If you still haven’t seen the fantastic displays of 80 carved wooden faces depicting animals, folk personae and historic figures that make up the Fowler Museum at UCLA’s “Guatemalan Masks: Selections from the Jim and Jeanne Pieper Collection,” what’s wrong with you?
The Fowler is close and it’s free, and these masks are both beautiful and educational, powerfully evoking the dramatic confluence of indigenous Maya and colonial Spanish cultures and masquerade traditions. The exhibition runs through Oct. 6 in the Lucas Gallery at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.
The works on view draw their powers from the interplay of disparate cultural forces and their collective influence. The eyes of masqueraders become those of sacred deer and jaguars, saints and serpents, Spanish conquistadors and Maya warriors, cowboys and bulls, and countless mischievous monkeys — all of whom viewers are given the opportunity to meet face to face. The exhibition also includes hand-written scripts that guide performances as well as photographs taken by Jim and Jeanne Pieper during research trips. Together with the masks, this material introduces a cast of historical, mythical, and archetypal characters that integrate indigenous Maya, colonial Spanish and post-colonial Guatemalan elements.