"Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico": Art Review

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De Young Museum

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden
San Francisco, CA 94118

Category: Museums

Region: Richmond (Inner)

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Through May 8 at the de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at JFK, in Golden Gate Park), S.F. $15-$25, 5 and under free; $5 discount for advance ticket purchase; 750-3600 or www.deyoung.famsf.org.

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The term "ancient wonder" usually refers to the pyramids of Egypt or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but the American hemisphere also spawned a series of awe-inspiring creations that have survived to this day. The Olmec heads, statues, masks, reliefs, and other artwork at the de Young are jarring artifacts that date back around 3,000 years when a pre-Mayan/pre-Aztec people populated what is now southeast Mexico and — through sheer genius and brute strength — shaped huge slabs of stone into images that conveyed strength and stature. Just a smattering of truly oversize works are in this exhibit, but even the tiniest figurines are colossal in conveying the importance of a people whose stonework was discovered only in the mid-19th century. Getting so close to these once-hidden objects is like standing at Stonehenge or the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, where all around is a majesty that keeps you in a constant state of astonishment.

 
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