Curated by Patrick Kelly. 

The Old Jail Art Center invited Baltimore artist René Treviño to consider the museum’s Pre-Columbian artifacts in the creation of a site-specific body of work. With this installation, A New Codex incorporates Treviño’s multi-media work alongside his personal selections from the OJAC’s permanent collection. 

Utilizing extensive research of Mayan and other cultures’ carvings as well as imagery and objects from the museum’s pieces, Treviño develops contemporary images from Mesoamerica’s ancient steles and codices. He then combines these forms and symbols with those derived from popular culture. Many of the figurative objects in the OJAC’s Pre-Columbian collection become the “players” in Treviño’s drawings and animations. 

Placing his own works in the same context as the artifacts challenges viewers to see and seek relationships between the ancient and contemporary. The result is an artist’s created world that references our past and speaks to our present and future. Though using ancient imagery as a starting point, this imagery is eventually filtered through a contemporary popular culture and art historical context via the artistic process. The original depictions of the ancient Pre-Columbian peoples’ religious rituals are often dark, such as communicating with the dead, bloodletting, sacrifices, etc. Treviño includes some of this content, disguised somewhat by injecting super-saturated color, gold, rhinestone appliqué, and a touch of humor. One of the goals for this multi-media exhibition is to create a stimulating interplay between the ancient artifacts and his contemporary creations.

History is subjective; there are many blurred lines and much distortion. Context and point of view are very important subjects for this installation. One person's hero is another person's villain, depending on who tells the story. Using a historical context as a backdrop for his work, Treviño seeks to re-weave these "lessons" of the past. The more layers that he presents, the closer he feels he can get to something that might resemble truth.


Installation images by Kevin Todora.


René Treviño: A New Codex is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from Anonymous, Erin Cluley, Pam and Bob Tidwell and Travis Vandergriff.