Pre-Columbian Art

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Including the creations of the Maya, the Aztecs, the Inca, and Native North Americans, Pre-Columbian Art is a broad category that encompasses the art of indigenous people of North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean prior to the arrival of the Spanish at the beginning of the 16th century. Figural sculptures in stone such as the Colossal Heads (900–400 BC), made by the Olmec, one of the earliest Mesoamerican civilizations, were used to honor rulers and for communication and devotion. The Maya left behind pyramids, stone sculpture, and hieroglyphic writing in cities in the Yucatan such as Palenque, but these were largely wiped out by the Aztec Empire in the 12th century. The Aztecs also created immense religious and royal structures at their capital, Tenochtitlán, built in the middle of a lake in central Mexico. Empires in the Andes constructed large complexes as well, such as the massive desert drawings the Nazca created in southern Peru and the mountaintop citadel Machu Picchu, built by the Inca. These civilizations were overtaken by European conquistadors at the beginning of the 16th century, but elements of Pre-Columbian language and culture survive throughout the Americas up to the present day. Due to what has been seen as a Eurocentric bias to the terms “pre-Columbian” and its synonym “pre-Hispanic,” the terms Ancient American, pre-contact, pre-conquest, and precolumbian (with Columbus de-emphasized) are commonly used.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019