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You may remember Oaxaca from freshman Intro to Anthropology: The Mexican region was home to pre-Columbian necropolises at Mitla and Monte Alban. Not surprisingly, a good chunk of the contemporary art from the region currently on exhibit at the Mexican Cultural Institute gives a nod to the transience of human life. Ceramicist Gustavo Perez models his vases on the miraculously well-preserved precolonial pottery archaeologists have exhumed from local tombs—vessels that stored both food for the afterlife and human remains. (An untitled piece is pictured.) Perez infuses his works with corporeal qualities: In one piece, he cuts and folds the vase’s thin edges so that they look as soft as skin; in another, he cuts into the piece’s fleshy surface to expose shiny, dark, musclelike clay beneath. Like bodies, Perez’s vases are vessels for the transient human soul. Sergio Hernandez conjures up a similar ashes-to-ashes sensibility in his canvases: The moribund cunnilingus scene in his The Games of the Bat refers to Mesoamerican myth’s penchant for metamorphosis—a dog-headed woman engages in a vaguely sexual act with an anthropomorphized bat—and seems to say that even sex is a just a momentary escape from death. The dog woman lies as if laid on a funeral bier; her thighs are spread but her feet and one arm are missing; the bat approaches her from below. Hernandez has incorporated pieces of earth and tiny pebbles into his built-up surfaces, which he incises with some sharp object, making his canvases seem as ephemeral as a line drawn in the sand. On view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, to Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW. Free. (202) 728-1628. (Jessica Dawson)