The Artistic World of the Taíno People

In Arte del mar, curator James Doyle highlights some of the most fascinating precolonial objects at the Metropolitan Museum.

A conversation with Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic. You can listen to the podcast here.

The Taino civilization was decimated by Christopher Columbus and other European explorers during first contact, but the legacy of these people, who inhabited what is today called the Caribbean, continues to this day.

In a small exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, titled Arte del mar: Artistic Exchange in the Caribbean, Assistant Curator James Doyle showcases some of the rare wooden objects, along with the intricate gold pieces, fascinating stone stools, and other objects that have survived over the centuries. He explains what makes the artistic objects of the Taíno unique, why bats and other animals are common in the imagery, and what we know about a civilization that was drastically impacted by the devastation and genocide of European colonization.

Also, some good news: the run of the exhibition has been extended until June 27, 2021.

The music for this week’s episode is “The Shady Road” by artist B. Wurtz. His debut album, Some Songs, will be released on October 16 by Hen House Studios.

A view of the entrance to the Arte del mar exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum
Left, a marble pedestal bowl (9th–10th century CE) from the Ulúa Valley, Honduras), and, right, a ceramic alligator incense burner (7th–12th century CE) from Costa Rica or Nicaragua, and the reflection of curator James Doyle at this exhibition
A ceramic double-tiered jar (3rd–4th century CE) in the Tonosi-style, Panama
Two three-pointed Zemí (Trigonolito) in the exhibition. Both objects date to the 10–16th centuries CE, made of stone, and from present-day Puerto Rico.
The two stone objects on the left are believed to be effigy belts or collars and date to the 11th–15th century CE. They are both from present-day Puerto Rico.
Left, a stone flying panel “metate” (1st–5th century CE) from the central region of Costa Rica, and, right, Wildfredo Lam’s “Rumbling of the East (Rumor de la tierrra): 1950

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