Met Exhibit Shows Maya Kings' Treasures

By DEEPTI HAJELA
The Associated Press
Monday, June 12, 2006; 7:04 PM

NEW YORK -- They were more than mere kings: They were gods. For the ancient Maya, living in what is present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize, their rulers were the ones who ensured order in the cosmos, who embodied the divine and carried out rituals so that their people would prosper.

The craftsmanship of the period reflected that reality, a new exhibition shows. "Treasures of Sacred Maya Kings" opens Tuesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and runs through Sept. 10. The show features more than 150 objects primarily from Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras, some recently excavated, that highlight the connection.

"We don't have separation of church and state" among the Maya, said Virginia Fields of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who originally curated the show. "It's very much the involvement of supernatural forces and ancestors in maintaining the well-being of the community, and the king is the one who is the intermediary between these supernatural beings and the human community."

Maya rulers would wear costumes and vestments that invoked the gods, such as a crown in the show that features an image of maize, the main crop, to show that the wearer had the power of the maize god and could bring a good harvest. They took part in rituals, like bloodletting or imbibing hallucinogens, that were meant to connect them with their ancestors and with supernatural spirits for the good of the people. Even those objects used in the rituals, such as bowls or instruments to draw blood, were decorated with symbols to show the divine connection.

The show, organized in thematic sections on such subjects as religious duties, royal portraits, writing and royal feasting, emphasizes a time period from about 200 B.C. to 600 A.D. The era was a high point for the Maya, Fields said. "This is really where a lot of these ideas came together," she said. "This is really where it all began."

The exhibit has already been seen in Los Angeles and Dallas. The museum plans a range of programming to complement the exhibition.

Julie Jones, who organized the show at the Met, said she hoped visitors would come away with an appreciation for the creativity and culture of the Maya.

"They were great artists _ imaginative, inventive, intellectual and it all shows up in their works of art," she said.

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Elsewhere in New York art openings:

_ "Zaha Hadid," Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, through Oct. 25: Hadid is the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize. This exhibit explores 20 years of her projects through a range of media including paintings, drawings and building designs.

_ "On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag," Metropolitan Museum, through Sept. 4: Sontag, who died in 2004, was known for her photography criticism. This exhibit showcases about 40 photos that she wrote about, including works by Robert Capa, Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol. Most of the wall texts are taken from Sontag's writings.

_ "Unknown Weegee," International Center of Photography, through Aug. 27: Weegee was a New York crime photographer whose crisp black and white photos of gangland shootings and kissing lovers made him famous. The show contains over 100 of his less well-known images.

_ "Atta Kim: On-Air," International Center of Photography, through Aug. 27: This is the first major solo show for Atta Kim, an artist from South Korea, and features 20 of his large-scale works.

_ "Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt," International Center of Photography, through Aug. 27: Brandt, a German artist, is more known for her metalwork. But she also created a number of photomontages, inspired by artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, many of which will be shown in this exhibit for the first time.

_ "Paris: Eugene Atget and Christopher Rauschenberg," International Center of Photography, through Aug. 27: Both artists spent much time photographing Paris, although in different decades. The show provides a look at the City of Light from both ends of the 20th century.

_ "Hector Mendez Caratini. The Eye of Memory: Three Decades, 1974-2003," El Museo del Barrio, through Sept. 10: With photography and video, Mendez Caratini has spent years capturing the culture of the Caribbean. This exhibit showcases some of that work.

_ "Douglas Gordon: Timeline," Museum of Modern Art, through Sept. 4: Gordon is getting his first solo New York museum exhibition with this show, which features 13 works in the medium of film.

_ "Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789): Swiss Master," The Frick Collection, through Sept. 17: He was well-known during his time, but Liotard is hardly a household name. This show hopes to introduce art lovers to him with more than 50 paintings, drawings and miniatures.

_ "Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery," the New-York Historical Society, June 16 through Jan. 7: This exhibit serves as a bridge between two other shows on New York's slave history. It includes six new pieces commissioned just for this show.

_ "Dada," MoMA, June 18 through Sept. 11: The exhibit features more than 400 works from such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray, and covers the years from around 1916 to 1924 when the Dada movement took hold in places like Berlin, New York and Paris.

_ "Chihuly at The New York Botanical Garden," The New York Botanical Garden, June 25 through Oct. 29: Dale Chihuly's vividly colored glass art will be seen throughout the grounds of the Botanical Garden, from the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory to the Everett Children's Adventure Garden.

_ "Graffiti," Brooklyn Museum, June 30 through Sept. 3: This show will feature 20 large-scale works exploring how graffiti has gone from the street to art.

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On the Net:

Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org


© 2006 The Associated Press