Learn about our “New Beginnings” exhibition

Posted on October 22, 2021 by Michael Grauer in

The “introductory wall” in the New Beginnings exhibition is laid out following the evolution of academically-trained artists from romanticism to modernism to non-figurative, as indicated in the full title of the exhibition: “New Beginning: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West.”

New Mexico nature unspoiled by human activity is the subject of the first painting in the succession, left to right. Noted cowboy and wildlife painter W. Herbert Dunton’s Mountain Mirror depicts a mother black bear and cubs silhouetted against a crystalline lake surrounded by pines and aspens. The beauty of New Mexico became an enormous attraction to tourists and vacationers who often hiked or drove into the Sangre de Cristos.

In Theodore Van Soelen’s Fall in Northern New Mexico, the presence of humans is very clear in the winding trail or road beside the aspen and cottonwood trees. As Modernism advanced in American art after World War I, with ideas brought from Europe, new beginnings in how to interpret New Mexico appeared in full flower by the late 1920s.

Richard Manning Crisler’s Taos, New Mexico reflects the stylization and reduction of natural forms to their purist geometric basis vital to the Regionalist painting aesthetic.

 

Stuart Davis condensed the scene in his Santa Fe Landscape to flat, decorative shapes painted in unmodulated colors, completely eliminating the illusion of three-dimensional space. Davis further emphasized the “art-making” of his painting by surrounding the depicted image with a painted surround creating a “picture within a picture.”

 

Finally, leading avant-garde painter Gina Knee in her Snow Crystals removed narrative completely from her painting focusing instead on the geometric shapes and faceted angles of snowflakes themselves, rendered in expressive brushstrokes and pushed up against the picture plane. Like most female artists in the West, Knee pushed the boundaries of experimentation and in her painting figuration is almost entirely abstracted.

 

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About Michael

Michael Grauer, McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture / Curator of Cowboy Collections and Western Art