Brendan McMahon is a specialist in the visual and material culture of the early modern Spanish world, and his research considers the production, circulation, and reception of objects that moved transregionally within this vast geographic context. Of particular interest are the factors that facilitate physical and cultural mobility, the roles that materials play in intellectual history, and the relationship between makers, viewers, and the natural world.
His current project is a book manuscript based on research conducted for his dissertation (The University of Southern California, 2017) which examines engagements with iridescent materials in Spain and Mexico around the turn of the seventeenth century. Tentatively titled “To Turn in the Sun: Iridescent Thinking in the Early Modern Spanish World,” the book analyzes period reactions to these vibrant materials—which appeared to change color depending upon the angle of illumination or view—in order to reexamine the connections between seeing, knowing, and believing in early modern Spain and Mexico. A second project focuses on portable devotional objects made in Iberian South and Southeast Asia, Peru, and Mexico, and investigates their reception by early modern Iberian audiences in the context of a burgeoning interest in natural theology. Publications related to these projects are forthcoming in The Art Bulletin and Art History.
Prior to joining the full-time faculty at the University of Michigan, McMahon was a postdoctoral scholar in the Michigan Society of Fellows. His research has been supported by an Andrew W. Mellon predoctoral fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, as well as grants from the Fulbright Foundation and the USC Del Amo Foundation.
Field(s) of study
- Visual and material culture of the early modern Spanish World (particularly Mexico and Spain)
- Materiality-Intellectual history
- Circulation and mobility
- The Iberian Pacific
- The history of ornithology