Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ransom

A big part of my life this spring was helping coordinate and edit an exhibition brochure for the Palm Springs Art Museum. "Ransom," a multi-part installation by artist Lewis deSoto, is about Hernando de Soto's conquest of the New World. (According to the artist, yes, he might have a distant family connection with the conqueror.) That's the cover of the brochure above. The standing pot is undamaged and represents the pre-Columbian era: the fallen, broken pot is post-Columbian.

But the pots aren't the big draw of this exhibition, by a long shot. The big draw is the DeSoto Conquest, a fictional model that is sitting in the atrium of the museum. Lewis deSoto took a Chrysler New Yorker and modified it to represent a modern version of the conqueror's white war horse. There are some great details, like the conquistador's head on the steering wheel.

The other big draw is that local kids are featured in the exhibition on video. The kids above are reading "El Requerimiento," a chilling message that was delivered (in Spanish, of course) by the Spanish conquerors to native peoples wherever they went. Basically it goes like this: "Hello, we are the Spaniards. We are the superior race. By the authority of our King and Queen and the Pope, we are going to take everything you have that we want. If you won't give it to us, we will kill you and it will be your fault."

On the mezzanine, there are telescopes for viewing figures from the museum's pre-Columbian collection on the opposite side. The video screens have close-up footage of the eyes of local kids.

The car is on exhibit until mid-September; the rest of the exhibit stays up until December. (All photos in this post are by Lewis deSoto except for the brochure cover and the telescope, which are by Evelyn Trejo.)