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Art and Writing in the Maya Cities, AD 600–800 examines an important aspect of the visual cultures of the ancient Maya in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. During a critical period of cultural evolution, artistic production changed significantly, as calligraphy became an increasingly important formal element in Maya aesthetics and was used extensively in monumental building, sculptural programs and small-scale utilitarian objects. Adam Herring's study analyzes art works, visual programs, and cultural sites of memory, providing an anthropologically-informed description of ancient Maya culture, vision, and artistic practice. An inquiry into the contexts and perceptions of the ancient Maya city, his book melds epigraphic and iconographic methodologies with the critical tradition of art-historical interpretation.
1. Yuknoom's stare, the beholder's share; 2. Gesture and speech; 3. In the realm of the senses; 4. Piedras Negras: capital city, canted landscape; Epilogue: signatures of sociability.
Posted January 22, 2009
The complex, seemingly highly stylized Mayan figurative and symbolic art work and calligraphic art work of the late, most advanced period of Mayan civilization was not merely, or even mainly, decorative nor was it iconographic. Although for its skillfulness, composition, and prevalence, it is often presumed to be either. Rather, the Mayan visual art of this period 'offered an expansive discourse of culture and power,' mainly to the elites in the urban centers in what is today the Yucatan Peninsula and adjacent Central American countries. This art based on calligraphic tools, techniques, and intentions is known as 'ts'ib'', a term which can be translated variously as line, painting, brushwork, and design, among other terms. As Associate Professor of Art History at Southern Methodist U. author Herring demonstrates, ts'ib' 'was not so much a term of Maya calligraphy as it was a mode of visual attention and moral valuation within the sensory regime of Maya sociability.' The discourse contained within this Maya art reflected values, concerns, and situations of the past while giving cautious, coded, guidance in changing circumstances of the evolving society, fading even as it was coming into its highest powers. Herring's treatment of the diverse, interrelated cultural and artistic matters ranges from broad historical views to analysis of minutiae of Mayan relics. At times he makes use of approaches and perspectives from the contemporary field of cultural studies.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.