Donated to the Museum in 1968/1969 by the actress Natalie Wood, the Fowler’s Chupícuaro ceramics are its most important collection of ancient Mesoamerican art. The selection of nearly seventy works (out of a total of 620) illustrate the breadth of Chupícuaro’s remarkable ceramic tradition. Because Chupícuaro’s vivid palette and bold patterning stand alone among Preclassic artistic traditions, its origins and legacy have elicited great debate. Renewed archaeological interest in the Acámbaro Valley in Guanajuato state, however, has yielded a more nuanced understanding of this culture’s rich history and its place at the intersection of two cultural spheres: the communities of West Mexico along the Pacific coast and the Basin of Mexico, the Mesoamerican heartland. New data suggests that the Chupícuaro people traveled from West Mexico along the Lerma River and settled in the fertile Acámbaro valley circa 600 B.C.E. While artists drew on the source traditions of Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit, they experimented with pigments and forms, ultimately developing a stark visual language whose legacy can be seen throughout central Mexico and into the American southwest. Boldly patterned, polychrome Chupícuaro works, including figurines, jars, and mammiform tripod vessels are juxtaposed with works from neighboring cultures of Colima, Nayarit, and Hohokam to reveal the extensive historical and artistic connections among ancient western and central Mexican cultures.
This exhibition was curated by Victoria Lyall, Associate Curator, Art of the Ancient Americas, Latin American Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Francisco Javier Martínez Bravo, Archaeologist, University of Guanajuato, Mexico, with Patrick A. Polk, Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Popular Arts.