Our newest exhibit, "Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico," opened yesterday at the de Young. In our Volunteer Bulletin, it seemed a far cry from the "Art" that speaks to me..... but today, before my early morning shift, as I wandered through the exhibit by myself, I felt curously drawn to the figures and the "magical" power that emantes from them.The pieces are displayed in an uncluttered way - letting you savour the enormity of the figures. At the entrance to the exhibition hangs a photo mural of archaeologists contemplating an immense stone head unearthed at a rain forest site. The picture appears posed, but it conveys awe and bafflement on the excavators' part, nicely presaging the visitor's experience of the exhibition.
I was delighted to find not only heroic male figures, resplendent with, resplendent with breastplates, but fantastical creatures.. like this little fellow above.... and this "Cat" below. These figures were created in 1,200 B.C.!
Love the teeth and paws!
We do know the people did not call themselves "Olmec," a Nahuatl word that denotes dwellers of the rubber-producing region. Nothing of their own language survives, except perhaps in the still-undeciphered glyphs adorning items such as the stone "celts". Their geographical region was the Southern part of Mexico....their time from 1200 - 400 B.C.
An Olmec Woman... and a complete, upright figure! (A rareity in the exhibit - as you can imagine, many of the figures are missing parts.)
Here, you can see the scope of an Olmec head, in the site where it was discovered. I can only begin to imagine the excitement of the Archeologists's who stumbled onto this!
Here, if you look closely, you can see a profile carbed in jadeite. There were quite a few pieces done in this material - still bright, clear and shining.
I love this group of small figures, all done in obsidian and granite, circling around the one figure in limestone. The columns remind me of Stonehedge...
Are they threatening him? Worshipping him?
An Olmec baby - complete with his ball!
I was completely entranced with these figures....in fact, I found my hand reaching out, wanting to to touch them....( a real "no-no" - especially for a staff member)! But there seemed to be a sort of "power" still emanating from them. The Olmec vanished into history around 400 B.C. - no one know why.
Two of my favourite pieces - a Jaguar and a truly unusual giant had which was smiling....were impossible for me to capture. Perhaps in time. (This exhibit runs until May.)
Here's a great video to show how some of these heads were actually discovered! I hope you enjoy my little preview!
♥ Robin ♥