Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Desert
Edwards Harris Center
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OUT OF THE FIRE:MESOAMERICAN AND PUEBLO CERAMICS

April 12th, 2013 – December 14th, 2014
Palm Springs Art Museum

This exhibition features a selection of ceramics from the museum’s permanent collection representing more than 2000 years of ceramic tradition from ancient Mesoamerican to the Pueblo Indians of the North American Southwest. Made for a variety of purposes from utilitarian to sacred practices, ceramics are one of the most enduring artistic traditions of the Americas. Modeled by hand from pliable clay material and transformed by fire into hardened vessels or figures, these objects represent a long history that expresses both cultural identity and values individual creativity. 

This exhibition features a selection of ceramics from the museum’s permanent collection representing more than 2000 years of ceramic tradition from ancient Mesoamerican to the Pueblo Indians of the North American Southwest. Made for a variety of purposes from utilitarian to sacred practices, ceramics are one of the most enduring artistic traditions of the Americas. Modeled by hand from pliable clay material and transformed by fire into hardened vessels or figures, these objects represent a long history that expresses both cultural identity and values individual creativity.

The Mesoamerican cultures include works by Zapotec, Mixtec, Chupícuaro, and West Mexico cultures. Archeologists refer to ancient West Mexico as the “ceramic provinces” because of the abundance of ceramic sculptures and utilitarian objects that have survived. This region, including the modern-day states of Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima, provides a unique cultural and artistic heritage. Mostly found in burial tombs and shafts, the style and function of West Mexican ceramics are associated with ancient religious and burial practices and customs. Simple in form and concept but extraordinarily expressive, the large variety of forms indicate a culture that valued artistic creativity.

Pottery making in the Southwest can be traced back more than 1300 years to pre-historic Anasazi grey-ware pinched pots that later developed into decorative and elaborate overall linear geometric black-on-white designs. The well painted and carefully executed red, black, and white abstract geometric designs of Ramos Polychrome Casas Grandes pottery reflect a culture that admired individual artistic expression. The pottery of the Pan-Pueblo cultures of the Southwest including Hopi, Zuni, and the nineteen Pueblos in New Mexico exhibits a direct stylistic link to the Casas Grandes and other Ancient cultures. Today’s Pueblo people are considered to be the living descendents of these cultures. This legacy is expressed in the graceful curvilinear designs of Hopi artist Nampeyo and in the bold designs of Kewa (Santo Domingo), Acoma, Tesuque, and Santa Clara Pueblo ceramics. A seed jar by contemporary Hopi-Acoma potter Barbara Cerno, however, displays a unique expressive style. Combining tradition and innovation in its playful and humorous overall design of a menagerie of animals and insects that inhabit the Southwest, Cerno’s pots reflect an enduring tradition that values cultural identity and individual creativity.

This exhibition is organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum.