Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos

American Moderns in the West
Nicolai Fechin "Portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan"

A tour...
The Mabel Dodge Luhan House as it is a B&B and Conference Center today in Taos

“Dear Mabel,
It is 5am…
It seems so perfect that I wonder…
Is it just a dream I make up…”   
Georgia O’Keeffe
The 'Pink House' today under private ownership, 
where Georgia O'Keeffe and Rebecca Strand stayed on their first trip to Taos.

This exhibition opened here in Taos the weekend of May 22, 2016 it closes on September 11, 2016 (D.H. Lawrence’s Birthday by the way), it will move on to the Albuquerque Museum and later to the Burchfeld Penney Art Center.
Paul Figueroa speaking eloquently at the opening

I was so excited before even seeing the exhibit, that we became members of the Harwood Museum in order to attend the Members opening. (That’s saying a lot for me, as I’d been boycotting the Museum for years due to the turmoil involved with the former Director). The Museum now has a terrific new director Richard Tobin, the staff is beside themselves happy these days and so am I, a marked difference. At this time the exhibit has been open for less than 5 weeks, I've been to see it FIVE times already (and that's with being gone from Taos for 2 of these past 5 weeks).
At the opening 3 of the very best people who also happen to be docents at various Museums in Taos today. 
Holly Sievers, Charlene Tamayo, Lucille Greider.

“One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.” 
Gertrude Stein
William Penhallow Henderson "Interior, Mabel Dodge Luhan House"

The entire Museum is dedicated to works on display for this exhibition, (the Agnes Martin room is still its own entity as well as the Ken Price room, and the new acquisitions gallery) an enormous commitment. The payoff is that it is simply the best exhibit this Museum has done and the crowds of people visiting is proof.
Marsden Hartley "An Abstract Arrangement of American Indian Symbols"

“I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one's deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive.” 
Mabel Dodge Luhan
left: Marsden Hartley "New Mexico Recollection 12" & "Rio Grande River, New Mexico" 
right: Beatrice Mandleman "Twining"

Jacques-Emile Blanche "Portrait of Mrs. Mabel Dodge & Son"

Although there is a timeline provided, Head towards the giant portrait of Mabel and son John Evans by Jacques-Emile Blanche and start in the far back gallery space at the early Marsden Hartley painting, I gasped as I entered the room (the room has an enormous Louis Vuitton suitcase in the middle of it) as you turn towards the next wall to your right there is a lovely drawing by Maurice Stern (husband #3) of Mabel herself. Maurice Stern came to Taos before Mabel, at her suggestion. I’ve not seen much of his artwork other than a few drawings, one of which is a beautiful Fawn at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia
Maurice Stern "Mabel Dodge"

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” 
Gertrude Stein

For some time now the Harwood has displayed a still life painting by Mabel, it is absent from this exhibition, I’d asked one of the curators early on if they would be showing some of her paintings, they chose not to. Personally, I’d like to see a few of her other paintings. 
Mabel on Horseback with Mr. Concha, private collection photo

“Don't everlastingly read messages into paintings – there's the Daisy – you don't rave over or read messages into it – you just look at that bully little flower – isn't that enough?” 
John Marin
Andrew Dasburg "Chantet Lane"

The front space gallery has a selection of Andrew Dasburg paintings, all 5 are exquisite. Recent research by the wonderful historian Liz Cunningham reveals that the “Chantet Lane” 1926 painting is of Jeantete Road. Well there was no true road signage around Taos (until the 60’s), which means if you’d only heard the name spoken you might get the spelling of it wrong. Or, did Dasburg choose to misspell the name on purpose to mislead other painters away from his site, (my speculation). Dasburg also was THE dealer of vintage 'Santos' the Bulto Carvings and Retablo Paintings of Hispanic Artists (the Barnes Foundation has one of the best collections I've seen outside New Mexico thanks to Dasburg).
Five paintings by Andrew Dasburg, to the far right is "Chantet Lane

“You've got to know yourself so you can at last be yourself.” 
D. H. Lawrence
A few of the John Marin works

The Harwood’s grand gallery features the O’Keeffe’s, the John Marin’s, a pair of Diego Rivera drawings (to me looking quite out of place), and a tribute to D.H. Lawrence along with many other rich and beautiful artworks. A surprising choice to include 2 deer watercolors by Knud Merrild who Mabel truly disliked for his being a distraction to Lorenzo. I love that these paintings are included!
"Deer" Knud Merrid

“An artist is only an ordinary man with a greater potentiality.” 
D. H. Lawrence
Dorothy Brett "My Three Fates" (Mabel, Frieda, Lorenzo, Brett w 'Tobey')

Upstairs the displays feature paintings of some of the religious items and paintings of Spirituality, Catholic/Hispanic and Pueblo ceremonies. Again some true jewels upstairs in the 2 rooms there. The Indian School paintings by various artists along with Dorothy Brett’s paintings of ceremonies are treasures to see side by side. The Hispanic Retablos (and Bultos) frame some of the works by the Taos & Santa Fe School Modernists, together complimenting each other, playing off each other, honoring each other. The exhibit gives the Honourable Dorothy Brett a nice place in this piece of the Modernist Taos Art Colony. She has been one of the most underrated of the Taos painters for many years, I hope her time is coming, soon.
Part of Mabel's 30 piece Retablo Collection, at center Marsden Hartley "Blessing the Melon"

“The artist's world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.”
Paul Strand
4 Masterworks by Paul Strand

Scattered throughout the galleries are photographs by Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, Carl Van Vechten, John Young-Hunter, Rose Clark, John Collier, Marjorie Content, Ernest Knee, Dorothea Lange, Sonya Noskowiak & Henri Cartier-Bresson (who am I missing?). The breathe of the photographers alone would be a masterworks exhibition in its own right! Again, I remind you, they are scattered throughout, please take the time to look.
Ansel Adams "Eagle Dance, San Ildefonso" & Awa Tsireh "Eagle Dance"

“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.” 
Ansel Adams
Rebecca Salsbury James "Walking Woman, Taos"

The other day I was docent at the D.H. Lawrence Ranch (I’m President of the Board of Directors for the D.H. Lawrence Ranch Alliance), a woman came up to visit. She told me she’d just been to the Harwood to see the exhibition. One of the Harwood Staff members told her that the ranch was open to the public that day (10AM- 2PM), then and there she decided to stop her viewing of the Mabel Exhibit and drive up to the ranch. I showed her around for a tour afterwards she then return to the Harwood to continue her enjoyment of the Mabel exhibition. I am in awe of how this exhibit is creating such terrific synergy all around Taos. All of the Lawrence Ranch docents mention to visitors that a visit to the Harwood is a must.
Georgia O'Keeffe "Grey Cross with Blue"

“What a life, seeing!” 
John Marin
Paul Strand "Marin Working Near Twining"

It seems of late there’s a lot of synergy around exhibition retrospectives featuring women or their circles, Agnes Martin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Women of Abstract Expressionism and here in Taos, Mabel & Co. I teasingly, lovingly say to women friends, what the heck is up with all these women overshadowing all the men lately??? Well, it’s about time. A few years ago in Taos there was a promotion of “Remarkable Women of Taos”, this may have been a prescient town wide honoring of women that got the ball rolling.
Docent tour of the exhibition 

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway.” 
Eleanor Roosevelt 

My personal sanctuaries are Museums and the forest, both are inspiring and nurturing. Visit Taos before September 11, 2016 or you’ll have missed a treasure chest of inspiration and loveliness right here in the place Mabel chose to call her home.
Emil Bisttram "Creative Force"

“Love art. Of all lies, it is the least untrue.” 
Gustave Flaubert
Agnes Pelton "The Voice"

This is a very small glimpse of the exhibition which will change as other works become available and as it moves to the other 2 museums scheduled at this time.
Georgia O'Keeffe "Taos, New Mexico"

Purchase the catalogue (which I have yet to do), “Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company, Moderns in the West” in hardcover. My gratitude to the curators Lois Rudnick and Ma-lin Wilson-Powell, along with all of the staff at the Harwood Museum. You should all be quite proud of this accomplishment, congratulations. http://www.harwoodmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/147

Portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan, private collection

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Women of Abstract Expressionism

Denver to Taos

In Taos we are asked what’s with all the Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo imagery everywhere.
The answer is simple, I merely ask in return name 10 Famous Women Artists. 
Epic failure to do so ensues.
I see a lot of lists of 10 Women Artists they range exponentially depending on the author of that list.
My 10 Taos Women Artists list would include: Agnes Martin, Marcia Oliver, Beatrice Mandleman, Ila McAfee, Gene Kloss, Adienne de la Noe, Barbara Latham, Candyce Jones Garrett, Shaun Richel, and Holly Sievers.

Women of Abstract Expressionism includes a random number of terrific artists working in the 50’s to date. The exhibit is on view through September 25, 2016, catalogues are available $45. Paperback, $65. hardcover, (splurge on the hardcover). The catalog includes many other women working in this category. The exhibition also has a terrific documentary playing in a side room, watch as much of it as you have time for, (at the time of our visit there were no copies for sale). They don’t even have a “WOMEN of Abstract Expressionism” T-Shirt, which surprised me, I’d be proud to wear one.

The exhibit is on the third floor of the DAM’s new wing, stepping off the elevator life size poster images of the women themselves greet you in the hallway. Through the doors a guard will greet and remind you that photography is allowed (no flash) and to not get too close to the paintings (even the ones behind glass).
Elaine deKooning "Bill" paintings

For me I asked which way to Elaine DeKooning, her paintings are towards the back. I spent time there looking, the lighting on the portraits of Bill 1952 & 1956 at my viewing was a bit too harsh, but there they were, such beauty. The extremely abstract “Bullfight” 1959 just opposite, the smaller beautiful jewel titled “Abstraction” 1947. Heaven on earth.
Elaine deKooning "Bullfight"

Elaine deKooning "Abstract"

I resisted to move on, not wanting to leave them, yet more masterworks awaited.
Joan Mitchell left to right "Number 12", "Untitled", "Hudson River Day Line", "East Ninth Street"

Joan Mitchell, made me gasp, Lee Krasner the richness of the ‘brown’ paintings 1960 & 1961, the magnificence of “The Seasons” 1957, and Helen Frankenthaler “Untitled” 1951 the boldness of the split level of Blue and beige with so much more.
Lee Krasner "Charred Landscape"

They worked large, Massive, Super-Sized, Horizontally, Vertically and Square. Luscious color, rich in paint, thick or thin, active or serene. 
Lee Krasner "The Seasons", "What Beast Must I Adore"

Lee Krasner "Cornucopia"

I stood and wept.
Helen Frankenthaler "Untitled" 1951

People I’d never heard of Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Mary Abbott, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Deborah Remington, Ethel Schwabacher, and where in the world did Sonia Gechtoff come from, absolutely incredible.
Judith Godwin "Martha Graham-Lamentation", "Epic"

Who, What, Where, When, Why, so many questions, what were the curator and staff thinking, what tied this group together. 
Perle Fine "Summer 1", "Image d'hiver", "Early Morning Garden", small work on paper

Then I stopped to take a break and watch a piece of the video documentary. Judith Godwin spoke eloquently about how watching Martha Graham Dancers inspired her to create motion through painting. The golden key right there before me, no wonder why I love these painters so much, they are inspired by motion.
Deborah Remington "Exodus"

"When I start I don't know what's going to happen... When you're dancing you don't stop to think: now I'll take a step... you allow it to flow." Elaine deKooning.
Helen Frankenthaler 'detail'

The other ‘thread’ I would say that ties this exhibit together is the presence of the center, perhaps a Spiritual center, perhaps a Vortex, at any rate to my eye it is there.
Joan Mitchell "Cercando un Ago"

In art school your teachers (well not all but some) may suggest working larger, to use your body as a part of your brushwork gesture/gesturally. Move the viewer’s eye around your painting through color and gesture, here it is, over and over again. Inspirational.
Jay DeFeo "Torso", "Incision", "Untitled (Everest)"

Jay DeFeo 'detail'

A couple of jewels not to be missed include the paintings of Jay DeFeo, massive, thick, textural monuments of paint. Susan Laufer I have always loved your paintings, go see these, please. The other is Sonia Gechtoff her abstractions Do Not Stand Still, they move towards you, challenge you to stand in front of them and be run over by them. Susan Rothenberg you too need to see these paintings.
Sonia Gechtoff "Children of Frejus"

I love Museum Guards that love the art they are Watching, the DAM has a great group of guards. It seemed to me women guards outnumbered male, I suspect the women guards on staff requested this, (more than likely they are artists). I tend to speak with guards and docents, after speaking with one of the guards, she had an idea of how much I was enjoying being there. She later referred a visitor to me to ask a few questions, I was happy to help.
Perle Fine "Painting No. 10"

Perle Fine 'detail'

We took a break to view other exhibits at DAM, asking a docent where to eat nearby to give a chance to gather our thoughts and return afterwards. We were directed to the excellent dining room nearby of Palettes at the Denver Art Museum.
Helen Frankenthaler "Mountain Storm"

Do we in fact need to categorize Women from Men, Native American from Anglo or Hispanic, Chinese from Polish, Under 30 to over 40, and on and on we keep separating ourselves from others. 
Personally, I don’t think so, my feeling is that great art, the cream of the crop rises to the top. In art school in the 70’s/80’s women artists were using initials rather than gender specific ‘Given Names’. I think that still goes on, and of course the very ethnic names were changed to more accepting ‘Americanized’ names, to fit in.
The fact that ANY of us actually make art is a wonderful and amazing journey, artists should be encouraged, whoever they are.
I Am An Artist.

The Denver Art Museum has been sponsoring some terrific exhibits. They deserve great recognition. To the curator of this exhibit Gwen Chanzit and her team, I congratulate and thank you.