Clarissa Tossin’s 2017 video work Ch’u Mayaa was shot on the grounds of the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Built nearly a century ago, the house stands as an iconic example of Modernist design and was among the first buildings to bring Mesoamerican influences, particularly Maya motifs, to the city’s architecture.
In the video, choreographer Crystal Sepúlveda moves around the exterior of Hollyhock House, performing gestures and poses drawn from the iconography of ancient Maya murals and artifacts. She wears a contemporary animal-print costume that suggests elements of Maya society—such as the sacredness of the jaguar—as well as contemporary Los Angeles street culture. Even the title of the video is a reference to the durable, water-resistant blue pigment used in ancient Maya ceramics and architecture, a symbol of endurance through time.
Tossin uses dance and performance to explore complex issues of displacement, cultural exchange, and appropriation. This work highlights the overlooked influence of Maya architecture on Hollyhock House, reconsidering the building as part of a Mesoamerican architectural lineage.
New Media Series: Clarissa Tossin is curated by Molly Moog, research assistant. Ch’u Mayaa has a run time of 17 minutes, 56 seconds.