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Modernists in New Mexico: Works from a Private Collector

February 13 - May 10, 2009


The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is pleased to present an exhibition that includes a number of paintings designated as partial gifts to the Museum by an anonymous New Mexico collector. Since moving to Santa Fe eleven years ago and acquiring his first New Mexico picture at a local gallery, the owner of this collection has passionately pursued his love of American Modernism by collecting works that creatively engage the area's distinctive environments, landmarks, and residents. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is delighted to be able to exhibit this superb selection, which demonstrates the richly productive encounter between some of America's most innovative twentieth-century painters and one of their favorite sources of inspiration -- New Mexico. The exhibition includes works by various modern artists, most of whom arrived in the southwest after 1912, when New Mexico, which had been a territory, attained statehood: George Wesley Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Raymond Jonson, John Marin, Georgia O'Keeffe, and John Sloan.

"It is very fitting that the Museum displays these magnificent works while the entire state is celebrating Santa Fe's 400th anniversary," stated Barbara Buhler Lynes, Curator, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the Emily Fisher Landau Director, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center. "And, we are especially delighted to have several of these works in our collection, not only because of their inherent significance, but also because they greatly enhance our ability to fulfill one of the Museum's fundamental objectives: to organize exhibitions of O'Keeffe's contemporaries that shed light on the history of American Modernism, a phenomenon that began in America in the 1890s and continues into the present."


About the Exhibition

In 1916, the painter Robert Henri left New York for the first of three visits to Santa Fe in search of new artistic inspiration. He did so at a pivotal moment in the early history of American Modernism, during the Great War and amid the aftermath of the sensational Armory Show in New York, when many of his compatriots were responding inventively to the aesthetic challenge posed by the European avant-garde. Captivated by the beautiful, unfamiliar western places and peoples of New Mexico, Henri encouraged two close friends and colleagues, George Bellows and John Sloan, to follow his lead. Before long, many American Modernists had trekked to New Mexico as well, including Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Stuart Davis, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Edward Hopper. Some visited only once or stayed for just a short time, while others, notably O'Keeffe and Sloan, became longtime residents; for all of these American Modernists, though, visiting and picturing New Mexico became an artistic rite of passage of sorts -- a catalyst for aesthetic reinvention.

Some of the pictures in the exhibition clearly represent specific people and sites, as in Robert Henri's Julianita, 1922, John Sloan's La Cienega (1923), and two paintings of the Santuario de Chimayó by George Bellows (1917) and Joseph Bakos (1935), respectively. Other works evoke New Mexico in a more general way, as in Andrew Dasburg's Mountain Landscape, 1923, and Thomas Hart Benton's Train on the Desert (1926 or 1927). Still others -- such as Stuart Davis's Interior, New Mexico (1923), Raymond Jonson's Oil No. 5 (1940), and Georgia O'Keeffe's Black Place IV (1944) -- approach particular people and places with an abstracting vision so personal as to transform the subject into a vehicle of private expression and formal experimentation. In every case, though, New Mexico provided the artist with a distinctive creative point of departure -- a compelling array of subjects, forms, and colors -- that revitalized the creative process. Even realism achieved an innovative Modernist edge in works such as Edward Hopper's Adobe Houses (1925), which depicts characteristic New Mexico architecture and scenery with subtle attention to basic underlying shapes, arranged like so many abstract building blocks. Regardless of an artist's particular style then, the Modernist approach revealed New Mexico's essential beauty.

Modernists in New Mexico: Works from a Private Collection was organized by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

rev. 9/10/10, 12/10/10

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