Assessing the colonial-period survivals of the “deep-lying shipwreck” of pre-Columbian civilization, George Kubler devised a typology that proposed that ancient motifs appeared in postconquest works of art in five different modes. “Juxtapositions” described those cases in which colonizing powers conformed to the habits of Indigenous populations; “convergences” were fortuitous coincidences between the pictorial behaviors of colonizers and Indigenous peoples; “explants” included cases where motifs thrived because the administration of colonial institutions favored their production; “transplants” were forms where an isolated feature of pre-Columbian art was incorporated into a work; and “fragments” were the “emptied out” motifs subject to rote repetition in colonial art.1

Among Kubler’s descriptions of these five modes for the survival of ancient motifs, perhaps the most surprising is that offered of the explant. Invoking pop science, Kubler transports us to a New York laboratory, where...

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