Hoobler's essay "Smoothing the Path for Rough Stones: The Changing Role of Pre-Columbian Art in the Arensberg Collection," was one of three essays in the book Hollywood Arensberg : Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A., published by the Getty Research Institute in October, 2020.
About Hollywood Arensberg: During the first half of the twentieth century, Louise and Walter Arensberg not only assembled one of the world’s preeminent art collections but carved out a unique place in the history of collecting. No one before them had made such audacious connections between modern painting, Renaissance literature, and pre-Columbian sculpture; and few (if any) used collecting more forcefully as a medium for artistic creation and intellectual exploration.
The Arensbergs’ collection first took shape in their Manhattan apartment, where—in the wake of the Armory Show of 1913—they gave Marcel Duchamp his first American home and presided over the salon that brought Dada to New York. It expanded rapidly after their move to Los Angeles in 1921, particularly after they purchased 7065 Hillside Avenue and turned it into a domestic museum and research institute. For the next three decades they put the European Avant-Garde, the English Renaissance, and Mesoamerican civilizations into dialogue in dense and playful displays whose visual patterns and hidden meanings shocked and inspired visitors—including some of the period’s leading artists, writers, and curators.
When Louise and Walter died in 1953 and ’54, their art, library, and personal papers were divided between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and California’s Francis Bacon Library (now housed at the Huntington). This book uses photographic and archival records–never before assembled or examined—to reconstruct and reinterpret the couple’s collection when it was still under one extraordinary roof in the heart of Hollywood’s burgeoning artistic scene. Bringing together images from many sources, some of them seen here for the first time, Hollywood Arensberg takes us on a wall-by-wall tour of the rooms where Marcel Duchamp and Sir Francis Bacon played secret games of chess on Aztec calendar stones.
“The authors of Hollywood Arensberg put into context the dozens of important modern masterworks that were displayed alongside non-Western—mainly pre-Columbian—art in the home of Walter and Louise Arensberg. The specific conversation between pre-Columbian objects and modern works by Duchamp, Picasso, Kandinsky, and others as experienced in the Arensberg home is a revelation. In this context of deep interchange between modern and pre-Columbian, Ellen Hoobler's essay examines the transformations in the Arensbergs' understanding of pre-Columbian form together with the effects of a burgeoning art market in Los Angeles after 1930 in what will be seen as a significant contribution to the history of pre-Columbian art collecting and its relation to modernism.”
—Rex Koontz, Professor of Art History, University of Houston and Consulting Curator, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Hoobler was co-editor, with Andrew Finegold, of the book Visual Culture in the Ancient Americas: Contemporary Perspectives (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.) She has published in journals including the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, American Indian Quarterly, the Journal of the Walters Art Museum, and Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture.
With students Arturo Hernández, Jr., Ve’Amber Miller, and Catherine Quinn, Hoobler worked on digital reconstructions of Zapotec tombs of Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico. All four collaborators wrote about their work in an article in the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. More about this work can be found here.
Her next project deals with the art and archaeology of ancient Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.