and oil paintings on Balinese themes at the Valentine Gallery in New York in an exhibition that opened on January 18, 1932. This series and exhibition represent a signifcant turning point in the artist’s career. Celebrated as a highly-regarded caricaturist during the 1920s in New York City—where he had moved in 1923 at the young age of nineteen—Covarrubias was known for his humorous 
and biting satires of the city’s social and political elite as well as for his so-called “negro drawings” and observations of Harlem social life. 

With the support of leading New Yorkers, Frank Crowninshield and Carl Van Vechten, Covarrubias had become a contributor to magazines for the social set such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, and the New Yorker. In addition to its shift in thematic focus, the 1932 Valentine exhibition represents a turn away from illustration and a move toward painting, on which he would increasingly focus his energies. His interest in Bali would also serve as the starting point for the production of ethnographic, pictorial travelogues. 
A Guggenheim Fellowship provided him with some of the funds to return
to Bali in 1933 in order to continue his investigations, specifcally for a book manuscript, which Alfred A. Knopf would eventually publish as Island of Bali in 1937. Covarrubias stayed on the island for a year. During his voyage home to New York, where he arrived in December 1934, he again completed several more paintings on Balinese themes. He also made signifcant progress on the book manuscript, which he had been planning since the frst trip. Life magazine and Vanity Fair reported on Covarrubias’s work on Bali, and he circulated Balinese imagery in various magazines: Vanity Fair (January 1935, and February 1936), Theatre Arts Monthly (August 1936), and Asia (April and June, 1937). The April 1937 issue of Asia featured Girl Wearing a Sarong
by the Ocean on its cover. These contributions inspired a “Balinese vogue” among fashionable New Yorkers as epitomized by the window displays at
the Fifth Avenue department store, Franklin Simon, which included fabric designs with Bali prints by the artist. Even before Island of Bali’s appearance in mid-November 1937, Knopf ordered a second printing to satisfy demand. 

Girl Wearing a Sarong by the Ocean depicts themes at the heart of Island
of Bali—bathing and the romanticized depiction of Bali’s inhabitants and
its landscape. In his exegesis on the customs of everyday life, Covarrubias expounds on the centrality of bathing in Balinese culture, yet his paintings are divorced from the pseudo-anthropological observations he put forth in his chronicles. Here Covarrubias focuses on creating cultural, racial, and sexualized types. Two dark-skinned Balinese women populate a desolate seashore against a deep blue sky. In the background, a fgure with protruding and perky breasts crosses the sand carrying a large bundle on her head while maintaining a graceful pose. Yet, Covarrubias concentrates on the bare- chested fgure in the foreground whose head is in profle view, emphasizing her racialized attributes. The artist takes particular delight in depicting her accoutrements: an abstracted ear plug, her decorative pink head wrap, the beige and green twisted belt at her waist, and the visually-enticing and graphic sarong, a print that may have started the whole Balinese fashion craze in New York. The colorful yet muted stippling efect used for the shore is set against the pattern of the sarong and a variety of minute brushstrokes provide textured contrasts to an otherwise fat and simple composition. 
The artist idealized Bali as a pristine and enchanted land that embodied a vision of social harmony and beauty. The gouache encapsulates the ways
in which Covarrubias was drawn to the exoticism of the “South Sea Island paradise.” As such, like the European traveler artists who came to Latin America in the nineteenth-century, Covarrubias reinvented his own form of a pictorial costumbrismo for the modern age.

Dr. Anna Indych-López, Associate Professor of Art History, The City College of New York and The Graduate Center, The City University of New York 
1 Adriana Williams, Covarrubias (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 69. See also: Adriana Williams and Y-C. Chong, Covarrubias in Bali (Singapore: Didier Millet, 2005).
2 Williams, Covarrubias, 80 and 82. 
3 Selva Hernández, “A Marco Polo in New York,” in Covarrubias: Cuatro Miradas/Four Visions (Mexico, Editorial RM, 2005), 75. 4 Miguel Covarrubias, Island of Bali (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973; originally published in 1937), 116-118. 
5 Terence Grieder, “The Divided World of Miguel Covarrubias,” Americas (Washington D.C.) vol. 23, no. 5, (May 1971): 24, cited in Williams, 84.

Rosa Rolanda with writer Avery Hopwood

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