Permanent Mesoamerican Collection
This exhibition is temporarily closed while undergoing gallery repairs and a reinterpretation, thanks to a generous donation from the Daniel R. Martin Foundation. Reopening February 2024.

Earth, Fire & Stone: Kenneth E. Stratton Collection of Mesoamerican Art

September of 1992 marked the opening of the Fresno Art Museum’s Hans Sumpf Gallery of Mexican Art. It was an opening highlighted by an installation entitled Masterpieces of Mesoamerican Pre-Columbian Ceramics from the Kenneth E. Stratton Collection. The gallery was designed to give the impression of walking into a space similar in feeling to a shaft tomb as most of the ceramic artworks from Kenneth Stratton’s bequest originally came from just such Mesoamerican burial sites. Prompted by Stratton’s gift to the Museum, the Sumpf family contributed the necessary funds to house the collection. Because Hans Sumpf and Kenneth Stratton had been lifelong friends, it is fitting that this gallery honors the life of two remarkable men who cared passionately about their community and the vital culture of our southern neighbors.

The majority of the Stratton collection on display was created before the Europeans entered the New World and represent cultures from the area now known as West Mexico and date from 500 to 2500 years in age. The collection’s strength is evident in the outstanding examples representing Olmec, Tlatilco, Chupícuaro, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Teotihuacan, Veracruz, Oaxaca, and the Lagunillas style. This splendid collection, gathered over the years by Kenneth E. Stratton, has enabled the Museum to foster a deep appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the Mexican and Mexican-American people.

Andean Mesoamerican Textiles and Artifacts

In the spring of 1995, the Fresno Art Museum introduced its audience to the Mesoamerican Andean collection assembled by the weaver Janet B. Hughes. Representing regional variations drawn from a number of cultures, the Hughes Collection of Andean Mesoamerican Art clearly indicates that weaving was one of the earliest forms of artistic expression as well as a means of status identification for the ancient peoples of Peru.

Numbering over 650 artifacts, the Hughes Collection features both textiles and ceramic artifacts from the southernmost point of Peru. Carved wooden objects, including ceremonial vessels known as keros, are included in the current exhibition along with a selection of ancient textiles recovered from tombs throughout Peru. A group of ceramic vessels from various cultures once living in this arid region reveal examples of the stylized zoomorphic and anthropomorphic forms that are repeated in some of the vivid colored textiles. Even though the Andean potters employed simple techniques in the production of ceremonial and utilitarian vessels, they crafted vessels with graceful lines and pleasing proportions. The sculpted vessels may take on these same anthropomorphic or zoomorphic shapes and often include painted designs that have been applied to the surface. Nazca, Moche, Lambayeque, Chancay, Chiribaya, and Arica cultures are represented in the ceramic works.


Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957)
(previously referred to as El dia de las flores, Xochilmilco)

Currently on loan to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas for Diego Rivera's America exhibitionMarch 11 through September 30, 2023. Previously on loan to San Francisco MOMA through January 3, 2023 for the same exhibition. It will back on exhibition at FAM in February 2024.

The original painting is a very important work in FAM's permanent collection. It was painted around 1926 and represents a group of peasants near Xochimilco, Mexico. The work was purchased by Marguerite Lopez of Fresno directly from Rivera. Upon her death, the painting was purchased from her estate by Caroline and Clarence Harris who gifted the painting to the Fresno Art Museum in 1976. The painting is normally on view along with original correspondence between Rivera and Lopez and other related items of interest.

Image: Diego Rivera, Fiesta, 1926, Oil on canvas, 25" x 31", FAM76.1, © 2023 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)


This large Ruth Asawa metal sculpture is being cleaned and will return to the Museum walls in early 2024.

Ruth Asawa was an American artist and sculptor nationally recognized for her wire sculptures, public commissions, and activism in arts education. She was the Fresno Art Museum's Counsel of 100 Distinguished Woman Artist in 2001. Born in Norwalk, CA, she lived and worked in San Francisco, CA from 1949 until her death in 2013.

Image: Ruth Asawa, Untitled, c. 1980, Copper wire, Collection of the Fresno Art Museum, Gift of the Artist in honor of Robert Barrett’s 10th anniversary as FAM Executive Director.