Part One: Formal Analysis
The discovery and display of the monumental Olmec colossal heads which has been traced from the earliest periods of Mexican history has been an artistic phenomenon for this age and time. The seventeen colossal heads represent relativity in artistic scale which can be visualized based on their size, weight and solidarity. The gallery has specifically arranged the exhibition which has been sensitive regarding the historical references which are the roots of this civilization. The Colossal heads are ancient and trace the link to the Olmec civilization which flourished between 1200 BCE to about 400 BCE. The style is very distinctive and offers rich contribution to present age endeavor in artistic expression.
The heads are huge and very rustic created from massive basalt boulders. The carving is very precise and sculpted with eye for details. Their weight and height is colossal ranging in tons and as tall as eleven feet high. It is an expression of hard work and persistence. There is movement, variety and unified use of texture which is very natural to the medium used for the sculpted heads. The use of space and texture captivates the attention of the viewer in terms of the flow of lines integrating the Olmec heads. The scale is the most overpowering aspect of the colossal heads. Interestingly the impacts of the heads are highly visualized by the huge space around them as well as the lighting is very distinctive. The technique used to sculpt these heads is very regional and cultural in its appeal. It has the antiquity which is magnificent in terms of geographical appeal and the modern stance. The features are very Olmec which has interesting pottery style which has found expression in variety of mediums including ceramic and basalt stone.
The artistic style is very traditional and unique in expression. There is an element of rustic reality which is very earthy. The innovative aspect of artistic endeavor is very characteristic of these Olmec heads, and the range of scale is the defining characteristic which marks the vision of the people during the ancient times in the Gulf of Mexico. The motifs used are very symbolic with flattened touch and roughened bases. Interestingly the realism expressed in the representation of the heads is very direct with touch of scars, mutilations and disfigurement which are expression of the power of the autocrat. The motifs have very distinctive and symbolic depths which are marked feature of this artform.
The heads are very symmetrical and intricate, with marked expression which is very articulate. The period, the details of facial features like furrowed eyebrows, deep almond shaped eyes, adornment of the helmet, flattened nose and thick lips are very balanced with the medium used. The range of variety used to personify the individual head is unique and distinctive. The artform is exclusive to the medium used and can achieve its unique appeal with a touch of realism only through this medium. The fluidity of connection in terms of texture and flow of line gives a special dynamic quality highlighting the expressive details. The earthy color and the scale is the most effective feature of these Colossal Heads.
The creativity used in the impressive and enduring quality of these Collosal Heads with the availability of the natural resources which has been used as the medium of expression reflects the solidarity of the people and the culture of the Olmec people. The facial features finding expression in basalt boulders is phenomenal.
Part Two/Annotated Bibliography
The book focuses on the artform which flourished in the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the period between 1200 and 600 B.C. This has been recognized on the international platform as Olmec art which connects the world with the distinctive culture and symbols which are special part of this powerful representation.
The book brings to light the specific features of the sculpted figures marked by their unique appeal which is expressed in the full and deep roundness of the Collosal Heads. There is an intrinsic originality which is transmitted through the cultural, geographic and religious influence of the time period. The selection of the natural medium like ceramic and basalt boulders is an expression of meticulous observation and organization of the people. It is cultural statement which has found expression in artistic presentation. The belief of the masses and the richness of their culture are very avidly captured in the book integrating the political and social focus.
The book beautifully catalogues the ancient culture of Mexico with focus on Olmec art as exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The monumental scales of the exhibition and the figures have an inherent statement which points to the deeper meanings and the mysteries of life. The reflection of the ancient culture in the figurines which embody the human form, animals and other motifs in their intricate and rustic representation is to delve in the deeper dimensions of the culture.
The book is well researched, and aims to encompass deeper knowledge with regard to Olmec civilization. It also gives insight into the factors which may have preceded this artform and also other influential factors which have found expression in the culture, religion and politics of the place during that period. The intensity of the artform is very well captured in this book and it has been presented in a catalogue form with precise information.
As the title represents "Olmec Art of Mexico" is extensive in content and powerful in its presentation. It has been supported by indepth research and documentation which has credibility and validity. The timeless beauty and appeal of Olmec art style is very effectively captured and catalogued for reference and enrichment. The book has been highly recommended, and has wonderful coverage of Mexico during Olmec times. It has touched the artistic and architectural elements of the Olmec art style.
The book focuses on the Olmec art as recognized in the period of 1400 and 400 B.C. The book also covers roughly 250 Olmec art works which has been exhibited in the Princeton Art Museum with immense integrative and interpretive appeal. There is also reference in the book regarding the Olmec ritual which has deep connection with the artform and style. There is bringing together of the ideological influence on art which is very inherent and intrinsic of the relationship it has with the culture.
The book very precisely and picturesquely deals with the motifs and symbols which have been expressed using the natural material which are available within that period. The extensive nature of Olmec civilization as a resource has been deeply appreciated as form of Mesoamerican Art. This book also effectively catalogues the 1996 Olmec Exhibition at the Art Museum at Princeton. It also features the comprehensive show which brings under one roof wide range of collections available in North America. The book features collections which are drawn from Dumbarton Oaks , Princeton's own collection, wide range of private and public collections which are available for showcase.
The pictures integrated in the book are very impressive and the essays are reflective of the mystery which revolves around Olmec Art. The book is very systematically organized with opening into rich variety of essays which cover the reflective aspect of rulership, rituals, political and religious ideas which are symbolic and rich in artistic motifs. It is interesting to see into the minds of the anthropologists who skillfully find evidence.
The merging of essays with colorful photographs is enriching with artifacts which are brilliant and dazzling. It has been work of combined showcase of great scholars and artists. The quality of work is beautifully constructed with evidence which supports the artwork with indepth research. The coverage is extensive and has realistic appeal.
The mystery of Olmec art style has been supported by reconstructing the richness of the life during the period of 1200 and 600 B.C. influencing the choice of medium, observation and expression. The magnanimous and colossal nature of the heads is striking in their conception as well as representation. The depth and realism is captured through thorough investigation and integration of geographical factors, religious rituals and political influences. There is intricate relationship which is expressed to touch the realism and depth in formal expression of the Olmec world.
This book is an authoritative compilation of the southern Mexican culture which has existed since three thousand years. It is a complete account of the one of the oldest civilization which gives narrative to the mother culture of civilization. The book refers to the ancient art of Olmecs which was featured in National Geographic magazine as early as 1940's. The exploration to this world of cultural heritage has been recognized for their Colossal Heads which have been carved in harmony with their cultural and social life. This is a pioneering book which has traced the foreign acquaintances, historical references and archeological findings which have been impacted the development and recognition of Olmec art and Mexican civilization.
The book gives a detailed account of the modern projects which are archeological and artistic in their presentation. Richard Diehl establishes his authenticity by giving an overview of the complex life and influences in relation to the modern life. It is comparative and academic approach of scholar to establish the roots of the ancient culture. The content of the book is substantive and authoritative. The survey and data supports the logic and there is less speculation. The book is balanced in terms of narration, facts and illustrations, the focus on 1996 has been crucial in the information related to Olmecs.
The ease and the flow of language are appealing to the reader, which allows room for relation to the current cultural dynamics. The current position of Olmecs has been presented comprehensively touching the historical and cultural life of the people. The everyday living is evaluated with balanced information on art, culture and politics.
The author has approached the subject with enthusiasm which is pragmatic integration of information, graphics and pictures. Effort has been made to navigate the unexplored Olmec centers, study the artform and account for the ideological roots which are significant to understanding the Olmec art and life. It is an enterprising book which has been current, comprehensive and technical. The evidence is well discussed and readable from reader's perspective. His academic perspective is finely balanced by truth which has been investigated and supported by logic and evidence. The clarity and the precision of the book are phenomenal. The writer engages the readers and enriches the knowledge with nice supportive discussion on art, life and culture integrated in one vision 'to know the Olmec'. The book is rightly titled "The Olmecs: America's First Civilization"