Engaged with Pre-Columbian Art


Artists in the Americas have long found inspiration in the art of Pre-Columbian civilizations like the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca. Working with Christian missionaries in sixteenth-century Mexico, native artists combined Aztec and European visual traditions---Aztec artist Juan Gerson, for example, inserted a Nahuatl pictogram for "water" into a painting of Noah's Ark. Following independence, artists in Latin America looked to the Ancient American past as a source of national identity. Diego Rivera's murals at the National Palace in Mexico City depict scenes of daily life in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and contain areas of grisaille meant to imitate Aztec and Mayan carved stelae. More recently, the Colombian artist Nadin Ospina has explored the commodification of the pre-Columbian past by making stone sculptures that reimagine figures from popular culture as Inca or Maya carved idols. Due to what has been seen as a Eurocentric bias to the terms "pre-Columbian" and its synonym "pre-Hispanic," the terms Ancient American, pre-contact, pre-conquest, and precolumbian (with Columbus de-emphasized) are commonly used.