Related themes

Maps, Borders, and Networks

Artists use maps to tell stories about themselves and their views of the world.

Map of America

Juan Downey
(Chilean, 1940–1993)

1975. Colored pencil, pencil, and acrylic on map on board, 34 1/8 x 20 1/4" (86.7 x 51.4 cm)

Instead of depicting national borders, in his Map of America Juan Downey represents the South American continent as a swirl of colors. In response to a military coup in his native Chile, he embarked on a journey in 1973, traveling from New York to the southernmost tip of South America. Along the way, he videotaped the regional cultures he encountered throughout South America and showed the footage to people he met in the hope that he might bridge the isolation between different communities if they could find commonalities in their everyday experiences.

Downey’s footage became the basis for the installation Video Trans Americas. Map of America and similar drawings accompanied his videos. In this work, he uses the hand-drawn map as a galvanizing symbol to foster a more unified, transnational Latin American identity.

A term describing moving-image artworks recorded onto magnetic tape or digital formats, or generated using other mechanisms such as image-processing tools, and available for immediate playback.

The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.

Living in the Amazon
Juan Downey has described himself as a “cultural communicant” and an “activating anthropologist,” reflecting his interest in different cultures and communities. He and his family spent a period of time in Venezuela among the Yanomami, a group of indigenous people living in the Amazon rainforest who had little contact with outsiders.