Exhibitions

Fowler in Focus: Monochrome Ceramics from Ancient Mexico

September 12, 2010 – January 2, 2011

These carved and incised ceramics from various pre-Columbian traditions— many contemporaneous with brilliantly painted ceramic styles of the Mesoamerican Classic period—reflect a deliberate rejection of color in favor of an aesthetic that valued the sculpted form. Ranging from the Pre-Classic to the Post-Classic periods, these styles reveal intercultural connections, such as between Teotihuacan, the great Classic urban center in Central Mexico, and the Maya region. This selection from the Fowler collection—including elegant jars shaped as calabashes, vessels expertly sculpted with shrimp tails, parrots, and crayfish, and bowls carved with figural scenes or fantastic creatures—highlights how ceramic styles were shared, appropriated, and transformed at specific historical moments in ancient Mexico.

Exhibition in Depth

The sculpted, carved, and incised vessels in Fowler in Focus: Monochrome Ceramics from Ancient Mexico testify to the rich ceramic history of ancient Mexico. In stark contrast to brilliantly painted Mesoamerican ceramics, the makers of these objects seem to have deliberately rejected color in favor of an aesthetic valuing the sculpted form. Since many of the works were contemporaneous with polychrome ceramic styles, they are understood to reflect a conscious artistic choice to stand apart from the colorful arts of Mesoamerica.

Ranging from the Preclassic to the Postclassic periods, these styles reveal intercultural connections, such as between Teotihuacan, the great Classic urban center in Central Mexico, and the Maya region. This fine display of thirty-five monochrome ceramics—including elegant jars shaped as calabashes, vessels expertly sculpted to represent various animals, and bowls carved with figural scenes or fantastic creatures—highlight how ceramic styles were shared, appropriated, and transformed at specific historical moments in ancient Mexico.

The ceramics on display are grouped by region, with works from Colima in West Mexico, Teotihuacan in Central Mexico, and the Maya in Southern Mexico, along with two cases of effigy jars used by different cultures in ceremonies.

This exhibition commemorates the bicentennial of the Mexican War of Independence and centennial of the Mexican Revolution by showcasing the pre-Columbian heritage of Mexico. The diverse indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica fundamentally shaped what became the Mexican nation and continue to enrich Mexico’s culture today.

Exhibition Credits

Fowler in Focus: Monochrome Ceramics from Ancient Mexico is curated by Kim Richter, the Fowler Museum’s assistant curator of arts of the Americas, and will be on view in the Fowler in Focus gallery, the central space within the long-term exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local LivesFowler in Focus is dedicated to rotating installations of new acquisitions, sub-collections, and particular artistic genres in the Fowler’s permanent holdings.

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