The 18th century was when Mexican art went global. In Europe this was the age of the Rococo and the Enlightenment; and in Mexico too, artists explored brighter colors, asymmetry, playfulness, and empiricism. Sometimes all are combined in one painting, as in Miguel Cabrera's Portrait of María Bárbara Guadalupe de Ovando y Rivadeneyra with Guardian Angel, c. 1760. This was also the century in which Mexican painters sought to distinguish themselves from European precedents. The most ambitious art remained devotional, sometimes exhibiting a twee magic realism (below, another Cabrera, The Divine Spouse, c. 1750.)
Such art has been a hard sell to American audiences. Contemporary viewers roll their eyes at sincere religious paintings (unless they're by Leonardo?) Some hipsters appreciate this art as an exemplar of "bad taste." But if you're ready to take Mexico's painterly tradition seriously, you won't find a better introduction than LACMA's "Painted in Mexico, 1700-1790: Pinxit Mexico." Co-curated by the museum's Ilona Katzew, it brings together over 100 paintings, many monumental in scale and by the most esteemed artists of the period. The last of the mega-PST LA/LA exhibitions to open, "Painted in Mexico" represents years of new scholarship (in English and Spanish editions of its catalog). Many of the works have never been published or shown in museums before.
Who painted the original Guadalupe? The faithful say God himself. Today's skeptical art historians throw out the name Marcos Cipac de Aquino (died 1572), a Christianized Nahuatl artist. But Pope Benedict created an 18th-century controversy by refusing to class the Guadalupe as a divinely made icon.
a small oil-on-copper Nepomuk, 1770, by José de Páez, making its debut here.