Pedro Lasch


Games, Non-Habitual Habits, Temporal Re-arrangements
Selected Works Catalogue | 1998 - Present




Black Mirror - Espejo Negro:
The Photographic Suites

2008
C-prints
Dimensions range from 17 x 18” to 45”x 69”
Photographic works based on the large scale
installation of the same title at The Nasher
Museum of Art, Durham, NC.

Painting-Sculpture Confrontation Suite, 12 Prints, Edition of 5

View all suites together


Liquid Abstraction / Abstracción líquida [S3BM1A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
17 ¾ x 34 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


1. Liquid Abstraction

This obsidian mirror, the centerpiece of the Black Mirror/Espejo Negro project, is rich in historical as well as poetic associations. Louis XIV, the French monarch also called the Sun King, kept a similarly large and rare black disk as a most prized possession in his cabinet of wonders, his private collection of natural artifacts and art objects from around the world. Said to have come from the personal treasure of Moctezuma (also called Montezuma II, the last emperor of Aztec Mexico, ruled 1502–20), Louis’s disk is now in the Museum of Natural History in Paris.

“Liquid abstraction” refers to lava, that incandescent liquid that flows under us, beneath petroleum repositories, closer to the heart of the Earth. Obsidian, the material of which this Aztec disc is made, is a naturally occurring glass formed when felsic lava flows from a volcano and cools down without forming crystals. The title also reminds us of another process requiring extremely high temperatures, the founding through which Spanish colonizers melted pre-Columbian sculptures and sacred objects to transform them into gold bricks and other financial abstractions.

Anonymous, Aztec, central Mexico

Obsidian mirror disk, 1300–1521 ce
Polished obsidian, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke
University, Museum purchase in memory of Reigh Ashton, with funds
provided by Craig and Faith Ashton, and additional funds by Reigh
Ashton’s friends, 2000.6.1



The Smoking Mirror / El Espejo Humeante [S3BM2A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
38 x 31 1/4 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


2. The Smoking Mirror

The Aztec god Tezcatlipoca is also known as the “Smoking Mirror,” and obsidian mirrors are directly associated with him. Such mirrors are still used ceremonially in Mexico and often share space with the burning of incense and other devotional practices associated with the Virgin of Guadalupe, whom we see here in the image behind the dark glass. This installation establishes a parallel between the Aztec deity and the Virgin, who showed herself in the flat forms of apparitions, as seen in her image miraculously imprinted on a cape.

Anonymous, Maya Culture, Tiquisate region, Guatemala

Incense burner, Early Classic period, 250–550 ce
Ceramic, with traces of red, yellow, blue, black, and white paint,
Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Gift of
Dr. and Mrs. Francis Robiscek, 1980.3.1a

Earlier judged to be a fake, this incense burner is now considered to be
authentic. Such radical swings in the evaluation of ancient artifacts are
characteristic of their life in private and public collections, but are especially common with understudied or underappreciated art traditions
and regions, such as those of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Reproduction behind glass:

Anonymous, Viceroyalty of New Spain

Juan Diego Shows the Miraculous Ayate, mid-1700s
Oil on canvas, Private Collection



Human Landscape & the Picturesque / El Paisaje Humano y lo Pintoresco [S3BM3A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
27 x 24 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


3. Human Landscape and the Picturesque

In Europe from roughly 1700 to 1850, painters and early tourists would take excursions into the countryside carrying black, round mirrors strikingly similar to the obsidian disk at the center of this installation. Europeans called these objects “Claude mirrors,” and used them to study images of beautiful landscapes, reflected and temporarily captured in the dark glass. This search for pleasing picturesque landscapes in nature, which were framed in the mirror and resembled the compositions of landscape paintings, impacted landscape design and aesthetic attitudes toward the environment. The history of the Claude mirror and the picturesque is suggestive of the treatment of particular peoples as part of the natural landscape, rather than as part of human civilization or culture. The “gentle Indians” shown behind this glass are examples of this fact, but so are innumerable tourist photographs taken today. These typically include not just the landmarks and landscapes of the visited site but also pictures of the “natives” or people who regularly inhabit it.

Left to right:

Anonymous, Jalisco style, Jalisco, Mexico

Seated figure with helmet, 100 bce–300 ce
Ceramic with red and white slip paint, Collection of the Nasher
Museum of Art at Duke University, Gift of Rochelle and Alan
Kesselman, 1988.6

Anonymous, Moche Culture, Peru

Warrior figure vase, 200–500 ce
Redware with cream and black, Collection of the Nasher Museum
of Art at Duke University, Paul A. and Virginia Clifford Collection,
1973.1.521

Reproduction behind glass:

Miguel Cabrera or Mexican school

Gentle Indians, 1763 (from a series of 16 “caste paintings”)
Oil on canvas, Museo de América, Madrid



Hypnotism & Necromancy / Hipnotismo y Necromancia [S3BM4A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
48 x 39 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


4. Hypnotism and Necromancy

Many cultures have used black mirrors and other dark reflections to communicate with the dead. But before allowing one to speak to the dead, the mirror induces a state of hypnotic emptiness of mind. In this pairing we see the common Mesoamerican cosmological understanding of life and death as a continuous cycle. The pregnant woman of the pre-Columbian figurine is contrasted with the aging ecclesiastic by El Greco shown in the painting behind the glass. Together they reveal a profound difference between how each gender experiences birth and death.

Anonymous, Ameca gray type, Jalisco, Mexico

Seated female figure, 200 bce–300 ce
Ceramic with red and gray-white slip paint, Collection of the Nasher
Museum of Art at Duke University, Paul A. and Virginia Clifford
Collection, 1973.1.58

Reproduction behind glass:

El Greco (Domenicos Theotokopoulos), Greek, 1541–1614, lived and worked in Spain

Portrait of an Ecclesiastic, ca. 1610–14
Oil on canvas, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas



Mimesis & Transgression / Mimesis y Transgresión [S3BM5A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
54 x 40 1/2 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


5. Mimesis and Transgression

Transgressions can be understood as intentional or accidental deviations from the norm, the breaking of rules, or the performance of forbidden acts. The breast-feeding bearded woman shown in the Spanish painting behind the glass transgresses norms of gender and of familial relations. On the other hand, the female figure made from volcanic stone standing in front of us speaks of mimesis, or close resemblance. Although the volcanic material of which she is made is close in origin to the polished obsidian of the disk at the center of the Black Mirror/Espejo Negro project, they are nevertheless different in their representation of form. The disk, like a painting, depicts a figure through the illusion of two-dimensional reflections, whereas the sculptural standing figure represents the human form by means of a shape in space that we must relate to our own bodies.

Anonymous, Atlantic Watershed region, Costa Rica

Standing female figure, Early Period VI, ca. 1000 ce
Volcanic stone, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke
University, Gift of Dr. John R. McLaren, 1984.42.2

Reproduction behind glass:

José de Ribera, Spanish, 1592–1652
The Bearded Woman, Magdalena Ventura, and Her Husband, 1631
Oil on canvas, Palacio Lerma, Fundación Casa Ducal de
Lerma, Toledo



Incest, Narcissism & Melancholy / Incesto, Narcisismo y Melancolía [S3BM6A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
35 x 54 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


6. Incest, Narcissism and Melancholy

Spanish viceregal and European aristocracies from the colonial period amassed ever larger territories through strategic marriages and reproduction. With intermarriage among fewer and fewer families, resulting in various kinds of sometimes incestuous relationships, these classes grew ever more powerful. This trend, and the luxurious lifestyle afforded by the exploitation of the colonies and their subjects, soon led to lifestyles of great narcissism. But it also produced a culture of deep melancholy, which can be related to the black mirrors in this installation. The association between black mirrors and melancholy was made by artists and writers of the period, who might reference melancholy as a reflective puddle of black bile, where an unknowing subject may lose herself forever, very much as Narcissus, in the classic Greek myth, lost himself by falling in love with his own reflection. The portrait here of the extravagantly dressed young Prince Philip IV and Princess Ana exemplifies how children were expected to perform very important roles in the symbolism of political authority. Facing the pre-Columbian sculptures of the jaguar and the serpent, both symbols of power, the portrait of the infant future monarchs should not be seen here as a representation of two individuals, but as two very young children already invested with the visual representation of exclusivity and power.

Left to right:

Anonymous, Zapotec, Mexico

Seated figure urn with buccal mask of the serpent, Monte Albán II,
300–900 ce
Ceramic, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University,
Gift of Fred P. and Jean N. Bruno, 1981.72

Anonymous, southwestern Nicaragua

Jaguar effigy vessel, Late Period VI, 1200–1400 ce
Ceramic with red and black on white slip paint, Collection of the
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Paul and Virginia Clifford
Collection, 1973.1.210

Reproduction behind glass:

Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, Spanish, 1553–1608

Portrait of Philip IV and Ana, 1607
Oil on canvas, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

In pre-Columbian times, the jaguar often symbolized a supernatural creature who would eat up the sun and thus create the night. It is thought that the smaller jaguars painted on the limbs of the figure displayed here represent the stars in the nighttime sky, which appear when the sun is devoured at sunset.



Blind Taste / Gusto Ciego [S3BM7A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
30 x 38 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


7. Blind Taste

Black mirrors have long been associated with blindness, and the resulting enhanced use of the other senses. In the painting shown behind the glass a well-nourished man holds a circular mirror of dark blood. He seems to be offering it to the starved figure from Nayarit, Mexico, sitting on the pedestal before him. Her open mouth becomes a reflection of the liquid in his brimming bowl.

Anonymous, Nayarit, Mexico

Seated female, emaciated, with ribs showing, 250 bce–200 ce
Ceramic, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University,
Gift of Mrs. Ivan B. Hart, 1986.8.1

Reproduction behind glass:

Attributed to Alejandro de Loarte, Spanish, 1595–1626

Kitchen Scene or Bodegón, ca. 1620
Oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, on deposit at the Museum
Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam



Collecting, Categorizing, Colonizing, Racializing / Coleccionar, Categorizar, Colonizar, Racializar [S3BM8A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
32 x 38 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


8. Collecting, Categorizing, Colonizing, Racializing

The painting behind this glass belongs to the first known set of works of a complex genre called “caste painting.” A form of art and decoration, and a powerful tool of indoctrination, this genre established visual racial codes, rigidly assigning a specific status to each skin tone in the Spanish colonial order. Here, for example, a couple of “Spanish” and “Indian” blood is explained as producing “Mestizo” offspring. Highest in this colonial hierarchy stood the Spaniard and his whiteness. Below was the brownskinned colonial majority. Lowest, and representing the extreme opposite of all things fair and European, was the blackness associated with African slaves. This pairing reflects on the violent history of race, as well as the crucial role that art and visual culture have often played in the creation of racist social structures.

Left to right:

Anonymous, Nayarit, Mexico

Warrior, 200 bce–300 ce
Ceramic with red, white, orange, and black slip paint, Collection of the
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Gift of Lucy M. Handler,
1984.9.1

Anonymous, Nayarit, Mexico

Ixtlan kneeling figure, Proto-classic, 200 bce–400 ce
Ceramic, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University,
Paul and Virginia Clifford Collection, 1973.1.42

Reproduction behind glass:

Anonymous, Mexican school

From Spanish and Indian Results Mestiso (from a series of 14 caste paintings), ca. 1725
Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Breamore House, Londo



Language & Opacity / Lenguaje y Opacidad [S3BM9A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
18 x 17 1/8 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


9. Language and Opacity

The dual capacity of language, as a tool that can simultaneously reveal and hide things, was a particular delight to writers of the Baroque era such as Luis de Góngora y Argote, pictured here. Language reduces reality into simplified forms by the use of signs, words, and sentences. It creates reflections of reality, but these may be seen as idealized, manipulated, or distorted representations. The black mirror works in a similar way, as it reduces shapes and tones into simple forms and shades. Using the idea of language and the black glass as different kinds of mirrors, we observe Góngora facing the Chibcha figure in front of him. Switching the art-historical titles used on the label to describe each one of these two representations, we may think instead of Góngora as a “human effigy” and the Chibcha figure as a “portrait.” Even further, we may imagine the Chibcha sculpture to be a three-dimensional reflection of the face we see in the painting, geometrically simplified and stylized according to the filters of this specific pre-Columbian culture. We could then be witnessing mutual reflections of the image of any man, from either side of the looking glass, the Spanish or the pre-Columbian, each being able to claim the role of the original, forever wed to the almost photographic view of our own changing face and those of our contemporaries as we also see ourselves in the black glass.

Anonymous, Muisca Culture, central Colombia

Human effigy, 1000–1540 ce
Ceramic, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University,
Gift of Mr. Cedric H. Marks, 1978.23.17

Reproduction behind glass:

Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez, Spanish, 1599–1660

Luís de Góngora y Argote, 1622
Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



Memory Shift / Desplazamiento de la Memoria [S3BM10A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
49 x 25 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


10. Memory Shift

“The night is a black mirror. . . . The frame is formed by the four cardinal points of a horizon of up and down, of trees and gray dark. A mirror seen from the dark side of the mirror. The dark side of a mirror, warning of what is behind it, promising it. . . . All histories are peopled with shadows. . . . Someone said that zapatismo found success because it knew how to weave nets. Yes, but behind our nets there are many weavers of skillful hands, of great ingenuity, of prudent steps. And, while an incandescent and brief light is raised above every knot of the rebel net of the forgotten of the world, in the shadows they are still weaving new strokes and embraces.”

This quote is taken from a children’s story entitled “The Devils of the New Century” in the book Zapatista Stories (2001) by Subcomandante Marcos. The community of the forgotten, of which Marcos speaks, has inspired the entire project of Black Mirror/Espejo Negro. But its specific connections to this particular visual pairing are also about memory, and the horizontal reflections of sky and earth, seen in the painting by Zurbarán, and in the image of the wind deity represented on this sculptural incense burner from Mexico.

Anonymous, Veracruz, Mexico

Incense burner with buccal mask of wind god Ehecatl, 1200 ce
Ceramic and paint, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke
University, Gift of Wallace Kiminsky, 1981.70.1

Reproduction behind glass:

Francisco de Zurbarán, Spanish, 1598–1664

Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630–34
Oil on canvas, Milwaukee Art Museum



Expulsion & Return / Expulsión y Retorno [S3BM11A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
26 x 62 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


11. Expulsion and Return

Most reproductions in this installation of black mirrors represent paintings created during the supremacy of the Habsburgs, between 1516 and 1700. This period could be said to mark a continuous intellectual, political, and military project for that dynasty. It began with the expulsion of the Jews and Moors from Spain between 1491 and 1609, was followed by the CounterReformation in Europe, and culminated in one of the largest genocides in history, a global expansion of Spanish and Portuguese power, and the Christianization of most of the American hemisphere. El Greco’s masterpiece, shown here under glass, is considered by many to be one of the most powerful visual representations of Counter-Reformation ideology and sentiment. Its vertiginous circles attract and repel us, in the same way as the circular obsidian mirror. Each of the three pre-Columbian figures repeats the circular pattern through its own cylindrical shape. These figures confront the Counter-Reformation worldview of El Greco’s era with representational forms that are characteristic of the complex indigenous heritage still existing today in Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. In modern-day Spain, the Counter-Reformation is now confronted by the return of Islam, with the influx of African Muslims living and working there, five hundred years after their original expulsion. In Latin America, aside from the extraordinary example of Bolivian President Evo Morales, national and international political elites are still not ready to accept a similar “return” to visibility of Indigenous cultures displaced and repressed by five centuries of Spanish-speaking, Catholic reign.

Left to right:

Anonymous, Veracruz, Mexico

Cylindrical figure vessel probably representing Xochipilli-Macuilxochitl,
the summer crops
, 600–900 ce
Xantile sculpture, Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke
University, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. William Stein, 1979.21.2

Anonymous, Chancay, Peru

Human effigy urn, Late Intermediate period, 1000–1476 ce
Ceramic with red, white, and brown slip paint, Collection of the
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Gift of Mr. and Mrs.
William C. Schmidt, 1981.74.2

Anonymous, lower Magdalena River region, northern Colombia

Urn lid with seated figure, Moskito style, n.d.
Ceramic with cream and black slip paint, Collection of the Nasher
Museum of Art at Duke University, Gift of Dr. Richard Kitchell, 1988.3a

Reproduction behind glass:

El Greco (Domenicos Theotokopoulos), Greek, 1541–1614, lived and worked in Spain

The Burial of Count Orgaz, 1586–88
Oil on canvas, Church of Santo Tomé, Toledo



Rectangular Monstrosities / Monstruosidades Rectangulares [S3BM12A]
from Black Mirror / Espejo Negro: The Photographic Suites (2007-2008)
38 x 40 inches, Cibachrome print, Edition of 5


12. Rectangular Monstrosities

The morbid fascination with obesity, shown in the Spanish painting under the dark glass, is here confronted with the preColumbian sculptural representation of a swimmer that we may now find beautiful, but which would have certainly been considered “horrific” to the painter of “the monstrous girl.” To be sure, the monstrosities alluded to in the title of this pairing do not refer to the individuals or figures depicted, but to the systems of representation that often portray them or describe them as such. When Europeans took over the Inca and Aztec empires, as well as the native cultures of North America, they melted down innumerable local artistic creations fabricated in gold and silver. Who knows how many objects, and of what kind of beauty, were thus transformed into rectangular bricks of precious metals to be exchanged, shipped, and stored. But to justify to themselves such evident and radical cultural destruction, Christian Europeans first had to devalue the aesthetic merits of these works. Aesthetic claims of “monstrosity,” and moral or religious claims of “idolatry,” were the favored tools of devaluation.

Anonymous, Veracruz, Mexico

Reclining effigy figure, Classic period, 250–900 ce
Ceramic with asphalt-based postfire paint, Collection of the Nasher
Museum of Art at Duke University, 1985.2.1

Reproduction behind glass:

Juan Carreño de Miranda, Spanish, 1614–85

Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, the Nude Monster, 1680
Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid


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