Heritage of Power: Ancient Sculpture from West Mexico, The Andrall E. Pearson Family Collection

Butterwick, Kristi (2004)

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Heritage of Power: Ancient Sculpture from West Mexico: The Andrall E. Pearson Family Collection

This exhibition highlights more than forty ceramic sculptures made in the western region of Mexico two thousand years ago. These sculptures, from volcanic highland areas of the contemporary Mexican states of Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit, portray ancestors, warriors, ballplayers, dancers, and musicians, among other depictions of life and ritual. Ranging in size from a few inches to about two-and-a-half feet in height, the works on view emphasize the human figure, and its activities and concerns.

West Mexico is an environmentally diverse region that enjoyed a lengthy period of well-being during the centuries between 300 B.C. and A.D. 400. Its ancient inhabitants settled primarily in the mountains of Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental, with its volcanoes, lake basins, river valleys, and marshlands, and had an abundance of natural resources upon which to draw, and eventually to thrive. Local hierarchies developed and power concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. That power came to be focused, it is believed, on land and its inheritance. Wealthy members of individual communities are thought to have established family lineages that remained intact for many generations. Reverence for ancestors was fundamental to the region, and can be seen in the ceramic sculptures that accompanied important family members in death. The many West Mexican sculptures in the form of male-female couples are believed to reflect such family ties, either as depictions of founding ancestors or as reaffirmations of the continuity of the line...