What can one say about a Miguel Covarrubias work of art except that it is a riot of color and form. This multi-color lithograph is a pictorial map of the Pacific Ocean region and a work of art using the format of a map to present a view of the world as an organic form united by the ocean. Economic activity and human culture are represented figuratively and with toy like symbols, on land and sea, making even oil derricks appear benign. The ocean itself is alive with life. A burlap sack held aloft by two strong, dark hands presents the bounty of the region and serves as the map cartouche. A watchful sun, capable of generating both the blessings of rainbows and the peril of lightning keeps a watchful eye over the Pacific Ocean and the parade of figures on land.
This artwork was originally commissioned for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition at an architectural scale to be designed and installed by Covarrubias at the Pacific House and installed as a set of murals. Mexican born Covarrubias (1904-1957) was a prolific artist in many mediums, including painting and theater set design. The edition of color lithograph plates that followed, of which this print is Plate IV, are small scale editions of those architectural scale Covarrubias works of art.
The lithograph "map" includes two large color keys, one purely pictorial that includes products, agriculture, livestock and minerals. The other is a color pattern key to identify regions by their economic produce and activity. Notably, the Pacific Ocean is blue, and wildlife in the ocean flees below the surface to elude economic capture.
The scope of the area mapped includes Asia, Australia, Polynesia, North America and South America. All is dwarfed by the scale of the Pacific Ocean. The center focal point of the map shows a native of the polar regions jumping the gap in the Bering Strait between Asia and North America. In fact, all of the human figures in this animated pictorial map are on the move, seemingly incapable of letting the natural world just be. The animate creation and the natural world are labeled, suggesting the human view of the world is pure consumption, with nothing evading the habit of itemizing all within reach as a consumable.
Yet what visually dominates Covarrubias' mapping of the land forms of the world is the Pacific Ocean, the corners of the lithograph rounded to suggest a three dimensional global form. This map of the Pageant of the Pacific is a celebration of the globe and its denizens.