Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

Chuzo Tamotzu - 12/1/2016

 
Photo of Chuzo Tamotzu by Anne Noggle, n.d.
gelatin silver print
Gift of Louise Tamotzu, 1983
 
When the museum opened its doors in 1917, the country had recently entered the international conflict now known as World War I. The war weighed heavily on the minds of the museum's supporters. Attorney and major donor Frank Springer quelled concerns that it was not a good time to open an art museum in his opening address, stating that art serves as a reminder of mankind's better nature, making it even more important - not less - in a time of uncertainty and conflict.
 
The atrocities of World War I gave way to World War II, and again the museum found itself having to defend the importance of an art museum. This time a local artist who had served in both the Japanese and American militaries headed the call. Cognizant that he lived so close to where the Atomic bomb had been developed, in 1953 he organized an exchange of children's art between students of the Santa Fe Public Schools and those in Hiroshima to promote better understanding and goodwill among the nations. The show traveled through New Mexico, stopping here at the art museum as well as venues in Raton, Gallup, Alamogordo, Portales, Lovington and Los Alamos. Decades later that exhibition was continuously cited by the artist and his widow as one of his prouded accomplishments in a career that had many accolades. With the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, many institutions are looking back to the World War II era. Interestingly, some of the Japanese children's drawings were donated to Bowdoin College Museum  of Art in Maine and they will be exhibiting them soon.
 
Chuzo Tamotzu was a Japanese-born painter who lived in New York City before settling in Santa Fe in 1948. His formal education was in political science at Senshu University in Tokyo. He taught himself sumi-e (Japanese ink brush painting) and left Japan in 1914 to further his study of art throughout Asia and Europe. He came to U.S. in 1920 where he befriended several other artists, such as Philip Evergood, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and John Sloan . When Sloan became President of the Society of Independent Artists, Chuzo served on the board. Chuzo was also a founding member of the Artists' Equity. 
Chuzo Tamotzu drawing of John Sloan
The Smoker, mid-20th century
ink on paper
Bequest of Melinda Miles Phister, 2010
 

A critic of the Japanese military, he and fellow Japanese-American artists denounced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Tamotzu volunteered to serve the U.S. military and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (a wartime intelligence agency, precursor to the CIA).

Chuzo Tamotzu
From Roof, 1952
oil on canvas
Gift of Arnold D. Kates, 1965
 
When Tamotzu moved to Santa Fe he rented John Sloan's former studio. He soon began exhibiting regularly at this museum. Shortly after his death in 1975 the Governor's Gallery at the State Capital honored him with a solo exhibition. In 1981 we curated a retrospective exhibition held at the Santa Fe Armory for the Arts while the museum was closed for renovation.
 
Tamotzu's art is held in the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Art in addition to Metropolitan Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian.

 

Victor Higgins - 11/1/2016

Victor Higgins, Walking Rain (Pablita Passes), circa 1916-1917
Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 42 5/8 inches
Gift of Robert L.B. Tobin, 1992.
 

Sometimes a picture is more than it appears initially. Sometimes it represents a moment in time, a glimpse into the life and mind of the artist. So it is with the painting Walking Rain (Pablita Passes) by Victor Higgins. At first glance, the viewer's eye goes straight to the lovely rainbow at the top of the canvas. Because the large New Mexico sky takes up the bulk of the image, it appears this is just a lovely landscape painting. A closer examination, with the help of a little research, reveals there is more to the painting. At the bottom left we see a cluster of black figures. Who are they? What are they doing?

According to El Palacio Vol IV No III, the painting, recipient of the 1917 William Randoph Hearst Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago, was made at the hour when it became known that a Hispanic girl who had posed for Higgins died from fever. The little black figures are the townspeople discussing her passing, a scene that looks like a traditional northern New Mexico velorio or wake. The black clothes and shadow caused by the storm above reflect the somber mood. Higgins' painting serves as a memorial to the girl, capturing the relationship between the people and the land of New Mexico as well as between the artist and his model.

Victor Higgins Papers, New Mexico Museum of Art Library and Archives
 

Higgins was born in Indiana and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago where this painting was first exhibited. He became a resident of Taos and was elected a member of the Taos Society of Artists. Higgins married twice, once to Sara Parsons, the daughter of artist Sheldon Parsons, and once to Marion Koogler McNay, founder of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. However, art historians typically describe Higgins as a loner whose true love was art. He liked to paint outdoors, en plein air, and his work is considered more modernist than other members of the Taos Society of Artists. Walking Rain (Pablita Passes) is just one of many paintings by Higgins the museum is lucky enough to own. The museum library and archives also has an extensive collection of Higgins' personal papers in the archives which were used by Dean Porter to write the book Victor Higgins : An American Master

Donald Beauregard - 10/1/2016

Donald Beauregard on Rainbow Bridge Expedition, 1909
Photo by Stewart Young,
Courtesy Stan Jones.
 
With October being Archives Awareness month, now is a good time to look at some of the stories within the museum's fascinating archives collection. As the museum's Archivist, I have the pleasure of learning the back stories to the beautiful artwork in the museum.
 
Donald Beauregard, Portrait of the Artist, circa 1910,
Oil on canvas, 32 x 20 in.
Gift of the Honorable Frank Springer, 1925.

One of the more tragic stories that dates back to the museum's founding is that of Donald Beauregard, the orginator of the St. Francis murals in the Auditorium. Beauregard was a young man from Utah who went to Paris in 1906 to study art at the prestigious Julian Academy for two years. He first came to New Mexico in 1910 on an archaeological expedition with the University of Utah and School of American Archaeology. It was there that he met Frank Springer. Springer was the principal donor of the private funding that created the art museum. He was so impressed by Beauregard's success he commissioned him to do murals of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the Southwest, for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in San Diego.
 
Unfortunately, Beauregard succombed to stomache cancer at the young age of 31, and was only able to complete two of the murals. However, he did finish the overall designs, and Carlos Vierra and Kenneth Chapman completed the murals from his drawings. In addition to his generous monetary donation to he museum, Frank Springer also donated his collection of Beauregard's art.
 
 
Renunciation of Santa Clara
Donald Beauregard, Kenneth Chapman, 1917
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Honorable Frank Springer, 1917
 
The story of Beauregard's brief life is preserved in the letters he sent to the museum's founder, Edgar Lee Hewett. These letters were later used by author Carl Sheppard to write the book The Saint Francis Murals of Santa Fe : The Commission and the Artists published in 1989.

Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA - 9/1/2016

If you haven't seen the exhibition Finding a Contemporary Voice: the Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA, you still have until October 10th. Since its founding in Santa Fe in 1962, the Institute of American Indian Arts has had some of the most renowned Native American artists as its students and faculty. 

Finding a Contemporary Voice: the Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA is the continuation of a relationship between this museum and the IAIA that began back in 1966 when students of the IAIA held an exhibition here titled Young Indian Painters. That show included works by artists Earl Biss, T. C. Cannon, Linda Lomahaftewa and Kevin Red Star.

To learn more about the remarkable history of the IAIA, there are a number of resources on the Internet such as this timeline and digitized resources from the IAIA archives. There are also several books celebrating this unique institution, including the recently published The sound of drums : a memoir of Lloyd Kiva New, a copy of which is available in the gallery of Finding A Contemporary Voice for visitors to read.

Fritz Scholder, Arts Faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts at 4:15pm, 1968,
oil on canvas, 54 1/2 x 71 1/2 in. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Gift of Fritz Scholder, 1968 (2271.23P) © Fritz Scholder Estate. Photo by Blair Clark

 

New Mexico Painters - 8/1/2016

One of the many treasures in the museum archives is a single sheet of paper that gives insight into a short chapter of 20th century New Mexico art history. It is the original charter document establishing the New Mexico Painters society in 1923.

The New Mexico Painters were a short-lived artist collective consisting of Frank Applegate, Jozef Bakos, Gustave Baumann, Ernest Blumenschein, William P. Henderson, Victor Higgins, B. J .O. Nordfeldt and Walter Ufer. It was an attempt to unify artists from the rival Santa Fe and Taos artist colonies. The New Mexico Painters first exhibited together at the Montross Gallery in New York City in October 1923. By 1924 the group had grown to 13 members, with John Sloan, Andrew Dasburg, Theodore Van Soelen, Randall Davey, and Walter Mruk joining. The New Mexico Painters disbanded around 1927.

Compared to the better known Taos Society of Artists (of which Blumenschein, Higgins and Ufer were members) and Cinco Pintores, the New Mexico Paintes society has been mostly forgotten over time. Ironically, the few times that this group is mentioned is in reference to the Taos Society. The New Mexico Painters were formed only a few days after the Taos Society refused to admit Jozef Bakos and William P. Henderson. According to art historian Robert R. White, the formation of the New Mexico Painters was a reaction to this rejection and directly lead to Blumenschein's resignation from the TSA.

In 1999 the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe organized an exhibition of works from artists of the New Mexico Painters and reproduced this document in their catalog.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is lucky to have such a revealing document in our collection.

 

Don Usner's Chimayo - 7/1/2016

Today's guest blogger is Lauren Fleck of Massachussetts. She graduated with a B.A. in English, and is currently employed at an antiques and fine art auction house. Fleck also runs her own blog on antiques and art called "The Antiquer's Apprentice."

Beatrice Wood, Matte White Footed Bowl with Dancing Men, glazed earthenware 8 x 8 in. (20.3 x 20.3 cm) Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994. MOA collection 1994.67.58

Beatrice Wood (1893-1998), alternately known as “Beato” or the “Mama of Dada,” was a woman of many talents. Actress, artist and potter, Wood is perhaps best known for her experimental work with ceramic glazes, examples of which have made their way into the New Mexico Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
 
Born in San Francisco, at age nineteen Wood moved to Paris to study acting and art before the outbreak of World War I forced her to return to the States.  In 1916, Wood met artist Marcel Duchamp and writer Henri-Pierre Roché, thus establishing her connection with the Dada movement.  Together the three worked to create The Blind Man, a magazine considered to be one of the earliest examples of the Dada movement.
 
Wood’s career as an artist was quick to blossom, from early drawings and sketches into an intensely experimental career in ceramics.  Studying under noted ceramists Gertrude and Otto Natzler, Wood honed her craft and, through a process of continual experimentation, developed her signature style along with the reputation of being an “alchemist” of glazes.
 
Beatrice Wood, Copper Red Teapot, n.d. glazed earthenware
7 x 5 1/2 x 3 in. (17.8 x 14 x 7.6 cm) Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate,
1994. MOA collection 1994.67.45ab.
 
The actual glaze recipe utilized by Wood has remained largely a secret, though her artistic process is well-documented.  After hand-forming clay vessels, the clay was allowed to dry to a leather hard consistency.  Pieces would then be coated in a milky glaze, formed of compounds such as lead, bismuth and copper, depending on which color Wood desired for the finished product.  Next, the vessels would be subjected to a single reduction firing, a technique in which ceramics are fired in a low temperature, oxygen-deprived environment.  As carbon filled the kiln, oxygen-starved carbon molecules would accumulate on glazed surfaces and begin to rob both the clay and the glaze of oxygen.  This process, known as oxygenation, causes a chemical reaction to occur as the metallic oxides in the glaze lose their oxygen molecules and reduce into their more metallic forms.  This changes the appearance of glazes, most notably resulting in the lustrous effects for which Wood was known.  Interestingly, Wood’s experimentation extended beyond merely the compounds added to glazes, as even the fuel utilized to stoke her kiln was viewed as an opportunity for creative exploration.  Wood added anything from mothballs to salt to her kiln, with each addition producing unique results.  Due to the unpredictability of the firing process and the varied ingredients used, Wood’s finished products were always a bit of a surprise even to her, a fact which only serves to add to their charm.
Beatrice Wood, Woman with Double Vessels, n.d.
glazed earthenware 13 x 11 x 4 1/2 in. (33 x 27.9 x 11.4 cm)
Bequest of the estate of Rick Dillingham, 1994 MOA collection 1994.67.46. 

Low n' slow - 5/1/2016

Take a trip back to October 19, 1980 with this video from Meridel Rubenstein showing a special exhibition of lowrider cars and color photographs that were displayed on the Santa Fe plaza:

 

Martin Guitar Company Museum - 4/1/2016

Museum director Dick Boak shows special guitars in the C.F. Martin Museum, including one made in 1834 and ones made for Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rodgers, Eric Clapton, and for craft artists Goro Takahashi and George Nakashima. Bonus video from the MUSIC episode of PBS Craft in America.

 

The Art of Life and Vice Versa - 3/15/2016

Today's blog post was written by Sarah Palmeri, the Assistant Director at Nuart Gallery and an artist in Santa Fe's Strangers Collective.

Susanne K. Langer, American philosopher of mind and of art, once said, “Most new discoveries are suddenly seen things that were always there.” Richard Tuttle’s work embodies this statement, turning on the invisible power of humble materials by transforming them into raw yet refined entities. It quietly shakes the foundations of what we consider to be art, to be meaningful, and to be valuable.
 
The New Mexico Museum of Art acquired about two-dozen works in 2009 from Tuttle’s Loose Leaf Notebook Drawing Series as part of the Fifty Works for Fifty States program set up by collectors Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. These simple watercolor drawings are composed of notebook paper that buckles under the weight of the small, spirited marks of liquid, always reminding you of the material, the physicality, and disposability of the object. Tuttle told Art in America in an interview there was about 7,000 of these drawings, most of which were thrown away. “I was moving,” he said, “I took some of them to the garbage. Herb Vogel came to visit and I said to him, "The garbage truck's coming in five minutes. If you want those drawings, you can have them."’ Luckily, Mr. Vogel saved about five hundred of them, which are now spread across the country in numerous museum collections.
 
 
Loose Leaf Notebook Drawing - Box 10, Group 4, 1980-1982, watercolor on paper.
New Mexico Museum of Art, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States,
a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art,
with generous support of the National Endowments for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2009 (2009.36.49a)
 
Tuttle’s unconventional, sometimes detritus materials, such as toilet paper rolls, rough cut plywood, string, and fabric, blur the line between art and everyday life, presenting ordinary items as a phenomenological experience. Some of his work is installed flat on the floor, low on the wall, or hung over one hundred inches high. This carefully considered placement along with focus on the material, construction, and composition create a quiet reminder for us to look for and cherish the neglected, forgotten, and invisible.
 
Fiction Fish I, 15, 1992. graphite, ink and watercolor on cardboard, graphite line,
7" x 8-1/2" x 1-1/2" (17.8 cm x 21.6 cm x 3.8 cm). Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.
 
Two With Any To #11, 1999. acrylic on fir plywood,
11" x 11" x 1-3/4" (27.9 cm x 27.9 cm x 4.4 cm). Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.
 
The purpose of contemporary art today is to mirror our society, to give us the resources to not just look, but to see, and to feed our inner life. It gives us permission to rethink the familiar, to open up to the unfamiliar, and to “suddenly see things that were always there.” Richard Tuttle takes it one step further, creating art that enhances one’s experience of the world with uninhibited freedom, allowing every object around us to be discovered, explored, understood, and felt.



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