Popol Vuh and the Maya Art of Storytelling

Exhibition Website

May 4 2023 - Oct 22 2023

The sacred story known as the Popol Vuh describes a K’iche Maya vision of the origins of the world and the actions and exploits of two heroic twin brothers who descend to the underworld to conquer Death. One of the most important recorded stories of the Indigenous Americas, the Popol Vuh has inspired countless artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them the Guatemalan modern artist Carlos Mérida, who created a series of images inspired by the Popol Vuh now in the TMA permanent collection.​

This exhibition takes Mérida’s Popol Vuh series as a springboard for thinking about traditions of Maya storytelling and image-making from antiquity to today. Ancient Maya vessels from the museum’s permanent collection reveal artists’ ideas surrounding death and the afterlife, creatures of the night, and courtly culture, themes that resonate with the Popol Vuh. 

Mérida’s series shows how a canonical text from the Americas was reinterpreted in the twentieth century. Furthering the dialogue, work by contemporary artist Justin Favela reimagines Mérida’s work as a large mural made from cut paper, creating new relationships between the artwork and audiences. 

Putting the Popol Vuh’s language in conversation with ancient art and much more recent works, Popol Vuh and the Art of Maya Storytelling celebrates the tradition and resonances of Maya narratives from antiquity until today.

Credit: Overview from museum website

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