Saturday, November 15, 2008

Transforming Tradition: Pottery from Mata Ortiz

Juan Quezada
was a poor farmer
who decided to revive
his local art of ceramics
(he lived about 20 miles from Casas Grandes)
and ended up reviving the economy
of his entire village of Mata Ortiz
where pottery has now become a cottage industry.

I love to contemplate
the boundary between artsy art and touristy trash
because I'm never sure where it is
although it makes a world of difference
regarding price and availability.

The above detail comes from an ancient pot
made about 600 years ago
and shown at the Art Institute in 2006

But what about these modern pots?

(all shown in a special exhibit
of pottery from Mata Ortiz
this month
at the Field Museum of Natural History)

This one is nice,
but somehow it's different,
though I'm not sure that difference
would disparage it
in another 600 years
when both pieces would be
historic artifacts.

This one
is starting to feel a bit
too sllck to me

Will the 21st C. qualities of this piece
be evident over time ?

This one feels
almost Islamic to me.

Which is also good,
but definitely different

This one feels

in comparison with this historic piece
that feels cartoonish-serious

While this one
feels like it could be made
by a skilled potter
from the Chicago area

I don't really care for this one,
but have to note
that I like it no less
than the vast bulk
of historical Asian ceramics
that I see from time to time.

It's well made - just not special

same thing with these pots
from the same village
that are currently on sale
for reasonable prices
in the museum's gift shop


I don't think you'd find
something this engaging piece
in a gift shop

(by way of comparison with the previous piece
from the Field Museum,
here's a recent acquisition
of the Art Institute,
listed as "Acona - 1880's",
this one feeling like a
more decorative, less personal variation )

nor would you find something this quirky
(Chaco Canyon 850-950 AD)

I guess I just prefer the old stuff,
(1200 A.D., Cibola)

because it seems more whimsical
without getting outrageous.

(although possibly,
if this sort of thing were selling well,
the potters of Mata Ortiz
would be working this kind of style as well)

and from the Art Institute,
here's a late 19th C.
Acoma piece (New Mexico)
that makes an interesting comparison.
Not as much fun as the ancient pots,
but still it has a certain mystery about it.


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