Artist Leo Tanguma’s large mural paintings at Denver Airport are themed on apocalyptic bio-warfare, destruction, and the struggle between Fascist and peaceful world orders. The Denver-based Chicano combines symbolism from history and mysticism, with American socio-political issues from his hybrid perspective, by 1900s Mexican political muralist techniques. This design was said to picture the 2001 9/11 terror attacks, but the airport had opened six years earlier. Archetypal features explain the similarity. One of the general themes in his Extinction artwork is revealed by extra features of type 2 Builder, typical of twisted postures (here of four characters), cluster (of plant and animal species), bird (four species), tower (city in the background), build (or cultures), ruin (fire and pollution), hero (preservation workers), book (Torah in coffin C), or spring (flowers).
Another general theme in Tanguma’s Extinction painting at Denver Airport is revealed by extra features of the four transitional types: 2c Basket v 9c Lid, and 5c Tail v 13c Head. Their fields (transitional types do not have their eyes on the axial grid, but are spaced between specific adjacent axes), are typical of woven texture (here 5c’s textile cloak), containers (glass boxes, coffins, carapace), hats (four headgear), arm-links (cradling animals or figurines), trees (here burning), or revelation (here of environmental extinction). The Denver Extinction of environment, animals and cultures panel, is juxtaposed by two panels on Peace and Harmony With Nature, dramatising bountiful and diverse life. Integration of these general themes, despite the relative minimalism of the design of only nine distinguishable characters, indicates the maturity of the artist. Below is the archetypal structuralist analysis of the work, in the universal standard caption format.
Type Label; Character (noting archetypal features):
2 Builder; Buffalo (bovid) head, stuffed.
2c Basket; Parrot (bird) in glass box (container), held by (arm-link) an African woman. And elephant tusks (weapon, cluster).
3 Queen; Girl with a squirrel.
4 King; Jewish girl in coffin (rectangle) holding Torah including Genesis.
5a Priest; White leopard (varicoloured, felid of 12 opposite), dead (horizontal), left eye.
5b Priest; White leopard (varicoloured, felid of 13 opposite), dead (horizontal), right eye.
5c Basket Tail; American Indian woman in woven cloak (weave) in coffin (container), her head on leaves (herb), with animal (tail) god figurine.
6 Exile; Geometric person image (small) on American Indian woman’s cloak, further from the centre (egress).
7 Child; African woman in coffin.
9 Healer; Turtle (disc) lying flat (bent forward).
9c Basket Lid; Turtle carapace (disc, lid, hump).
10 Teacher; Purple parrot in flight (arms up).
11 Womb; White woman’s midriff (womb). And pelican in glass box (interior). And Sperm whale (water).
12 Heart; White woman’s chest (heart).
13 Heart; Chinese boy.
13c Basket Head; White woman with glass box (lid).
14 Mixer; Asian girl, near the centre (ingress), warning of extinction (time), at burning trees (tree).
15 Maker; African girl holding glass box (bag?) with bird.
Axial centre; Unmarked as usual.
4p Gal.S.Pole; Leopard’s jaw (limb-joint).
11p Gal.Pole; White woman’s left hand (limb-joint).
Midsummer; Asian girl’s shoulder (limb-joint).
Midwinter; Leopard’s hip (limb-joint).
The solstice markers are on the vertical plane. These polar triangles place midsummer between Leo and Cancer, implying spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Taurus-Aries.
Structuralist features of expression are universal, and subconscious to artists, architects, builders, crafters and members of any culture.
- See another Denver Airport panel by Tanguma, named Order of Chaos, on http://www.stoneprintjournal.blog
- Order the book Mindprint by Edmond Furter (2014, 272 pages, 200 illsutrations, A4, perfect bound, $16), from Lulu.com on:
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