Taos Exhibitions and Opportunities
The recent history of mid to late 20th Century Art and artists still working in the 21st Century, coincidentally related to Taos can be observed this spring and summer at close hand in exhibitions and related books. For many of us the representative figures have been part of the everyday fabric of the community. But, as we step back and look back, we discover that Taos, always on the periphery of the greater art world, has been touched by a number of artists, who have exemplified the greater influences of the times and who are memorialized in the history of art (or might be in the future). Regardless, there is a rich vein of artistic works to study at these shows.
Today, Saturday, a show featuring the Taos Moderns: Postwar Modern Art, 1940s—1970s, opens on May 19, from 5-8 pm, and runs through June 30 at Gallery 203 on Ledoux St. (Tally Richards Gallery of Contemporary Art for sentimentalists).
The 203 show nicely complements the Agnes Martin exhibit at the Harwood Museum of Art, which opened in February and runs through June 17. The Harwood exhibition has drawn worldwide attention and is an extraordinary opportunity for Taosenos to learn about Agnes’s unique contribution among artists termed Abstract Expressionists. (Currently I am taking advantage of the Harwood Museum’s seminar with Jeremy McDonnell, “Tracking Agnes Martin: The Artist’s Journey.) While Agnes’s enthusiasts are thrilled by her work and many of us recognize her as a respected figure, we are often puzzled by the artist’s rather mysterious paintings.
Though we are familiar with what our artist friends say, “It’s all about the work,” we are curious and want to know how to discuss and think about the art.
Several of the artists featured in the shows above, including Agnes Martin, Beatrice Mandelman, Lee Mullican, Robert Ray, Earl Stroh, and Cliff Harmon, coincidentally appear in photographer Paul O’Connor’s Taos Portraits, a book of 60 black and white photographs, a finely produced large-scale hardbound volume. The portraits are accompanied by intimate profiles edited by this writer but mostly written by friends. O’Connor’s book and some sixty photographs will be featured on Friday, June 1, at the Millicent Rogers Museum, where a book signing will take place at an opening from 5-8 pm. The show runs through July 15.
An exhibition of large prints by O’Connor will follow at Hulse/Warman Gallery on June 3 and run through July 1.
O’Connor’s book touches on the history of the Taos Moderns but also includes contemporary artists with national and international reputations as well as younger artists, and including members of the Taos art community at large. Many of the subjects began working with the photographer when he first came to Taos in the late 80s and he got work photographing paintings. He celebrates these relationships in Taos Portraits.
The featured subjects have much to do with the photographer’s personal journey through Taos, one person leading to another. The choices are idiosyncratic and it could be said the photographer is guilty of associating with a variety of local characters, some of whom have passed on or passed out of Taos but left their mark on the community and the photographer himself.
(On June 7, the Harwood Museum of Art will feature a discussion and book signing with the photographer and editor at a SOMOS event at 7 pm for Taos Portraits.)
Today, art has moved into what’s referred to the postmodern era or the era beyond historical development; call it the end of art history, an end toward which Agnes might have been working. In his book, the Philosophical disEnfranchisement of Art, philosopher Arthur Danto, writes that “Postmodernism is the celebration of openness.” He explains that “The age of pluralism is upon us….When one direction is as good as another direction, there is no concept of direction any longer to apply. Decoration, self-expression, entertainment are, of course, abiding human needs. There will always be a service for art to perform, if artists are content with that. Freedom ends in its own fulfillment.”
Artists, liberated from the traditional schools or the history of art, per Danto, have become the sublime agents of their own individual expression. Each artist creates his or her own paradigm and the criteria by which the artistic investigations are appreciated (as Coleridge mentioned at the beginning of the Age of Romanticism). Hence the burden of creative freedom on the artist and the burden of understanding on the lay observer is great. There appear to as many schools as artists.
In Taos we have the opportunity to meet working artists, who are engaged in this process of discovery and invention, a process that began in the period when human beings began drawing on the walls of caves or calling upon the mythic muse. Regardless of how a work speaks for itself, I am always reminded of Aristotle’s introduction to the Metaphysics. The introductory paragraph encapsulates for me our continuing fascination with philosophy and art:
All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.
Twenty-three hundred years later Virginia Woolf underscored what we might consider a very human reaction to art in broad terms. She wrote, “I go on to suppose that the shock-receiving capacity is what makes me a writer. I hazard the explanation that a shock is at once in my case followed by the desire to explain it.”
It seems so very human to try and understand or explain why and what our friends (and their influential ancestors), who make things, do. Making what? How? And so we engage in the pleasures of conversation about the work or the artist.
See some work, enjoy your friends at 203 (May 19) or the Harwood, or later at the Millicent Rogers Museum (June 1) and Hulse/Warman (June 3). B.W.
Hello again from beautiful Taos! We are honored to invite you to a very special event. An afternoon with one of the best writers in America! On Saturday, May 19th, from 1 pm – 3 pm, the Award Winning writer Michael McGarrity will be reading from his new novel, “Hard Country” (Dutton Press) and signing copies just for you!. The infamous Wolf Schneider will MC and make sure that everyone has a great time! We will be having a Kevin Kerney Mystery Competition where fans of the Michael McGarrity mysteries will compete to answer trivia questions about the mysteries, and win some wonderful little object of art.
And, Wolf will be doing a short interview with Michael McGarrity. This event is being held in conjunction with the Great Moby Dickens Book Store! Please click on the links and try and join us. There will be special refreshments for all! Many thanks! Michael, Lynne, Lucy, Bunny and Alicia. Http://www.mccormickgallery.com/news/current.html and http://www.mobydickens.com/