Fort Worth’s Kimbell Museum stands ready to present significant advances in the collective understanding of and appreciation for Maya art. The museum’s current exhibit Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea brings that understanding and appreciation to a new level, moving beyond the content provided by the breakthrough 1986 exhibit titled The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art. The Fiery Pool exhibit will continue through January 2, 2011.

The Maya civilization has long been acknowledged as one of the most sophisticated in the ancient world. The Maya practiced a complex religion, building a comprehensive knowledge of advanced mathematics and communicating in part through the use of a refined pictorial writing system. This appreciation for the Maya of Southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, and Belize has grown in parallel with the translation of the Maya’s 800-glyph visual language, 90 percent of which is now understood.

Despite steady advances in understanding of the Maya, it was not until the late 1980s that the translation of a Maya glyph for “the sea” helped explain the importance of the sea in Maya culture. The identification of this glyph, translated literally as “fiery pool,” clarified the essential nature of this previously unknown aspect of Maya life. Hence this exhibition and its companion book (an impressive resource published by the Peabody Essex Museum in association with Yale University Press). In addition to presenting the conceptual breakthrough of the “fiery pool,” this exhibit offers several significant pieces of Maya art that had not previously reached the United States.

“In 1986, The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art shed new light on the importance of dynastic lineage and blood sacrifice to the Maya,” comments Eric Lee, director of the Kimbell. “Recent archaeological discoveries and the deciphering of the Maya glyph for the sea have led to a new, broader understanding of the expansive influence that water in all its myriad forms had on both the daily life and spiritual beliefs of the Maya people. This exhibition is the next important chapter in Maya research, and I am thrilled that the Kimbell Art Museum will showcase it.” Call 817/332-8451; www.kimbellart.org.

From the November 2010 issue
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