The Blanton Museum of Art, in partnership with the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin, presents a special selection of objects that illuminate the lifestyle, technological achievements, and ideology of pre-Inka cultures among the coastal Andes of South America. Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes features 80 works drawn primarily from the University’s collections with loans from the Dallas Museum of Art, ranging from intricately woven textiles to painted ceramic vessels and modeled effigies.
Nasca Culture, Peru, Early Intermediate Period (100 BCE - 600 CE)
Bowl with profile birds Ceramic, slip paints
Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts, The University of Texas at Austin
The exhibition traces the artistic development of the ancient Paracas, Nasca, Wari, Moche, Chancay, Sicán, and Chimú cultures from the Early Horizon (900–200 BCE) through the Late Horizon (1470–1532 CE) periods.
The Pacific coast of South America is home to environmental extremes, where the narrow but stark desert coastline is striped by fertile river valleys, whose abundance depends on the towering highland peaks for rains, springs, and water runoff. Mountains and sea thus frame the desert coast, marking environmental, ecological, and economic contrasts that have prompted complex networks of production and trade throughout Andean cultural history.
The coastal Andean societies devised both technological and ideological means to tackle their precarious dependence on water for agricultural production. Through the vivid colors and refined modeling of their ceramic vessels and woven textiles, viewers understand the ideas, personae, and performances addressing such concerns. Perhaps one of the most well-known, the Nasca culture (100 BCE – 600 CE) created vast geoglyphs in the desert pampa known as “Nazca lines.” Among various possible functions, these immense earthworks may have indicated regions possessing or void of underground water channels. Historical photographs of these expansive figural and geometric designs will be included in the exhibition. They bear close connection to the images decorating vibrant polychrome Nasca ceramic vessels, which retain their remarkable brilliance after 1500 years.
Arguably the most prolific of Andean visual cultures, the Moche (100–800 CE) on the North coast of Peru excelled in ceramic arts, using the medium to portray ritual, regalia, performance, and power. Moche ceramicists blended modeling and mold-making, painting, and relief to illustrate dramatic scenes of warfare and sacrifice, agricultural production, and fertility. The Moche approached stark realism in portraiture of male warriors, as well as in animal and plant representations.
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