Posts Tagged ‘traditional art’

Venue: American Museum of Natural History
(212) 769-5100
Central Park West at 79th Street,
New York, NY 10024

The diverse art, architecture, and traditions of the Maya, Toltec, Olmec, Aztec, and other Mesoamerican pre-Columbian cultures are the subjects of this hall. The outstanding collections on display include monuments, figurines, pottery, and jewelry that span from around 1200 B.C. to the early 1500s. Each object provides clues about the political and religious symbols, social traits, and artistic styles of its cultural group.

Especially striking works on view include Costa Rican gold ornaments and a 3,000-year-old Olmec jade sculpture called the Kunz Axe, which may represent a chief or a shaman who transformed himself into a jaguar to partake of the animal’s power. Also displayed are 9th-century Mayan stone carvings depicting scenes of conquest. Existing as early as 1500 B.C., the Mayan culture did not consist of a single empire, but rather was a collection of independent city-states that alternately warred and traded with one another.


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Gabriel Orozco is a Mexican artist, who in 1998 was called “one of the most influential artists of this decade, and probably the next one too.” Born in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Orozco was educated in the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas between 1981 and 1984.

Orozco’s exploration of the use of installations in addition to his photographs and sculptures, allows the audience’s imagination to explore the creative associations between often-ignored objects in today’s world. His work permits a rarely allowed interaction between the artwork and the audience.

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Luis Nishizawa Flores (born February 2, 1918 in San Mateo Ixtacalco, Mexico) is a Mexican artist. He currently works and teaches in Toluca, in a late eighteenth-century house that he has converted to a studio and museum.


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Iñaki Bonillas (born in 1981 in Mexico City) is a sculptor, installation artist and photographer living and working in Mexico City. His recent work is based on the photographic archive of his grandfather and family.

In addition, Bonillas also often works with the spatial features and possibilities of light and colour. In the MuHKA he will adjust the room lighting at specific times and in different rooms, sometimes in a subtle way and at other times with a dramatic effect.

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Mata Ortiz has recently seen a revival of an ancient Mesoamerican pottery tradition. Inspired by pottery from the ancient city of Paquimé, which traded as far north as New Mexico and Arizona and throughout northern Mexico, modern potters are producing work for national and international sale. This new artistic movement is due to the efforts of Juan Quezada, the self-taught originator of modern Mata Ortiz pottery, his extended family and neighbors.

Mata Ortiz pots are hand built without the use of a potter’s wheel. Shaping, polishing and painting the clay is entirely done by hand.

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Carved from a porous stone, the body of the reptile is a tightly wound knot; the tail end with two rattles in shallow relief is visible on one side. Its flattened head, emerging from the tangled body at the top, has a pointed, closed mouth, and sunken oval eyes under bulbous supraorbital ridges. The function of this snake sculpture is uncertain.

Serpents held an important place in the belief systems of many peoples in ancient Mexico and they are the most frequently portrayed animals in art. Serpents had multiple connotations and inspired sky and earth imagery alike. Above all, they were fertility symbols, probably suggested by their terrestrial habitat and periodic skin shedding.

At the Main Temple in the Aztec imperial capital Tenochtitlan, serpent depictions proliferate: monumental snake heads, probably representing different species—with open fanged mouths and forked tongues—flank braziers and stairways leading to the sanctuaries. The temple itself is said to have been surrounded at the time of the Spanish conquest by a serpent wall, or Coatepantli, formed by hundreds of adjoining sculptures of snakes. In three-dimensional stone sculpture, serpents are most frequently shown coiled or knotted, as in this example.

Credit and Courtesy: Coiled Serpent [Mexico; Aztec] (00.5.32) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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