Several of the other prints are dramatically more colorful. The blue, green and yellow of Philip Bennet’s “Splash,” an oil-based monotype, are so vivid they seem not to have dried fully. Clare Romano’s collograph, “Tidal Patterns,” arrays abstract bands of textured color that evoke sea, sky and sand.
There are also works of extraordinary detail, such as Art Werger’s “Requiem,” a mezzotint of a rocky shore. Another intricate mezzotint, Frederick Mershimer’s “Moonlight,” shows a furious array of clouds, dramatically backlighted by an unseen moon, over a calm expanse of water.
In two large black-and-white pictures, Peter Milton pushes Mershimer’s near-photographic style into the realm of surrealism. “Waterfall,” a digital print, seems to combine painting and photography in a Dali-meets-Wagner vision of glimmering waters, lounging Rhine maidens and fluttering birds that meet leaping fish in midair. Even wilder is “Interior V: Water Music,” in which musicians float in a semi-submerged salon, while a whale swims behind them. It could be the interior of an ocean liner or a spaceship, but however baroque the image, the presence of water gives it a primal power.
The island of Jaina, once called Hina, is among those ancient places whose meaning has been misplaced. The exhibition at the Mexican Cultural Institute is titled “Hina/Jaina: On the Threshold of the Mayan Underworld,” but not all archaeologists would accept that subtitle. Many people were buried on Jaina, a human-made isle separated from Yucatan’s mainland by a narrow inlet, mostly between the years 600 and 900. The small piece of land may have been a necropolis, chosen because the area’s freshwater sinkholes led people to consider it a gateway to another plane of existence. Perhaps it was a site for the sacrifice of humans. But what happened on Jaina is no more settled than what occurred at, say, Stonehenge.
A significant difference between those two places is that Jaina’s heritage is a lot more portable. The island is known for its ceramic figurines, which were interred with corpses buried there. The small clay sculptures depict both the human and the divine, and they are notable for their craft and detail but also for their variety. They were not made to a general model, but instead show the breadth of Mayan society and cosmology. Whether the human statuettes depict actual people is unknown, but the likenesses are not idealized and sometimes seem quite specific.