Museo Rafael Coronel, Zacatecas

In the small city of Zacatecas, I didn’t hear much talk about the local Museo Rafael. Coronel. Somebody said something about “a lot of masks” there. This left me unprepared for the overwhelming beauty of the place, inside and out. It’s set in a majestic old sprawling stone compound. Half the buildings are well-maintained and half are in ruins that seem medieval, though they must date to the 1500s Spanish rule. The brightness of the landscaping and the melancholy of the ruins open a range of emotion before you even go inside. Once inside, the stone labyrinth of chambers seems enormous — Indian art, large fantastic paintings by Coronel himself, dark and demonic in theme but bright with shocking color. Then rooms full of old puppets. And the masks. You keep turning corners to find hundreds more, thousands. When the sheer number of masks finally dawns on you, it gives Kantian sense of the mathematical sublime — just from the sheer numbers. But each mask, too, is a masterpiece. But the whole thing involves weaving inside and outside of buildings, so the architecture and landscaping is incorporated into the mood of all the artworks within.


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