Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea Exhibition Opens at the Kimbell Art Museum

The Kimbell Art Museum’s exhibition, Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, explores the profound influence of water on ancient Maya civilization and offers an entirely fresh way of viewing their art. The exhibition opens to the public on Sunday, August 29, at noon.

Over 90 works, many recently excavated offer exciting new insights into the culture of the ancient Maya focusing on the sea as a defining feature of the spiritual realm and the inspiration for powerful works of art. Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, denizens of hundreds of Maya cities throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America responded to the proximity of the ocean, and the power and omnipresence of inland and atmospheric water that shaped their existence.

Panel with a seated ruler in a watery cave; AD 795; Cancuen, Guatemala; Limestone; 22 5/8 x 26 ¼ x 3 inches (57.5 x 66.5 x 7.6 cm); Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes ─ Museo Nacional de Arquelogía y Etnología, Guatemala City; Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum © Jorge Pérez de Lara

At the height of its achievement between 300 and 900 AD, the Maya civilization spanned hundreds of cities across Mexico and Central America. Their culture highly-advanced in mathematics, astronomy, architecture and art, the Maya practiced a complex religion and used a refined pictorial writing system composed of more than 800 glyphs. Interpretation of this language had a role in understanding of Maya culture to that point. While today 90% of glyphs are now understood, it was only in the late 1980s that a glyph for the sea had been identified. Until this key glyph had been unlocked, the importance of the sea in Maya culture had not been fully studied or appreciated. Translated literally as Fiery Pool, identification of this glyph was part of a growing awareness of the centrality of the sea in Maya life that culminates in this exhibition and the companion book of the same title.

Fiery Pool was organized by Daniel Finamore, The Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) and Stephen D. Houston, The Dupee Family Professor of Social Science and Professor of Archaeology at Brown University.

Kimbell Art Museum hours are Tuesdays–Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fridays, noon–8 p.m.; Sundays, noon–5 p.m.; closed Mondays. For general information, call 817-332-8451.

Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, Texas 76107-2792

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