The interior of a ceramic bowl is painted in black-and-white showing a human figure with a bow and arrow and heron headress interacting with what appear to be the decapitated heads of animals.

Worlds Within: Mimbres Pottery of the Ancient Southwest



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This exhibition showcases the powerful graphic imagery and exceptional creativity of one of the most widely admired artistic traditions of ancient North America.

Featuring over 75 of the finest examples of Mimbres ceramic bowls created in west-central New Mexico from about 1000 to 1130, this exhibition sheds new light on the significance of pottery in the Mimbres culture and explores various interpretations of the works. Often enigmatic, these vessels portray a wide variety of subjects, including complex geometric compositions, local plants and animals, scenes from daily life, and presumed mythological narratives that often strike modern viewers as distinctly surreal.

Interpreting these rich images poses a challenge since there are significant gaps in the historical knowledge of Mimbres society. Worlds Within both acknowledges and embraces this issue, focusing on the challenges and possibilities of more nuanced visual interpretation and considering multiple and at times competing ways of understanding the painted scenes. Through a combination of archaeological research and art historical analysis, this exhibition provides new perspectives on the captivating ceramics produced by the ancient Mimbres people, whose art, lives, and spirituality were intimately connected to the natural world that sustained them.

The exhibition has been co-organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Princeton University Art Museum in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: an anonymous donor; Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel; Anne and Chris Reyes; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.


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