Mexican Ceramic Sculpture: The Aguilar Family

The Aguilar Family image

March 14 - July 1, 2012

The southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is famous for its folk art:  woodcarving and weaving created primarily by men, and a wide range of ceramics, both functional and decorative, made principally by women.

Ocotlán de Morelos, a rural Oaxacan town, has earned a reputation for the pottery produced by the Aguilar family.  Isaura Alcántara Díaz (1924–69) was the pioneer.  After marrying Jesús Aguilar Revilla, Isaura began to work in clay, first making utilitarian wares.  She eventually began to fashion entirely ornamental figural scenes, which reflected the social activities taking place in her community.  These scenes, which became popular in the 1950s, include weddings, funeral processions, and baptisms.  Isaura passed on the tradition to her children, who continued to develop the figurative styles of their mother.

Early patrons of the family included the influential American folk art collectors Nelson Rockefeller and Alexander Girard.  The figures on display here are part of a collection of over 500 items recently donated by John Paul.  A former professor of English and History at Merritt College, John Paul fell in love with Mexican folk art in the 1960s.  Until the early 1990s, he spent much of his vacations and sabbaticals traveling in central and southern Mexico, most especially in Oaxaca.

We would like to acknowledge the assistance of the collector, John Paul; and Stanley Brandes, Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, and Curator of Mesoamerican Ethnology, Hearst Museum.