Dallas, TX—February 9, 2021 — Devotional objects play an important role in the daily life of communities and can be admired as much for their artistic value as for their spiritual significance. The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) will present over 35 devotional sculptures and paintings from its impressive collection of Latin American art in Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico, opening March 7. The exhibition focuses on two distinct but related practices: bultos, wooden sculptures of saints and other holy figures, and ex-votos, paintings that commemorate personal miracles. Devoted explores the imagery and function of these objects, which are the embodiment of the active spiritual relationships between their creators, patrons, and communities. Created in Mexico and New Mexico between the early 19th and mid-20th centuries, these notable works in the Museum’s collection are historical examples of traditions dating back hundreds of years that continue to be practiced today.
Devoted will be on view in the Tower Gallery on Level 4 through January 2, 2022, and opens simultaneously with Frida Kahlo: Five Works. Both exhibitions are curated by Dr. Mark A. Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art, and are included in free general admission.
“As we continue to strengthen the exhibition of Latin American art at the DMA, it is our goal to present exhibitions that resonate with our local and regional communities,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “The traditions explored in Devoted will likely be familiar to many visitors, and we hope all can admire the artistic craftsmanship of these very personal objects and be inspired by the hope they convey.”
“As I began working on this show last spring, I found a great deal of comfort in these works,” said Dr. Castro. “Some of them would have been looked to when hardships struck their communities, while others depict individuals who were miraculously saved from danger. I hope that visitors enjoy learning about them and find the same sense of solace that I did.”
Devoted presents 20 bultos, carved wooden sculptures that depict Catholic saints, the Virgin Mary, and Christ. Bultos function as intermediaries between the faithful and the sacred figures they represent. The tradition emerged in Spanish settler and native communities in present-day New Mexico in the late 1700s. The featured bultos span a range of styles, highlighting both the distinct traits of prominent santeros, who created the sculptures, and the shared visual heritage between historic and contemporary works. Examples include the intricately painted works of José Benito Ortega and the unpainted “Cordova style” bultos of George López.
The exhibition also features a selection of ex-votos, small oil-on-tin paintings commissioned by individuals to express gratitude for an answered prayer. Ex-votos pair a visual illustration of a miraculous event with a written account. The ex-votos in Devoted each tell the story of an individual’s personal miracle and come from various cities in Mexico, including Mexico City, Puebla, and San Luis Potosí.
Many of the sculptures and paintings in Devoted underwent conservation analysis and treatment in preparation for the exhibition. Due to their active use, bultos were frequently repaired and repainted. Using infrared reflectography, the DMA’s conservators were able to peer beneath layers of paint to uncover the hidden histories of three 19th-century bultos. In the case of The Ascension of Christ, a painting created between 1775 and 1825 that is richly decorated with milagros (small votive offerings), examination revealed how the milagros were sewn onto canvas by hand. Conservation findings are highlighted in labels throughout the exhibition.
A virtual tour of the exhibition will be available at virtual.DMA.org in the coming months.
Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.
Images: Attributed to José Rafael Aragón, Saint Rosalia of Palermo, early 19th–mid 19th century, carved wood, gesso, paint, hide, cloth, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 1961.52; Ex-voto Dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, 1886, Mexico, oil on tin, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus Foundation, 1961.84; George López, Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life, 1956, carved cottonwood, pine, cedar, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1956.100.1
About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country. With a free general admission policy and community outreach efforts, the DMA is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. The DMA is an Open Access institution, allowing all works believed to be in the public domain to be freely available for downloading, sharing, repurposing, and remixing without restriction. For more information, visit DMA.org.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.
For more information, please contact:
Jill Bernstein, Director of Communications and Public Affairs