Latin American Art Before Columbus (approx. 2500 BCE-1500 CE)
The Western Hemisphere was a setting for outstanding accomplishments in the visual arts for millennia before the arrival of Europeans in the “New World.” This course presents the indigenous artistic traditions of what is now Latin America, from the earliest monuments of the formative periods (e.g. Olmec and Chavín), through acclaimed eras of aesthetic and technological achievement (e.g. Maya and Moche), to the later Inca and Mexica (i.e. Aztec) imperial periods. Our subject will encompass diverse genre including painting and sculpture, textiles and metalwork, architecture and performance. Attention will focus on the two cultural areas that traditionally have received the most attention from researchers: Mesoamerica (including what is today Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras) and the central Andes (modern Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador). We will also critique the drawing of those boundaries—both spatial and temporal—that define Pre-Columbian art and culture. More than a recitation of periods, styles, and monuments, we will assess the varieties of evidence available for interpretations of artworks that were created—for the most part—in settings without written texts. Weekly sections will allow for in-depth discussion of readings and lectures, as well as consideration of colonial and modern legacies of Pre-Columbian art and culture.