As I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select web sites, the exhibit “City and Cosmos” that just opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, uniquely embraces both art and urban history.
And let me state from the beginning of this review, modest as the exhibit may be in three galleries in the Resnick wing of sprawling LACMA, it is not to be missed.
Engagingly revealed are the finding of the lastest exhaustive excavations in the ancient city of TEOTIHUACAN of three pyramids. the sun, moon and feathered serpent, and the adjacent residential compounds.
The excavations have been ongoing by international teams of archeologists, for the city in central Mexico was for centuries, at the turn of the first millennium, from about 100 b.c. to 600 a.d , the largest urban center in the Americas, with an estimated population of 100,000.
For a context, they lived in single family, one story houses, off a well planned street system, focused on a major avenue anchored by the three impressive pyramids.
The city is considered the centerpiece of Mexico’s rich narrative, and its ruins draw about 4 million visitors a year.
The 200 or so objects displayed are fascinating, for me riveting, Included are both large and small scale impressive stone sculptures, beautfully crafted jewelery, and household items, principally pottery, decoratfed with scenes of everyday life. mothers and children, and animalsThe carved masks and polished faces mesmerize.
The craftsmanship is exquisite, the work obviously of a large and talented artisan class, though one questions whether they were slaves or critizens. And where did some of the materials come from, such as the varied shells?
Indeed, if anything, the exhibit raises more questions than it answers, and a well written and illustrated timeline would have been appreciated. The labeling was inadequate, atleast for the plebian public.
Whatever, the objects indicate a rich and vibrant cosmopolitan life, that hint at the city in its hey day attracting people from various tribes and cultures from across meso America. In this respect, I feel this speaks in a way to Los Angeles today, and its large immigrant and migrating population.
But I would have liked to learn more why this city was destroyed; was the devestating fire in the six hundreds deliberate or accidental, and were the city’s apparent egalitarian institutions that had welcome the city’s diversity eventually subverted by despotic rulers only hinted at in the exhibition catalogue? Questions.