Art of the Jesuits in Ibero-America

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, (c. 1944)
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By RENATA MARIA DE ALMEIDA MARTINS*

Commentary on the recently released book by Percival Tirapeli

The field of study of artistic and architectural manifestations, territorial systems, archeology, tangible and intangible heritage, involving the work of the Society of Jesus in the Americas, is one of the most traditional in national and international historiography.

In recent decades, renovated in the light of Histórias Conectadas and História Global, the great “Jesuit balcony” – citing the beautiful church of Grilos, belonging to the Society of Jesus in the city of Porto – has definitely opened up to a better knowledge of the Latin-American reality. America and its varied ancestral cultures, deepening themes such as indigenous, African and mestizo agency in the works born in the plural workshops of the Jesuits, in research, almost always, published in foreign languages.

Therefore, the beautiful initiative of Percival Tirapeli, renowned teacher, artist, historian of the arts, architecture and cities, in the organization of the work Art of the Jesuits in Ibero-America – dedicated to his dear life and travel companion, Laura –; and fruit, as he himself declares, of feeling and research, and I would add, passion and deepening, reveals to the academic area and the interested public, a path very attentive to these relationships, from the 80s to the post-doctorate in Lisbon in 2008 , to the writing of recent texts on paintings in Tepotzotlán in Mexico.

The work published by the Loyola publishing house is valuable in many ways, and presents an impressive variety of themes, also through a set of precious photographs, in the field of painting, sculpture, architecture and urbanism.

Here are the extremely varied Portuguese and Spanish models that will be reinterpreted in the Americas; ephemeral scenography and architecture, fundamental for the discussion of the transculturation of artistic and urban typologies of the Baroque on the American continent; the most relevant Jesuit complexes in Spanish America, such as the Missions from Chiquitos in Bolivia or the Apple and Jesuit Estancias from Córdoba in Argentina; and also in Portuguese America – from São Paulo, passing through Bahia, to the Amazon –, including the Missions of the Guarani Region of the former Jesuit Province of Paraguay; to name just a few of the most important and beautiful examples addressed by Prof. Percival.

The book, then, announces new airs, important in a context in which we need hope and solidarity, to look at the roots and ancestral cultures of our continent Abya Yala, not extinguished by the hard process of colonization; living forever, and which continue to produce art and architecture of great quality in contemporary times: Aymara, Quechua, Mixteca, Mexica, Guarani, Baniwa, Tukano, Tupinambá; Afro-indigenous, Afro-Brazilian, mestizo, caiçaras, riverside cultures, and many others.

Percival's book precisely indicates that we need to get to know each other, as one of the most important scholars of the History of Art, Architecture and Urbanism in Ibero-America, Ramón Gutiérrez, warned in the 1980s.

Once published, the work will be a significant contribution to our efforts to include Latin American themes in Brazilian colleges, which will dialogue and connect, for example, the Andes, the Guaraní Region and the Amazon; Córdoba, La Plata Basin and São Paulo; Chiquitos, Bahia and Grão-Pará.

*Renata Maria de Almeida Martins is a professor of History of Art and Architecture at FAU-USP.

Reference


Percival Tirapeli. Art of the Jesuits in Ibero-America: Architecture, sculpture, painting. São Paulo, Loyola editions, 2021, 352 pages.

 

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