Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Desert
Edwards Harris Center


04/12/13 - 02/22/15
Palm Springs Art Museum

Out of the Fire features a selection of ceramics from the museum’s permanent collection and loans from the private collection of Jan and Mark Hilbert. The works represents 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 is 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 featured 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 from the region indicate a culture that valued artistic creativity.

The art of 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 the more decorative, overall linear geometric black-on-white designs. The pan-Pueblo cultures, including Hopi, Zuni, and the nineteen Pueblos in New Mexico, are considered the living descendents of the Anasazi and the variety of ceramic Pueblo ceramics exhibits a direct stylistic link to their ancient heritage. This legacy is expressed in the graceful curvilinear designs of Hopi artist Nampeyo and in the bold lightening designs of Acoma potter Lucy M. Lewis along with works from Acoma, Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo), Tesuque, and Santa Clara Pueblos. Other Pueblo artists represented in this exhibition include Monica Silva, Maria Ray-Juanico, Sara Fina Tafayo, Nyla Sahmie (Nampeyo), and a recently commissioned seed pot from contemporary potter Barbara Cerno.

This exhibition was organized by Palm Springs Art Museum.