Monochrome Ceramics from Ancient Mexico in Fall Fowler Exhibit

Since many of the works were contemporaneous with brilliantly painted Mesoamerican ceramics, they are understood to reflect a conscious artistic choice to stand apart from those polychrome arts.

By Stacey Ravel Abarbanel for the UCLA Newsroom

The sculpted, carved and incised vessels featured in "Fowler in Focus: Monochrome Ceramics from Ancient Mexico," on view at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from Sept. 12 through Jan. 23, 2011, testify to the rich ceramic history of Mexico's ancient cultures.
The makers of these objects, which stand in stark contrast to the often brilliantly painted ceramics of other regions of Mesoamerica, seem to have deliberately rejected color in favor of an aesthetic valuing the sculpted form. Since many of the works were contemporaneous with polychrome Mesoamerican ceramic styles, they are understood to reflect a conscious artistic choice to stand apart from those more colorful arts.
Ranging from the preclassic to postclassic periods, these styles reveal intercultural connections, such as that between Teotihuacan, the great classic urban center in central Mexico, and the Maya region in the south. The exhibition's 35 monochrome ceramic pieces — including elegant jars shaped as calabashes, vessels expertly sculpted to represent various animals, and bowls carved with figural scenes or fantastic creatures — highlight how ceramic styles were shared, appropriated and transformed at specific historical moments in ancient Mexico.
The ceramics on display are grouped by region, with works from Teotihuacan, the Maya region and Colima, in western Mexico, along with two cases of effigy jars — representing the forms  humans, animals and mythological creatures — used by different cultures in ceremonies. 
This exhibition commemorates the bicentennial of the Mexican War of Independence and centennial of the Mexican Revolution by showcasing the pre-Columbian heritage of Mexico. The diverse indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica fundamentally shaped what became the Mexican nation and continue to enrich Mexico's culture today.
"Fowler in Focus: Monochrome Ceramics from Ancient Mexico" is curated by Kim Richter, the Fowler Museum's assistant curator of arts of the Americas, and will be on view in the Fowler in Focus gallery, the central space within the long-term exhibition "Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives." Fowler in Focus is dedicated to rotating installations of new acquisitions, sub-collections, and particular artistic genres in the Fowler's permanent holdings.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country's most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 8 p.m.; it is closed Monday and Tuesday. The Fowler Museum, part of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $10 in Lot 4. For more information, the public may call 310-825-4361 or visit
Related Event:
Thursday, Sept. 16, noon
"Culture Fix"
Assistant curator Kim Richter marks Mexican Independence Day with a discussion of the ballplayer iconography depicted on a carved Maya vessel on view in "Fowler in Focus: Monochrome Ceramics of Ancient Mexico."

Published: Wednesday, August 11, 2010