Carlo Gay and the Art of Guerrero
The art of Mezcala and Chontal, from the mountainous region of Guerrero, Mexico, is known for its prolific tradition of portable stone sculpture including animal effigies, masks, architectural models and most specifically figures, dating from 500 B.C. to A.D. 600. Little is known of the peoples, their language or the intended purpose of their artifacts. Perhaps as with many Mesoamerican cultures, they are grave offerings for the hereafter. Their sophisticated execution seems to be inspired by Olmec art. The arduous task in working such hard stones with the simplest of tools caused the sculptors to adopt simplifications and stylizations, which developed into an expressive style of abstraction remarkably close to that of 20th century artists. The taste and critical judgment of the renowned scholar in this domain, Carlo T. E. Gay, runs through the careful selection of the varied Guerrero, Mezcala and Chontal works, which form the core of this collection. Over the course of forty years Carlo Gay's assiduous study and travel, would reveal the ancient, artistic history of Guerrero. Taking on from the work of the Mexican artist and art historian, Miguel Covarrubias, he proposed a new classification of the Mezcala lithic tradition categorizing it into styles and even variants. The corpus of his work, along with that of his colleague, Frances Pratt, is a landmark in ordering the considerable body of Mezcala figural sculpture. Carlo Gay studied objects with patience and insight, "This approach-the careful looking-characterized all of Carlo's work. It is an approach that demands commitment, and love of the object, and those Carlo had in abundance."(Julie Jones, Chontal, p.131).