New Acquisition

PreColumbian, Colima Comala (Mexico)
Standing Ballplayer, 200
Ceramic, 32 cm. h.
Gift of Clarence A. Davis ‘48
Collection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period.

Nomadic peoples moving south arrived to the Jalisco area around 15,000 years ago. Some of oldest evidence of human occupation is found around Zacoalco and Chapala lakes, which used to be connected. This evidence includes human and animal bones and tools made of bone and stone.  Other signs of human habitation include petroglyphs and cave paintings found at Cabo Corrientes, San Gabriel, Jesús María, La Huerta, Puerto Vallarta, Mixtlán, Villa Purificación, Casimiro Castillo, Zapotlán el Grande and Pihuamo.

Agriculture began in the same region as well around 7,000 years ago, giving rise to the first permanent settlements in western Mexico. Ceramics began to be produced about 3,500 years ago for both utilitarian and ceremonial purposes. The oldest pieces of Jalisco area pottery are called El Opeño, after an area near Zamora, Michoacán and Capacha after an area in Colima. The appearance of these styles indicates a certain specialization of labor, with distinct settled cultures established by 1000 BCE. The earliest settled cultures were centered on the site of Chupícuaro, Guanajuato, which has a large zone of influence from Durango east, crossing through modern Jalisco’s north. Sites related to these cultures have been found in Bolaños, Totoate, the Bolaños River Canyon and Totatiche as well as other locations in the Los Altos Region.

Images of ballplayers were made in ancient Mexico for millennia. The game, played with a large rubger ball, was fast paced and had many layers of meaning—and it was always a significant male activity. Depictions of both game and players appear in the ceramic sculptures of Jalisco, a state on the west coast of Mexico, where such works were produced in the centuries around the turn of the first millennium when their makers flourished. This impressive seated player, in the Ameca-Etzatlan style of Jalisco, holds the large ball reverentially high, in a manner of presentation. His short “pants,” a typical player costume, protect the lower body as the ball was propelled with the hips low to the ground. In remove areas of Mexico a game was played in this manner well into the twentieth century.

The ceramic sculpture of Jalisco was used as funerary offerings in the tombs of members of important families. It is conjectured that depictions of ballplayers were meant to acompany the burial of a man who had been a skilled player.

It looks Colama, Colima, or Nayarit.  The iconography looks interesting, though.  I wonder if the spiraled cord is like rope, in which case, together with the hand position, is it a leader captured?  The prong of the head may be a ruler reference/abstraction of a conch, no?

A Retrospective Exhibition

A Retrospective Exhibition
Paintings, Drawings and Photographs
1969 to the Present

Mark Jones

The Davis Gallery at Houghton House
Hobart and William Smith Colleges


A confounding blend of masterful technique, trans formative voodoo, and unqualified love for the way things look-that’s what I find in the paintings of Mark jones. Find, revere, and am dumbfounded by. Gazing at one of his steady candle flames, a coffee can full of paint brushes, an existential bull, a Civil War re-enactor, or a Vermeerized “ladyboy,” I am struck, at one and the same time, by the painstaking craftsmanship that manufactured the illusion, the magic of the talent that changed the illusion into reality, and the sensual courtship of light itself in all its polychrome interactions with matter, which entirely constitute our visual perception of the world. What I feel also is the virtually erotic pull of the objects, inanimate as well as animate, on my attention. The gravitational field of their separate “thisness”-the uniquely individualized form that Gerard Manley Hopkins termed “inscape”-holds me and arouses in me a craving for their palpable selves, a desire to experience them more intimately, to somehow break free of the quotidian world I stand in, pass through the picture plane, and emerge in the Promised Land of the painting. Some of Mark’s bovine portraits-“Big American Bull,” for example, or “Golden Calf’-evince in the subtle expressiveness of their countenances richer inner lives than the majority of portraits of human beings that line the walls of our museums. And as for his portraits of human subjects, most of them evince richer inner lives than the flesh and blood faces of innumerable people we encounter in life on a daily basis. The Caravaggesque “boy” blessing a chicken or the one holding a basket of fruit, the “girls” wearing Vermeer’s pearl earring or red hat, the Confederate-uniformed re-enactors-these insistently individualized faces-seductive and ineffable, beckoning and forbidding-imply complex personal histories, and, while committed to keeping their own secrets, incite us to imagine the mysterious and intriguing personalities of which they are the sole owners and curators, forever. We realize our desire to better know them is hopeless, of course, but go on yearning nonetheless. I was delighted by Mark’s Modern Man pictures of G.l. joe tableaus when I first saw them back in the ‘SO’s, and I still find them evocative and rewarding to look at, both for the droll situations in which we see joe and his human-size dates and the visual inventiveness of the settings. But of Mark’s two major purely photographic works-the Environmental Aesthetics and Pinhole sseries-! am too inadequately informed about photography to feel qualified to say anything more than “Spectacular!”

What we say we get from looking at works of art is aesthetic pleasure, but just what or what all is meant by that? Certainly it ought not to be taken as limited to matters of form . The pleasures to be found in looking at the art of Mark jones are many and diverse, and have as much to do with ideas about the social construction of gender, beauty, personality, meaning, identity, and even “reality” itself, as they do with the formal properties of a work. But note too that the formal properties here are thrilling. The artist in Mark, like the perceiving eye in Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Snowman” is one who

Nothing that is not there and the
Nothing that is.

Not to mention, the Everything that is.

Jim Crenner
Professor Emeritus
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Mark Jones was born in Saratoga Springs, NY in 1950. He studied at the Rijks Museum School in Amsterdam, the Art Students League in New York and the San Francisco Art Institute .. He received a Bachelors degree from Hobart College and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brooklyn College. His work has been widely exhibited in museums and commercial galleries throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Today is Helen Levitt’s Birthday

Levitt began her career in photography at age 18 working in a portrait studio in the Bronx. After seeing the works of French photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson,  she was inspired to purchase a 35-mm Leica camera and began to scour the poor neighborhoods of her native New York for subject matter. About 1938 she took her portfolio to photographer Walker Evans’s studio, where she also met novelist and film critic James Agee, who had collaborated with Evans on the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). She struck up friendships with the two men, occasionally accompanying the former on his photo shoots in the city. During this period Levitt often chose children, especially the underprivileged, as her subject matter. Her first show, “Photographs of Children,” was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1943 and featured the humanity that infuses much of her work. Included in this show were photographs from her visit in 1941 to Mexico City, where she photographed the city’s street life. In the mid-1940s Levitt collaborated with Agee, filmmaker Sidney Meyers, and painter Janice Loeb on The Quiet One, a prizewinning documentary about a young African American boy, and with Agee and Loeb on the film In the Street, which captures everyday life in East Harlem. For the next decade she concentrated on film editing and directing. In 1959 and 1960 she received Guggenheim Fellowships to investigate techniques using color photography. Levitt focused for the rest of the 1960s on film work and resumed photography in the 1970s, with a major Museum of Modern Art show in 1974.

During the early 1940’s Helen Levitt made many photographs on the streets of New York. Her photographs were not intended to tell a story or document a social thesis; she worked in poor neighborhoods because there were people there, and a street life that was richly sociable and visually interesting. The Hobart and William Smith Collections include two photographs by Levitt:

  • Levitt, Helen (1913-2009) New York (boys), 1942. Gelatin silver, 27 x 35 cm. Gift of Amy Doonan. hws-l-9
  • Levitt, Helen (1913-2009) New York (girls), 1942. Gelatin silver, 27 x 35 cm. Gift of Amy Doonan. hws-l-10