Since it opened two years ago, the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla has exhibited five works by Jacinto “Jo” Mora. They draw a lot of attention, particularly the one of San Diego, commissioned in honor of the long-ago 50th anniversary of Marston’s Department Store. The museum’s director, Richard Cloward, is a huge Mora fan, and so it was fitting that for the facility’s first special exhibit, it is offering a much bigger taste of Mora’s work.
Born in Uruguay in 1876, Mora was a Renaissance man — an illustrator, painter, cartographer, and more. The charm of his pictographic maps (which he called “cartes) is evident in this show, which opened yesterday. In the special exhibition room, the museum has mounted striking black and white portrayals of Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite national parks, a rare poster presenting “the evolution of the cowboy,” and several fascinating maps. My favorite is the 1942 depiction of Los Angeles. It has the hallmark Mora classic vignettes surrounding the main field of the map. But great swathes of the central portion look sparsely settled, with only a handful of vintage cars of the few thoroughfares. There’s nary a freeway in sight; Universal City looks to be a country junction.
The exhibit will run through the end of this year. Next the museum staff plans to pay homage to Gold Rush maps. As always, admission to this extraordinary community resource is free.