Culture in context: William Wroth honored in a new book

Cultural historian and curator William Wroth (1938–2019) was among the foremost scholars of Spanish Colonial art and history. He was the author and editor of numerous publications on Hispanic art and culture, including Hispanic Crafts of the Southwest (Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 118 pages, 1977) and Converging Streams: Art of the Hispanic and Native American Southwest (Museum of New Mexico Press, 283 pages, 2010), which he co-edited with Robin Farwell Gavin, curator emeritus at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.

A new book published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, Cultural Convergence in New Mexico: Interactions in Art, History & Archaeology — Honoring William Wroth (320 pages, $45), is a lavishly illustrated exploration of a theme that was vital to Wroth’s scholarly pursuits: the complex relationship of Hispanic and Indigenous cultures of the Southwest from the Spanish Colonial period to the present. Before his death, Wroth was able to contribute to the book, which was edited by Gavin and Donna Pierce, former Frederick and Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art and head of the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum.

“The book is kind of a reflection of how Will conducted his research and saw the world, looking at art in a very contextual way,” Gavin says. “He didn’t believe that you could look at art without looking at the context: the music, the language, the dance, the spirituality. I think it’s what really set his work apart in the 1970s, and he continued in that vein throughout his career.”

Cultural Convergence in New Mexico presents the reader with a diversity of topics, from plant cultivation to belief systems, that reflect the lasting impact of the intersection of cultures. It includes contributions from numerous authors, including Richard I. Ford, José Antonio Esquibel, Cristina Cruz González, Don J. Usner, and Jack Loeffler.

Wroth, a Rhode Island native and graduate of Yale University, first visited Northern New Mexico in the 1960s. He returned in 1970s and lived here while working on his dissertation as a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon. With Helen Lucero, one of the first female Hispanic curators in the country, he co-curated the Museum of International Folk Art’s exhibition Familia y Fe, which was on display from 1989 to 2008.

A book launch for Cultural Convergence in New Mexico takes place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988-4226, collectedworksbookstore.com). Editors and contributors will be present. Masks are required.

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