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Black Mirror / Espejo Negro

(2007-present)

Coatlicue and Las Meninas
(Black Mirror #0)
2008

The Black Mirror series began when the Nasher Museum of Art commissioned a new work to accompany their exhibition From El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Phillip III. The Black Mirror / Espejo Negro book includes thirty-nine photographs of the installation, as well as critical writings by scholars of various disciplines. The series as a whole, with its play of transparencies and reflections, makes impossible any separation between past-present, artwork-viewer-environment, or the pre- and post-Columbian. Coatlicue and Las Meninas, however, is the most iconic demonstration of the modernity/coloniality union. The work proposes two temporary installations. The first would bring the Aztec sculpture Coatlicue to the Museo del Prado in Madrid to display it in front of Las Meninas by Velázquez. The second would transport Las Meninas to Mexico City to be displayed in front of the Coatlicue at its habitual home, the National Museum of Anthropology. Both installations would include a large sheet of dark glass hovering between the works, integrating again--through transparencies and reflections--the artworks, their viewers, and their contexts. Not to be confused with the modern notion of mestizaje, these reflections allow the perception of simultaneous difference, copresence, and cotemporality.

Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Nasher Installation, Suites, and Book Project
(Black Mirror #1-12)
(Black Mirror #0)
2008

Book by Nasher Museum and Franklin Humanities Institute, distributed by Duke University Press
Trim size: 9 x 10.5'' casebound (unjacketed)
Number of pages: 128
Number of illustrations: 40 (plus cover images)
Bilingual Edition: English-Spanish

Foreword by Srinivas Aravamudan
Essays by Jennifer A. González, Arnaud Maillet, Walter Mignolo, Pete Sigal

Black Mirror/Espejo Negro accompanies Pedro Lasch’s large-scale museum installation, which was commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art to accompany its blockbuster exhibition El Greco to Velazquez. Lasch selected sixteen figures from the museum’s permanent collection of pre-Columbian art, and placed them on sculpture pedestals with their backs turned to the viewer. In front of the figures hung large, rectangular black mirrors, reflecting the fronts of the sculptures. After prolonged viewing, ghostly images of Spanish baroque paintings emerged from behind the dark sheets of glass. Standing amidst Lasch’s installation, the viewer saw indigenous art, colonial representation, and his or her own face and body collapsed onto a single mirrored plane.

This book is both a catalogue of the installation and an independent work of art. Including full color reproductions of thirty-nine photographs taken of the installation, and the texts Lasch wrote to accompany it, Black Mirror/Espejo Negro draws out the relevance of this work to contemporary photography as much as installation art and conceptualism. Critical essays written by Srinivas Aravamudan, Jennifer A. González, Arnaud Maillet, Walter Mignolo, and Pete Sigal reflect on Lasch’s work in relation to current debates in contemporary art, race discourse, pre-Colombian studies, postcolonial theory and decolonial thought.

Black Mirror/Espejo Negro is co-published by the Nasher Museum of Art and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University, with additional support from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

Indigenous Spectrum / Espectro Indígena
(Black Mirror #13-21)
2013-2014

Large scale site-specific, ephemeral installation

Produced specifically for the MUAC in Mexico City and incorporating pre-Colombian works from the UNAM’s own collection, Indigenous Spectrum is a new large scale museum installation from Pedro Lasch’s Black Mirror/Espejo Negro series. The first installation in the series focused on coloniality at large and was commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art to accompany its blockbuster exhibition El Greco to Velazquez. Lasch selected sixteen figures from the museum’s permanent collection of pre-Columbian art, and placed them on sculpture pedestals with their backs turned to the viewer. In front of the figures hung large, rectangular black mirrors, reflecting the fronts of the sculptures. After prolonged viewing, ghostly images of Spanish baroque paintings emerged from behind the dark sheets of glass. Standing amidst Lasch’s installation, the viewer saw indigenous art, colonial representation, and his or her own face and body collapsed onto a single mirrored plane.

The new installation created for MUAC’s Color Theory exhibition employs a similar play of physical and psychological reflections, but the new pairings intentionally exclude any representation from the Spanish colonial period. The nine chosen objects from Totonaca and other pre-Colombian civilizations are here all masks that face protraits and racial representations of indigeneity from Mexico’s postcolonial repertoire. These darkened postcolonial spectres and their reflected pre-Colombian masks stare back at the viewer through the black mirror, incorporating the present moment through its reflection. Covering a broad historical period (1810-present) and a wide range of representations (from the non-racial to the racist), these spectres include XIX Century ethnographic plates, the India Bonita pageant winner from the 1920s Universal Ilustrado, Diego Rivera’s fresco depiction of Tomás Mejía, the cinematic icon of Tizoc from Mexico’s Golden Era, the heroic Indians of Chucho Helguera, La India María’s most recent appearance as a telenovela character, and the intentionally opaque figure of Comandanta Ramona in her ski-mask. The spectres also expose the role particular media have played in the production and reproduction of what we consider to be Indigenous. Employing both modernist self-reflexivity and contemporary social art practice, these black mirrors make museum visitor’s bodies an unavoidable part of the artwork, therefore also bringing in all the racial associations such viewers may carry with them, be it by their own desire or society’s power of projection. An endless number of ephemeral portraits will thus be created as the MUAC’s visitors see their faces in each black mirror.

The Black Mirror series began when the Nasher Museum of Art commissioned a new work to accompany their exhibition From El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Phillip III. The series as a whole, with its play of transparencies and reflections, makes impossible any clear separation between past-present, artwork-viewer-environment, or the pre- and post-Columbian.