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Miguel Covarrubias and Colin McPhee – a dialogue on the influence of Bali i...

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Mexican Cultural Institute

2829 16th Street Northwest

Washington, DC 20009

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In the context of the PostClassical Ensemble concert “Cultural Fusion: The Gamelan Experience” -- at the Washington National Cathedral on Jan. 23, the Mexican Cultural Institute is proud to present:

Miguel Covarrubias and Colin McPhee – a dialogue on the influence of Bali in Western art

with Inbal Miller and Joseph Horowitz

Mexican painter and ethnographer Miguel Covarrubias and Canadian American composer Colin McPhee arrived in Bali in the 1930s originally planning to stay for a short while. Both stayed longer, captivated by the beauty and mysticism of Balinese dances and music.

Inbal Miller will revisit the stay of Miguel Covarrubias in 1930 and 1933, and the manner in which he meticulously documented the Balinese culture in his seminal book, Island of Bali. She will then discuss his return to New York, and the influence of his Balinese experience on his art, highlighting his Pacific murals and his research leading to the book, “The South of Mexico: the Tehuantepec Isthmus.”

Joseph Horowitz will discuss the presence of Colin McPhee in Bali since 1931, from where he had to flee as homosexuality was banned under the colonial rule. Like Covarrubias, McPhee’s book, House on Bali, provides evidence of the Balinese culture from the perspective of a Western observer, especially in terms of its androgynous nature. And, as with Covarrubias, McPhee’s music – he is an important precursor to Philip Glass and “minimalism” – was transformed by the influence of gamelan.

The talks will be complemented by excerpts of the films, Island of Bali, filmed by Miguel and Rose Covarrubias and edited by José Benitez Muro, and Colin McPhee: The Lure of Asian Music, by Michael Blackwood, as well as by multiple musical excerpts. We invite you to a conversation about two visionary artists and explorers, and of how Bali deeply influenced their view of the world and, through their contributions in their respective fields, the development of Western art.

The speakers

Inbal Miller

Expert in contemporary art with a deep interest in modern art, with a degree in art history. Co-author of the books, "Limitless, Contemporary Art in Mexico City 2000-2010" and "Déjavu, Contemporary Cell 20054-2007." Editor and coordinator of the research "Playgrounds of Modern Mexico" by Aldo Solano (forthcoming). Curator of numerous exhibitions including Covarrubias and Bali, Museum Pasifika, Bali, Indonesia, 2013. Since 2010, she has been interested in the life and work of Miguel Covarrubias, highlighting his labor as a researcher, anthropologist, and ethnohistorian, as well as his important role in the development of art.

Joseph Horowitz

Author of ten books dealing with the music of the Americas, including the seminal Classical Music in America: A History (2005). As Executive Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic at BAM in the 1990s, he produced the first symphonic exploration of the influence of gamelan on Western music – a festival including both Balinese and Javanese gamelans, and such participants as Steve Reich and Lukas Foss. He is co-founder and Executive Director of DC’s PostClassical Ensemble.


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Mexican Cultural Institute

2829 16th Street Northwest

Washington, DC 20009

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