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Spatial Grammars: The Union of Art and Writing in the Painted Books of Aztec Mexico
Annual Armand Hammer Art History Lecture
This lecture by Elizabeth Hill Boone (Art History, Tulane), focuses on the painted books of Aztec Mexico, sixteenth-century documents that some people consider to be works of Art and others consider to contain Writing. The talk thus explores that place where our Western conceptions of Art and Writing come closest together. The Aztecs and their neighbors conceptualized writing and image-making as a single cultural category, one that involved a nonverbal system of graphic communication in which images carry meaning directly within the structure of their own discourse but without a detour through speech. This lecture analyzes the graphic vocabulary of Mexican pictography, but it focuses principally on the arrangement of the images–the spatial grammar—that constructs the message.