Art, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Research Institute

Obsidian Mirror-Travels Explores Myths and Truths about Ancient Mexico

The current exhibition at the Getty Research Institute, Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Ancient Mexican Art and Archaeology, challenges our ideas of how we understand the past. More than 70 objects from the Colonial era to the present, including maps, books, photographs, engravings, and contemporary works, explore how artists, archaeologists, and artists have looked through a mirror darkly at ancient Mexico.

The fragments of Mexico’s Pre-Columbian past are exactly that: fragments. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to think about what fragments say about a past civilization—and what they might say about us. These pieces, like our projections onto them, change over time.

The past is rarely cohesive or reconciled, or even ever past, says scholar and author Khristaan Villela, who curated the exhibition with senior collections cataloguer Beth Guynn. “People of all kinds—explorers, professors and visual artists—continue to mine ancient Mexico for inspiration,” he says.

In this video he discusses how the exhibition came to be and gives you a taste of what you’ll see in the show.

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      It’s been 125 years since Van Gogh’s death, today we celebrate his life’s work.


      5 Ways to See Van Gogh’s Irises

      Through observations, visitor conversations, and some sneaky eavesdropping, we’ve compiled the top 5 ways people enjoy this painting.

      1. In a Crowd
        One of the most obvious ways that people see the painting is in a crowd. The gallery is almost always filled, and you might have to wait before you can get up close. The anticipation builds as you start in the back row, and slowly move until you are close enough to see the brushstrokes of Van Gogh’s thick paint.

      2. Online
        David from Colorado said that this was his first visit, but he had already seen the painting online. In addition to being available through the Getty’s Open Content program, the painting is often seen on social media. Just search #irises on Instagram for a taste of the painting’s popularity. 

      3. Alone
        If you arrive right at 10 a.m. when the museum opens, the quiet gallery provides a perfect backdrop to really examine the painting. Solitude and seclusion gives the gallery a sense of intimacy. 

      4. Multiple Times
        Repeat visits can give rise to multiple interpretations. Is it a melancholy or joyous painting? Expressive or depressive? 

      5. Internationally
        Visitors from all across the world viewed this famous Van Gogh. In just one hour you can hear multiple languages—French, Italian, Chinese, Korean, German, and more. Irises seems to rise above cultural boundaries—a Dutch painting inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints—to strike an emotional resonance amongst all viewers. 

      What is your favorite lens to view Van Gogh’s work through? 

      07/29/15

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