Casas Grandes and the Ceramic Art of the Ancient Southwest


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Edited by Richard F. Townsend; With essays by Ken Kokrda, Barbara L. Moulard, and Richard F. Townsend


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In the flourishing ancient Indian communities of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico, master potters created ceramic arts that are considered among the most accomplished in the world. The symbolic imagery and distinctive local styles of the region are unmistakable—simple volumetric shapes covered with complex, interlocking geometrical designs that are sometimes combined with bold abstract animal, human, and composite figures. Within this shared tradition are clearly identifiable local styles and symbolic vocabularies, and this lavishly illustrated book focuses on one of them: the ceramic works of the Casas Grandes-Paquimé area of northwest Mexico and adjoining parts of New Mexico and Arizona, c. A.D. 1200–1400.

For the first time on a comprehensive scale, expert art historians and an artist-teacher discuss the complex imagery of approximately ninety Casas Grandes vessels with fifty pieces representing other major styles of the Greater Southwest. Superb examples show polychromatic designs of real and mythological animals, together with abstract human figures and remarkably varied geometries, demonstrating the imaginative complexity and exceptional achievement of the Casas Grandes potters. Certain motifs reflect affinities with distant Mesoamerica, yet the authors show that these forms were absorbed into a visual vocabulary that reflected the unique artistic and cosmological outlook of Casas Grandes, within the native Southwestern cultural tradition.

Published in association with The Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition Schedule:

Art Institute of Chicago (April 2 – June 18, 2006)

Richard F. Townsend is curator of African and Amerindian Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ken Kokrda is a ceramic artist and teacher and an expert on Casas Grandes pottery traditions. Barbara Moulard is adjunct associate professor of art history at Arizona State University and the author of Within the Underworld Sky: Mimbres Ceramic Art in Context (1984) and Re-Creating the Word: Painted Ceramics of the Prehistoric Southwest (2002).


Art Institute of Chicago (April 2 – June 18, 2006)

"This comprehensive overview is lavishly illustrated with excellent photography and reproductions."—Art Times

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2007 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300111484
Publication Date: November 11, 2005
Publishing Partner: Published in association with The Art Institute of Chicago
208 pages, 10 x 11
33 b/w + 214 color illus.
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American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South

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Indian Art of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago

Richard Townsend; With contributions by Elizabeth Pope

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