America is a European invention. Between 1492 and the late 1800s, European conquistadors, travelers, and artists produced prints, books and objects that illustrated the natural resources and Native peoples of the Americas, often constructing fantastic and fictional ideas. Mixing reality with their own conventions and interpretations, they created portable and reproducible images that circulated around the world, fueling the spread of stereotypes and prejudices.
“(Re)Inventing the Americas: Repeat. Erase, Construct,” on view Aug. 23-Jan. 8, 2023, analyzes the creation of the mythologies that arose during the conquest and exploration of the continents and reveals the influence that those myths and utopian visions have had on defining the Americas.
“This exhibition reframes the colonial and 19th-century materials in the Getty Research Institute collections, challenging European representations of the American continents,” said Mary Miller, director of the Getty Research Institute. “It proposes that the Americas were reinvented utilizing European conventions and imaginaries.”
The exhibition will be divided into thematic sections. The first one will examine the allegorical construction of America and the sources and evolution of these images. The second section will explore the natural wealth of the Americas, while highlighting the exploitation of those resources. The third part will look at the construction of archetypes by analyzing recurring topics, such as the depiction of local people with feathers and hammocks and the portrayal of idolatry and cannibalism. The fourth section will be devoted to images of the conquest, emphasizing the political overtones of certain narratives. The final section will look at the work of European travelers, stressing the differences and commonalities with previous constructions.
The exhibition will feature a collaboration with Denilson Baniwa, a contemporary artist from the Brazilian Amazon region who will generate different artistic interventions throughout the show. Baniwa’s work prompts viewers to critically reevaluate the materials from the past to help navigate the colonial traumas, generating new reinventions of the Americas. Additionally, commentary on exhibition objects by Latinx and Indigenous members of the Los Angeles community will give a multi-perspectival approach to the pieces.
“Our collections illustrate the construction of an image of the Americas based on the European perspective,” said Idurre Alonso, curator at the Getty Research Institute. “Thus, it was important to me to analyze and counter that European view by introducing a multilayered presentation of the exhibition objects. To do that, I collaborated with Denilson Baniwa and our local Latin American and Latinx community. Their voices became part of the narrative of the show, challenging the persistence of certain notions. The outcome of these collaborations is a multifaceted exhibition that showcases the complex reinventions of the Americas from the Colonial time to today.”
The Getty Center is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The Getty Center is open until 8 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Mondays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free, but a reservation is required for admission. To make reservations, visit getty.edu/ visit or call (310)440-7300. Parking is $20, $15 after 3 p.m. and $10 after 6 p.m. The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Dr.
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