Exhibitions

Fowler in Focus: Ancient Ceramics from Colombia

October 5, 2008 – February 22, 2009

More than four thousand years ago, Colombian men and women began to model their universe in clay, creating miniature impressions of the people and things that held special meaning for them. Before long, these works took on ritual and religious significance. View more than forty examples of the ancient ceramic arts of Colombia from the Muñoz Kramer collection, acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as a shared resource for LACMA and the Fowler as part of an ongoing collaborative collections/exhibitions initiative.

Exhibition In Depth

More than four thousand years ago, Colombian men and women began to model their universe in clay, creating miniature impressions of the people and things that held special meaning for them. Before long, these works took on ritual and religious significance. In “Fowler in Focus: Ancient Ceramics from Colombia” —on view from Oct. 5, 2008–Feb. 22, 2009— visitors can see more than forty examples of these ancient works, including vessels ornamented with colorful designs adapted from weaving patterns, relief plaques depicting a couple embracing or a father and child, and numerous figures of people and animals.

The works on display represent a large variety of styles, from naturalistic to abstract. While one sculpted image may represent a true portrait of a defeated captive, others feature exaggerated body proportions and broad facial expressions. In some, a flat rectangular panel represents the human head, with just a few elegant lines signifying the nose, eyes and mouth. Sculpted clothing is often limited to a simple headdress, while line work or paint have been applied to define a skirt, tunic, or hip cloth. The jewelry that is shaped around the nose, ears, and the neck of many figures is representative of these ancient peoples’ magnificent cast gold traditions.

Many of the figures on display are thought to represent shamans in a trance-like state. Such representation of humans transforming into animals is pervasive, and alludes to the widespread belief that shamans could change themselves into animal spirit counterparts to perform acts of divination by contacting the supernatural.

The works in this exhibition are from the Muñoz Kramer collection, acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as a shared resource for LACMA and the Fowler as part of an ongoing collaborative collections/exhibitions initiative. The collection is meant to foster study into the origins and development of the indigenous societies of lower Central and upper South America between B.C.E. 500 to C.E. 1500. A selection of works from this collection is also on display at LACMA.

Says John Pohl, the Fowler’s curator of the arts of the Americas, “Together with the Fowler’s collections of Andean and West Mexican ceramics and LACMA’s strengths in Olmec, Maya and Aztec objects, Los Angeles has one of the premier Pre-Columbian collections in North America. The goal of this partnership between the two institutions is to promote access to these collections for the public, as well as for scholarly investigation by both UCLA students and Latin America scholars. This is an important collaboration in that it involves both a leading metropolitan museum and a leading university museum.”