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Casas Grandes and the Ceramic Art of the Ancient Southwest

April 22, 2008–August 13, 2008
Regenstein Hall

In the deserts and mountains of the American Southwest and Northwestern Mexico, there flourished ancient Indian communities whose ceramics are among the most accomplished in the world. Bearing plumed and horned serpents, macaws, and lively geometric designs, these objects reveal an unknown story in the art and culture of Southwestern American Indian antiquity. This innovative exhibition highlights the imaginative graphic complexity and distinctive symbolism of Casas Grandes ceramics with vessels from c. 1250-1450.


In conjunction with the exhibition is a beautifully illustrated, 214-page catalogue. An essay by exhibition curator Richard F. Townsend situates the exceptional achievements of the Casas Grandes potters within the context of the other major ceramic traditions of the greater Southwest. Accompanying essays discuss the complex iconography of these striking objects, and all of the vessels in the exhibition are presented in luxurious, full-color reproductions. The catalogue is available in the Museum Shop.

Exhibition catalogue: Casas Grandes and the Ceramic Art of the Ancient Southwest (out of print).


The Art Institute of Chicago


Richard Townsend, curator of Amerindian art, Art Institute of Chicago


This exhibition is generously funded by the Joanne M. and Clarence E. Spanjer Fund.

Jar with Plumed Serpent and Macaw-Headed Serpent, c. 1280-1450. Casas Grandes. Private Collection.