Sunday, November 04, 2012

Upcoming Museum Pre-Colmbian Exhibitions

CLEVELAND, OH.- The Cleveland Museum of Art presents Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, the first North American exhibition to explore the art of the Wari, a cosmopolitan society that existed in the Andes Mountains of Peru between 600 and 1000 AD and is widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire. The groundbreaking exhibition examines this relatively unknown episode in ancient South American history through 150 masterful artworks representing a variety of Wari media. Organized and presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes is on view from October 28, 2012 through January 6, 2013. The exhibition will travel to Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. “This exhibition exemplifies the museum’s commitment to original scholarship and exploring all areas of its renowned comprehensive collection,” said David Franklin, the Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “We’re excited to share these rare objects, most gathered together for the first time, with the Northeast Ohio community and beyond.” Visitors to Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes will learn that the history of South American civilization long predates the more well-known Inca of the 15th and 16th centuries, and that artwork is crucial to understanding early human endeavors in this hemisphere. Like other ancient Andean people, the Wari did not develop a writing system and used works of art, including elaborate textiles, as vehicles to communicate their ideas about the human, natural and supernatural realms. The exhibition is organized thematically and focuses on some of the mechanisms that the Wari used to build and maintain a complex society. For instance, Wari elites seem to have hosted lavish feasts and beer-drinking events that involved finely made ceramics decorated with images of important Wari deities, among other things. Such events likely helped the
Wari to forge alliances with important guests. Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes contains superior examples of Wari artwork selected from more than forty public and private collections in Canada, Europe, Peru and the United States, including the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Lima’s Museo Nacional de Antropología, Arqueología e Historia in Lima, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. All major Wari media are represented in this comprehensive exhibition: ceramics; ornaments made of precious inlays or of gold and silver; small stone and wood sculptures; and intricately woven textiles that are among the finest ever made in
the Andean region. The objects are of the highest aesthetic quality and cultural significance, and many have never or only rarely been seen outside of the countries where they now reside.
The remarkable artistic and cultural accomplishments of the Wari haven’t received the attention that they deserve,” stated Susan E. Bergh, the exhibition organizer and curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “I’m delighted to be part of the effort to introduce this important ancient American civilization to U.S. audiences.” Highlights of Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes include: Bag with Human Face, 600–1000. Acquired recently by the Cleveland Museum of Art, this bag is made from animal hide, an ancient Andean artistic medium that is now rare due to the poor survival of this material in an extreme climate. The bag flares into a decorated panel to which a three-dimensional lifelike human face, made of hardened hide, is stitched. The youthful face, which may represent an individual or a social group, is compelling: the gaze is direct and candid and the lips part slightly, as though in speech. Still-lustrous tresses of human hair fall from beneath a cap. Figure Pendant, 600–1000. Many Wari personal ornaments are made of intricate, brightly colored mosaics attached with a resinous adhesive to a variety of media. This rare figure from the Kimbell Museum of Art in Fort Worth is pierced for suspension, perhaps from a necklace. The figure’s garment seems to represent a tapestry-woven tunic that, together with the large, circular ear ornaments, identifies the figure as an elite male. Materials range from the silver of the headdress to colored stones such as lapis lazuli and shells, including Spondylus oyster shell that had great ritual and economic value. Panel, probably a Hanging, from Corral Redondo, 600–1000. Textiles covered with brilliant feathers of rain forest birds are among the most striking works created by artists in Pre-Columbian Peru. This large panel, from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is made of the feathers of the blue-and-yellow macaw and was found in an impressive buried offering that may have commemorated either an elite Wari burial or an important human sacrifice. It is one of 96 similar panels from the offering site. Tapestry-Woven Tunic with Staff-Bearing Creature in Profile, 600–1000. Wari tapestry-woven tunics are known for their beauty and artistic complexity. In antiquity, they were forms of wealth and prestige, serving as the attire of elite Wari men, including rulers. This exquisite, sleeved tunic from the Brooklyn Museum, however, is a miniature that probably had devotional purposes. It is exceptionally finely woven with the image of a supernatural creature whose features mingle human and animal traits. Urn with Staff Deities, 600–1000. This large vessel, from the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Arqueología e Historia in Lima, may have been used to serve lavish feasts that the Wari hosted in order to establish alliances with elite guests. The interior and exterior of the urn are painted with images of the deity who was the focus of Wari state religion. Appendages radiate from the head and both hands hold a staff, a powerful symbol of both divine and human authority. The urn was reconstructed from fragments found in a three-ton offering of ceramic vessels that were deliberately shattered and buried in antiquity. Warrior Plaque, 600–1000. Among Wari ornaments are impressive fine metal plaques that originally may have been mounted on a backing of some kind, such as a textile. This plaque from the Museum of Fine Arts,
Houston takes the shape of a sumo-like warrior who carries an axe and rectangular shield. This warrior’s high status is indicated by silver from which he is made and the elite garments that he wears: a four-cornered hat and a tie-dyed tunic covered with interlocked hooks.
PRINCETON, NJ.- Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom offers an intimate glimpse into a world rich with courtly intrigue, portrayed on exquisitely painted eighth-century chocolate drinking cups from a Maya center located in present-day Guatemala. Complementing the Princeton University Art Museum’s important holdings of Ik’ vessels with loans of select masterpieces from other collections, this exhibition both elucidates the politics and dynastic history of the Ik’ kingdom and reveals the vital role of master artists in these schemes. Ik’ vessels comprise an extraordinary and sophisticated history of artistic achievement. During a brief period of time from 700 to 800 C.E., in a discrete locale in the Central Maya lowlands, a critical mass of aesthetic

and social trends nurtured a flourishing artistic culture. Artists enjoyed exceptional creative license to develop personal styles while adhering to the tenets of regional and local conventions (as well as the whims of royal patrons). Several artists made their individual contributions to courtly visual culture and to inter-kingdom politics more explicit by signing their creations, a practice instituted in the ancient Americas only among the Maya of this region. These works often commemorated shared rituals and rites of passage and include descriptions of people, events, games, sport, local wildlife and lore in elegant imagery and calligraphic writing. Recent scholarly breakthroughs in the decoding of these hieroglyphs make it possible to determine both their ceremonial uses and much about the people involved in their production, including royal patrons and noble artists. According to exhibition curator Bryan R. Just, Ph.D., Peter Jay Sharp, Class of 1952, Curator and Lecturer in the Art of the Ancient Americas, “This breathes new life and touchingly evocative personality into these ancient works of art and the people who made, inspired and used them.” Because the works were largely designed for viewing in social settings, they provide a compelling window on human interaction within a complex and sophisticated culture that flourished for millennia before Europeans arrived in the Americas. Maya painters of the Ik’ kingdom experimented intensely with realistic representation, often departing from the broader Maya tradition of the idealization of faces and bodies to capture individualized portraits. They employed pigments in technically sophisticated ways, producing naturalistic coloration and line work that depict accurate body proportions, evoke figural mass, and suggest graceful and subtle movement. The formal similarities among these vessels both suggest that they were produced by artists who had regular contact with each other and reflect a keen sense of their audiences. They share a regional style and aesthetic—a contention supported by new epigraphic and archaeological research. “The Ik’ kingdom was the nexus of a very special moment in ancient Maya art history,” Just says, “Unlike most Maya kingdoms, where one all-powerful king ruled, multiple Ik’ kings seem to have shared that role. More kings required more artists to make fine objects for them. This in turn nurtured artistic competition, innovation and sometimes emulation.” Due to the durability of ceramics and their employment of storytelling through glyphs and images, they represent a compelling form of documentary evidence of the cultural, artistic and linguistic riches of the Maya people. The Ik’ kingdom vessels bear testament to the society’s relationship to art, ritual, social interaction and political succession, as well as to the tastes, aspirations and foibles of the ruling classes through the eyes of the artists who so intently observed them. Dancing into Dreams also offers an intriguing vantage point from which to consider archaeological practice over time—the practical and ethical challenges that confront each generation of scholars, collectors, museum curators and public audiences hungry for insight into lost worlds, their visual splendors and what they can teach us.  October 6, 2012 – February 17, 2013
HOUSTON (AP).- Some might prepare for the end of the world by checking off items on their bucket list. But at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, curators are launching an exhibit designed to demystify the Maya and debunk the myth that the ancient culture predicted doomsday on Dec. 21, 2012. Visitors will walk darkened halls lined with pottery, jade carvings and black-and-white rubbings of jungle monuments, all tied in some way to the sophisticated Maya calendar. They'll sit in replicas of large, mural-filled buildings that still grace the jungles of Mexico. And they should come away with at least one thought: The sun will rise on Dec. 22. "The calendar is there, and it will continue, so nobody ought to be afraid of what Dec. 21 will bring because there will be a Dec. 22 and, yes, there will be a Christmas," said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of the "Maya 2012 Prophecy Becomes History" exhibit opening Friday. Nearly every item on display circles back to the Maya calendars: complex, cyclical countdowns that helped an ancient people who dwelled in the jungles, mountains and coastal regions of Central America track crucial events — especially the rain — and build large cities, some with as many as 90,000 people. The exhibit takes visitors back nearly 3,500 years. Murals carefully reconstructed by Yale University depict images in the jungle monuments in Bonampak in the Mexican state of Chiapas — such as the Maya celebrating the induction of a new heir to the throne — all on a blood-red backdrop. Stone carvings and rubbings depict anniversaries and special events. Replicas of large pyramids explain how the Maya tracked the sun's progress in the sky, giving ancient astronomers the power to know when the rainy season would begin and when to plant the corn. The exhibit explains the calendars through videos showing the wheels introduced by Europeans to wed the Maya count with their own, as well as Maya inscriptions and writings. It shows how the Maya calendars — while advanced and complex — largely focused on the daily needs of a society by counting what we call days, months and years. "So you could have time to get your festivals organized and your king ready to bleed and your sacrifices, so the astronomer actually controlled the timekeeping of the Maya," said Carolyn Sumners, the museum's vice president for astronomy, who helped create a 3D movie to accompany the exhibit. "The power of that priest and the power of that king depended on feeding these people." The Maya did this with several calendars, each with a different count. The "ritual" cycle was 260 days long, the time between the planting of the corn, or possibly, the time from human conception to birth, experts say. They also had a 365-day calendar, similar to our own, and the two met once every 52 years, which also matched the average life expectancy of a person living at that time, said Rebecca Storey, an anthropologist at the University of Houston. The king, however, needed a "long count" to create a legacy, Sumners explained. It is this count, which begins with Maya creation and ends three days before Christmas Eve, that is the focus of the end-of-the-world beliefs. This count is broken up into 13, 400-year segments, or baktuns. The last one ends on Dec. 21, 2012, and the ancient Maya believed that on Dec. 22 they would start counting again from zero, Storey said. The date coincidentally lines up with a rare event. In 2012, the sun will pass through the center of the Milky Way during the winter solstice, when it is at its weakest — an event that occurs every 26,000 years, Sumners said. This connection, experts believe, might be behind some of the doomsday scenarios; however, there is no evidence the Maya were aware this astronomical phenomenon fell on the same day as the end of their long count. "Most of the Maya scholars think it comes from the Christian West where the whole idea of doomsday and apocalypse is an important part of Christianity," Storey said. "It's mostly outsiders that have made that link that somehow the end of a time cycle can be a time of destruction."
The Maya ended their long count at 13 because it is, for them, a sacred number, Storey said. They believe the end of a count is a time of renewal, and this will be the theme of many of the modern-day Maya celebrations to be held in Central American cities on Dec. 21, she added. In reality, the Maya did suffer an "apocalypse," said Sumners, but it occurred around 900 A.D., when the classic Mayan civilization collapsed. It appears years of drought had stopped the rain. "The reason it was such a catastrophe for them, such a collapse that they never really recovered from, it was that they verbuilt," Sumners said. "They did not create a sustainable culture if the rains didn't come, and that's what we face today."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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