Monday, April 27, 2009

Felipe Solis, 1944 – 2009

I heard from colleagues at the SAA meetings in Atlanta last week that Felipe Solis had just died in Mexico City. Mesoamericanists and museum professionals will recognize his name, but for others, Solis was curator of the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City and a noted expert on Aztec sculpture, art, and archaeology. There will be lots of obituaries, scholarly tributes, and biographical pieces coming out soon about Felipe. Here, I want to use him as an example to comment on an aspect of archaeological publishing: The importance of publishing museum collections. I will briefly discuss his publications in three categories. None of these lists are complete; they are meant to illustrate the quality and quantity of his published works.

1. Scholarly papers on Mesoamerican art and architecture:

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1982) The Formal Pattern of Anthropomorphic Sculpture in the Ideology of the Aztec State. In The Art and Iconography of Late Post-Classic Central Mexico, edited by Elizabeth H. Boone, pp. 73-110. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1985) Arte, estado y sociedad: la escultura antropomorfa de México-Tenochtitlan. In Mesoamérica y el centro de México: Una antología, edited by Jesús Monjarás-Ruiz, Rosa Brambila and Emma Pérez-Rocha, pp. 393-432. Instituo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1986) La estructura pirámidal de Castillo de Teayo: un edificio en proceso constructivo o un peculiar estilo arquitectónico. Cuadernos de Arquitectura Mesoamericana 8:73-79.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1987) Elementos rituales asociados a la muerte del sol entre los mexicas. In Arte Funerario: Coloquio Internacional de Historia de Arte, edited by Beatriz de la Fuente, pp. 65-76. vol. 2. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1992) Evidencias arqueológicas de la práctica del juego de pelota en la antigua México-Tenochtitlan. In El juego de pelota en Mesoamérica: raíces y supervivencia, edited by María Teresa Uriarte, pp. 143-155. Siglo Veintiuno, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1997) Andrés Molina Enríquez y la arqueología de Jilotepec Estado de México. Expresión Antropológica (Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura) 4-5:43-48.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R., Richard F. Townsend and Alejandro Pastrana (1996) Monte Tláloc: un proyecto de investigación de etnohistoria y arqueología. In Los arqueólogos frente a las fuentes, edited by Rosa Brambila Paz and Jesús Monjarás-Ruiz, pp. 157-169. Colección Científica. vol. 322. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

2. Large-format books, including catalogs of major museum exhibits.

García Moll, Roberto, Felipe R. Solís Olguín and Jaime Bali (1990) El tesoro de Moctezuma. Chrysler México, Mexico City.

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo, Alfredo López Austin, Miguel León-Portilla, Felipe R. Solís Olguín, Miguel A. Fernández and José Enrique Ortiz Lanz (editors) (1995) Dioses del México Antiguo. Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City.

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo and Felipe Solis (2005) The Aztec Calendar and Other Solar Monuments. Grupo Azabache, Mexico City.

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo and Felipe R. Solís Olguín (editors) (2002) Aztecs. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Serra Puche, Mari Carmen and Felipe Solís Olguín (editors) (1994) Cristales y obsidiana prehispánicos. Siglo Veintiuno, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1991) Gloria y fama mexica. Smurfit Cartón y Papel de México; Museo Franz Mayer; Galería Arvil, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (2004) The Aztec Empire: Catalogue of the Exhibition. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (editor) (2004) National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Harry N. Abrams, New York.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. and Ted Leyenaar (editors) (2002) Art Treasures of Ancient Mexico: Journey to the Land of the Gods. Niewe Kerk, Amsterdam.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R., Gabriela Uruñuela, Patricia Plunket, Martín Cruz and Dionisio Rodríquez (editors) (2007) Cholula: The Great Pyramid. Editorial Azabache, Mexico City.

Early in my career I was dismissive of books like this as lavish, colorful, “coffee-table” books, nice for art historians perhaps but not much use for a dirt archaeologist like me. I have now reversed my opinion, recognizing these as important scholarly works. First, most of these books make contributions to scholarship on Aztec and Mesoamerican art and archaeology. Second, they bring the objects and scholarship to a wider audience. And third and most relevant for this blog, they are important vehicles for the publication of museum collections.

3. Catalogs of Museum Collections

This category consists not of catalogs of public exhibits, but catalogs of the thousands and thousands of objects in museum storage facilities. Solís published a number of catalogs of collections, mostly of Aztec objects.

Castillo Tejero, Noemí and Felipe R. Solís Olguín (1975) Ofrendas mexicas en el Museo Nacional de Antropología. Corpus Antiquitatum Americanensium vol. 8. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1976) La escultura mexica del museo de Santa Cecilia Acatitlan, Estado de México. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. (1981) Escultura del Castillo de Teayo, Veracruz, México: catálogo. Cuadernos de Historia del Arte vol. 16. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Mexico City.

Solís Olguín, Felipe R. and Davíd A. Morales Gómez (1991) Rescate de un rescate: colección de objetos arqueológicos de el Volador, ciudad de México. Catálogo de las colecciones arqueológicas de Museo Nacional de Antropología. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

And finally, here are some museum catalogs that were published with the help and encouragement of Felipe Solís. This is a series of catalogs, and I find that my bibliography file lacks a number of them (i.e., my list is very incomplete):

Díaz Oyarzábal, Clara Luz (1990) Colección de objetos de piedra, obsidiana, concha, metales y textiles del Estado de Guerrero: Museo Nacional de Antropología. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Flores, Dolores and Araceli Rivera Estrada (1992) Ofrendas funerarias de Chupícuaro, Guanajuato: catálogo de las colecciones arqueológicas del Museo Nacional de Antropología. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

García Moll, Roberto, Daniel Juárez Cossio, Carmen María Pijoan Aguade, María Elena Salas Cuesta and Marcela Salas Cuesta (1991) Catálogo de entierros de San Luis Tlatilco, México, temporada IV. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Sodi Miranda, Federica and Hugo Herrera Torres (1991) Estudio de los objetos arqueológicos de la cultura matlatzinca. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.


I don’t think the above lists (incomplete as they are) need much comment. There can be little doubt that Felipe Solís was not only a leading scholar and museum curator, but he did more than anyone else to publish (and to promote the publishing by others) of museum collections. Why is that important? See my paper:

Smith, Michael E. (2004) Aztec Materials in Museum Collections: Some Frustrations of a Field Archaeologist. Nahua Newsletter 38:21-28.

or see my blog entry.

If you have any doubts about the very real research value of such catalogs, see the discussion of the volador deposit in this paper:

Smith, Michael E., Jennifer Wharton and Jan Marie Olson (2003) Aztec Feasts, Rituals, and Markets: Political Uses of Ceramic Vessels in a Commercial Economy. In The Archaeology and Politics of Food and Feasting in Early States and Empires, edited by Tamara L. Bray, pp. 235-268. Kluwer Publshers, New York.

I will conclude by noting that I really liked Felipe, and he will be missed for many, many reasons.


Michael E. Smith said...

A blog that linked to this post suggested that my entry included a "comprehensive list" of the publications of Felipe Solís. Not so! He published MUCH MORE than I have listed; these are only the citations I happen to have in my Endnote database, which is far from complete. This guy was an incredible writer and publisher.

Mexique ancien said...

Dr Smith

Thank you for this obituary that emphazises Dr Solis' work of publishing and writing...
It's a huge loss for our mesoamerican community.
And many US newspapers and websites said that he died the day after President Obama's visit in Mexico of the
So they unfortunately present Felipe Solis more as a "murderer" than as a anthropologist... Shame on them.

Roberto said...

A great Teacher also and friend indeed¡¡¡