Landmark study explores Hispanic Baroque while reinventing digital humanities research

Flow of artworks from their original production place (in red) to their current holding locations, mostly museums, galleries, and private collections (in green).

Flow of artworks from their original production place (in red) to their current holding locations, mostly museums, galleries, and private collections (in green).

Inspiring everything from Las Vegas to Lady Gaga, Hispanic Baroque is every bit an influence on modern day trends as is hip-hop and hipsters. And yet, tracing the cultural complexity that Hispanic Baroque has spawned for centuries has proven an unenviable task. Until now.

A landmark study by The Cultureplex Lab at Western University has explored Hispanic Baroque like no previous research project of its kind. By combining traditional research tools of the humanities with complex data analysis from the sciences, Cultureplex Lab principal investigator Juan-Luis Suárez and his team have developed new methodologies which have ignited research capabilities of this ever-influential cultural phenomena (and all other digital humanities research for that matter), figuratively – not literally – transporting the game-changing study through space and time.

baroque paintingWith their most recent findings published in Oxford Journals Literary and Linguistic Computing, The Hispanic Baroque: Complexity in the First Atlantic Culture is a multi-disciplinary collaboration at Western between Digital Humanities, Computer Science and Art History that started in 2007. The project brings together internationally-renowned researchers from varying backgrounds to analyze cultural complexities from an increasingly globalized society. Those involved in this multi-year study have focused on tracking Spanish Baroque patterns that have surfaced across the globe within Hispanic Baroque art, music and literature.

In this new publication, titled, “Towards a digital geography of Hispanic Baroque art,” Suárez and his team have presented the most current results of their project, which examines different ways in which social practices – from creation to circulation to collection – affect the spatial organization of art beyond political territories.

Juan Luis Suárez

Juan Luis Suárez

Suárez, a Hispanic Studies professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Western’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, says the team’s complete and coherent methodology can be applied to other problems and subfields within the humanities, addressing long-standing cultural questions of cause and concern.

“The power of data analysis and visualizations allows us to work in harmony – illustrating and articulating answers to questions that have been plaguing humanities researchers for centuries,” says Suárez, who notes The Cultureplex is currently working on measuring influences among Baroque artists, specially the different paths in which the work of Peter Paul Ruben inspires Latin American painting of the 17th and 18th centuries.

For the full paper: http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/08/13/llc.fqt050.short?rss=1

For more information on The Cultureplex at Western: http://www.cultureplex.ca/

For more information on The Hispanic Baroque Project: http://www.hispanicbaroque.ca/

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Transformations

Fig. 2 Transformations in artistic production through three Baroque periods in Spain, Mexico, and Peru showing communicative exchanges and influenced by historical developments in the areas.

Oaxaca

Fig. 1 Oaxaca as a cultural area in the context not only of Mexico, but of Central America and the Andean region in the period of 1750-1775 through which artistic influence flows. Screenshot generated from the source tool baroqueart.cultureplex.ca


flow

Fig. 3 Flow of artworks from their original production place (in red) to their current holding locations, mostly museums, galleries, and private collections (in green).

paintings

Fig. 4 Examples of Baroque paintings contained at baroqueart.cultureplex.ca all currently held in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. From left to right: Juan Pantoja de la Cruz Portrait of Prince Philip Emmanuel of Savoy (1604); Luis Meléndez Still Life with Fruit and Jug (1773); Francisco de Zurbarán Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia (1635-1640).