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Nuevo México Profundo: Photographs by Miguel Gandert

November 18, 2001 - January 9, 2002


The Harwood Museum of Art will present an exhibition by internationally acclaimed New Mexico Photographer Miguel Gandert, Nuevo México Profundo, from November 18, 2001 to January 9, 2002. Considering the focus of the news media today, the subject of this exhibition is particularly timely as it documents a unique New Mexico tradition which includes the struggle between Christianity and Islam, dating back to the Spanish conquest of New Mexico. The thirty-seven photographs depict the religious and secular rites of Hispanic New Mexico and were taken in the communities of Ranchos de Taos, Llano Quemado, Los Cordovas, Cordillera, Santa Cruz, Alcalde, Talpa, Picuris Pueblo and Taos. Curated by Helen Lucero, the exhibition was organized and is on loan from the Visual Arts Program of the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico. (left: image from the exhibition Nuevo México Profundo: Photographs by Miguel Gandert, Copyright: Miguel Gandert, El Comache David, Talpa, NM, 1996, gelatin silver print)

An Española native, Gandert has been photographing the social rituals, people and landscapes of his native New Mexico for over 20 years. Since receiving both Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of New Mexico, he has gained international acclaim from past exhibitions in Spain, Mexico, Norway, Russia and the Ukraine. Gandert has exhibited in some of the nation's leading museums including the National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Denver Art Museum. He is currently an associate professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Gandert's exhibition Nuevo México Profundo documents the sacred rituals and dances of the people of the Upper Rio Grande River Valley. Included are images of the Matachines conquest dance drama, complete with monsters and bull, and the multifaceted Comanche celebration, with the equestrian victory play and dance. The oldest Spanish folk play that was used in the conquest and is still seen in New Mexico today is "Mores y Christianos," illustrating the epic struggle between Christianity and Islam. (left: image from the exhibition Nuevo México Profundo: Photographs by Miguel Gandert, Copyright: Miguel Gandert, El Comache David, Talpa, NM, 1996, gelatin silver print)

The photography of Miguel Gandert portrays some of the oldest memories of New Mexico's Spanish past as well as influences from the "Mestizaje," or mixing of the Native American, Mexican and Spanish cultures. The Matachines dances are an allegorical reenactment of the spiritual drama of the conquest, and also reenact a complex blend of Indian and Spanish traditions. Los Comanches, the second great tradition of the ritual drama can be linked back to the 18th century attack of the Taos Valley by Comanche Indians. At every major feast, Hispaños and Pueblos dressed and singing as Comanches may be found along the Rio Grande Valley. In Picuris Pueblo, a northern Tiwa settlement, the depiction of the Aztec warrior Montezuma dates back to the conquest of Mexico. The "Mores y Christanos" an exuberant equestrian display and battle between Moors and Christians complete with horses, armor, and firearms were enacted in El Paso del Norte in 1598, but refer to the 1492 reconquest of Spain's Iberian Peninsula.

Miguel Gandert, quoted in art historian Lucy Lippard's essay from the book, New México Profundo, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, speaks of the spirit of the work:

Llano. Talpa. Ranchos de Taos. The first sun of the New Year rises to the beating of drums. Hispano Comanche dancers enter the famed Santuario de San Francisco de Assis to pray. So begins the feats of Emmanuel in the Nuevo Mexicano villages, the celebration of a holy promise fulfilled. Divinity and humanity become one, so the people dance. Like their neighbors at Taos Pueblo, the gente in these villages dress in buckskin and feathers and sing their oldest songs on tribute to their indigenous metizo heritage.
Two days after Christmas, dust, thundering hooves, and battle cries are raised in Alcalde, a village south of Taos. Los Comanches, a folk play dating to the 1870's, celebrates the heroic struggle between Españoles and Comanches. The death of Chief Cuerno Verde marks the end of generations of violence and the beginning of a lasting alliance.

The public is invited to an opening reception for Nuevo México Profundo: Photographs by Miguel Gandert at the Harwood Museum o Art on Sunday, November 18th from 3-5 pm. Also featured at the opening will be Los Comaches de la Serna dancers from Ranchos de Taos, Talpa and Llano Quemado, who will perform during the reception. On Thursday, December 13th at 7:30 pm, MigueI Gandert will lecture on his exhibition Nuevo México Profundo.

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