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Tony Berlant Evan Maurer, Los Angeles, 20

Hardcover, 111 pp., color illustrations, 11 x 8 x 0.5 inches.

Decoding Mimbres Painting: Ancient Ceramics of the American Southwest posits a new theory; artist Tony Berlant and scholar Evan Maurer suggest that the paintings depict the plants and animals the Mimbres people encountered, as well as their ritual hallucinogenic experiences.

Between the 10th and 12th centuries, the Mimbres people lived in a valley in what is now southwestern New Mexico, where they produced ceramic bowls adorned with intricate black-and-white designs. The motifs they painted—which include zigzags, checkerboards, and spirals—have long been understood as abstract.

Drawing on extensive interdisciplinary research, Berlant and Maurer present this interpretation in Decoding Mimbres Painting. The book is filled with striking reproductions of Mimbres ceramics as well as close-up images of desert flora and fauna, allowing the authors to suggest connections between the bowl designs and natural forms. This highly visual study paints an evocative picture of the Mimbres worldview, exploring how this ancient civilization lived and communicated with the spirit world.

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