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Antigua Guatemala — La Ruta Maya Foundation, together with the National School of the Arts “Rafael Rodríguez Padilla” (ENAP, in Spanish), has organized this art exhibition that seeks to establish a point in common between Maya Pre-Columbian design and contemporary geometric abstract art and design.

The show invites to think about the creative processes of artists who, despite the time distance and their own visions of geometric abstraction, reached the same plastic representations. The decorative variety intends to amaze the public and continue to inspire designers, artists, interior designers, architects and other branches of expression related to the human creativity we all share.

Vases painted with grid designs, which reflect the diversity of designs created by Mayan artists, incorporating dots, circles or simply creating an interesting optical illusion with colors and shadows.

Thanks to the chemical analysis of their paste, we know that their pottery workshop was located in Tikal, Petén.

The exhibition presents an interesting selection of works of art in ceramics, shell and stone that correspond to the Maya Classic period (250-900 AD), with special emphasis on those that include motifs, sequences and patterns based on the line and basic geometric figures.

One of the most important artistic expressions of Pre-Columbian cultures, especially the Mayas, are the painted ceramic objects, which include scenes with human and animal characters, as well as symbols and decorative motifs that form patterns. Much of this expression was represented with lines and colors in other media that have transcended until today (such as woven textiles, for example).

Collection of vases decorated with bands and lines of various colors and styles.

Many other designs have similarities to the current design, such as those made up of zigzagging, staggered, and spiral lines; or the basic geometric motifs, such as the square, the circle, the triangle and the star and cruciform designs.

Set of vessels decorated with triangles in various colors and different forms of lines

the means of expression come together

The design materializes through drawings, diagrams, or sketches drawn on any medium or form. It is a premeditated process that is part of human creativity, and, for that reason, various motifs appear frequently in various cultures around the world, and in all periods. Many of them are a synthesis of the shapes found both in nature and in the geometry of their environment.

Colorful vessels decorated with stepped frets and stepped elements.

The vase has a design that imitates the weave of basketry

Abstraction, on the other hand, reduces realistic forms to their simplest expression, but it is also expression as form itself. For example, the contrast between black and white expresses a polarization of ideas, forces or weights that visually affect the viewer.

Three views of a cylindrical vase with the surface divided into 4 panels or sections, placed interspersed, with geometric designs in red, light orange and black on cream.

The chemical analysis of its paste indicates that the pottery workshop where it was manufactured was in the area of ​​Río Azul, Petén. Classic (250- 900); Reg. No. 1.2.144.43

Because of this clash, the contour of a figure emerges, creating the feeling of a “background” and a “form” on top of that background. The same thing happens with the use of new forms that are developed in a plane, creating in turn, contrasts of position, of sizes and creating weights by grouping forms within a certain space.

Vase with diamond decoration made with the negative painting technique. Interestingly, it has small holes on each side of the cracks in the wall, which are actually Pre-Columbian repair holes. When a well-loved vessel was broken, they repaired it by threading a string through the holes.

Maya Lowlands, Petén

Classic (250-900 AD) Cultural Property Registry No. 1.2.144.0205

These effects give rise to different sensations on the viewer, so it can be considered that the abstract geometric figures constitute a dialogue that simulates nature, which contains geometries as complex as the scales of fish, the skin of reptiles, nucleated or disembodied eyes, seeds and the petals of flowers.

Vase-shaped vessel decorated with fresco designs in pastel colours, on a thin layer of stucco. Manufactured on the Pacific coast and possibly exported to Petén. Classic Period (250-900).

Could the designs in this show be a representation of the abstraction of nature? A way to represent the mathematical, rhythmic and contrasting perfection of the cosmos? Could the zigzag and undulating lines represent the constant movement of the serpent? Could the crosses and grids represent the planes of the cosmos or the stars themselves?

Bowl with symbols representing the celestial band.

Maya Lowlands, Petén

Classic Period (250 – 900) Cultural Property Registry No. Reg. No. 1.2.144.248

Tripod vessel with cream slip and simple red decoration. The staggered supports in the form of a “T”. Chemical analysis of its paste indicates that the manufacturing workshop was located in northern Belize.

Classic Period (250 – 900) Cultural Property Registry No. 1.2.144.895

Curators:      Sofía Paredes Maury & Fernando Paiz (Fundación La Ruta Maya), Selvin García (National School of the Arts, ENAP)

Installation: Sofía Paredes Maury; Jose Manuel Mendoza and Jorge Andrés Palma (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, UVG).

Panels intervention by Kristopher Jiddu Quiñónez Orellana and Georgina Michelle Saravia Pérez from ENAP.

Details of the Exhibition

Where: Gallery 6 of the Spanish Cooperation Training Center (CFCE) or Old School of the “Compañía de Jesús” in Antigua Guatemala (6th North Avenue between 3rd and 4th West Streets).

Schedule: Open from June 9, 2022 to March 5, 2023, Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Details: Given its face-to-face mode, biosafety protocols and the use of facemasks could be implemented, depending on the color of the COVID marker and local provisions.