Sandy Rodriguez: Narrative Cartography as an Act of Contemporary Resistance

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The exhibits, “Mixpantli: Space, Time, and the Indigenous Origins of Mexico” and “Mixpantli: Contemporary Echoes,” showcased at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from December 12, 2021–June 12, 2022, commemorate the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. The work of Los Angeles-based artist Sandy Rodriguez particularly calls simplified narratives of conquest into question. By building off the Nahua tradition of narrative cartography from the 16th and 17th centuries, her maps delineate people, place and their relations to histories of violence.

Rodriguez’s work stirs viewers as they consider their interwoven ancestral histories and the shrinking distance from the issues of the past and the present.

One of her works on display, “Rainbows, Grizzlies, and Snakes, Oh My! – Conquest to Caging in Los Angeles (2019)” depicts “recognizable, modern representations of today’s contested territories: the US-Mexican border, the Western States of the US and California, and Los Angeles, [as she] fuses present day events with imagery made by 16th-century painters to transform these maps into complex, multilayered images of history.”

Writer Shanti Escalante-De Mattei’s ARTnews article, “LACMA Exhibits Subvert the Totalizing Myths of Colonial Conquest,” (Feb. 18, 2022) points to Rodriguez’s watercolor work, You will not be forgotten. Mapa for the children killed in custody of US Customs and Border Protection (2019) as a captivating piece that pinpoints where children died under the hands of Border Patrol. Even more, Rodriguez’s work, “Mapa de Los Angeles 2020—for the 35 Angelinos Killed by Police Amid a Pandemic (2021)” “tracks police violence across the city during a time of acute crisis.”

Rodriguez told the writer Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times that through her careful study of Mexico’s past she grew determined to create her own codex, or narrative study. “I wanted to create a mestizo Chicana codex…thinking about the border and these artificial boundaries that have been placed, and trying to layer these narratives — it’s historic, it’s contemporary, it’s this precise political moment all in one.”

Read the complete ARTnews article and Los Angeles Times piece for more.

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