Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

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.

Picasso's Guitars - 3/1/2016

The guitar and its stringed ancestors have been a frequent subject of painters for hundreds of years. Some of history’s most important classical and modern painters have featured the guitar in their paintings. In the 20th century, Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) created many abstract painting and sculptures featuring the guitar. This was due to the importance of the guitar in the music of his native Spain. Picasso’s various approaches to the guitar include paintings, collages, and paper sculpture. Two sculptures given by Picasso to the Museum of Modern Art in New York are the subject of the following video by Khan Academy. 

"I have seen what no man has seen before. When Pablo Picasso, leaving aside painting for a moment, was constructing this immense guitar out of sheet metal whose plans could be dispatched to any ignoramus in the universe who could put it together as well as him, I saw Picasso's studio, and this studio, more incredible than Faust's laboratory, this studio which, according to some, contained no works of art, in the old sense, was furnished with the newest of objects... Some witnesses, already shocked by the things that they saw covering the walls, and that they refused to call paintings because they were made of oilcloth, wrapping paper, and newspaper, said, pointing a haughty finger at the object of Picasso's clever pains: "What is it? Does it rest on a pedestal? Does it hang on a wall? What is it, painting or sculpture?' Picasso, dressed in the blue of Parisian artisans, responded in his finest Andalusian voice: 'It's nothing, it's el guitare!'; And there you are! The watertight compartments are demolished. We are delivered from painting and sculpture, which already have been liberated from the idiotic tyranny of genres. It is neither this nor that. It is nothing. It's el guitare!" (André Salmon, New French Painting, August 9, 1919)

Picasso, Guitar: A conversation between Salman Khan and Steven Zucker about Pablo Picasso's sculpture, Guitar and related work, 1912-14 at The Museum of Modern Art

Stage, Setting, Mood – Two Dramatic Portraits by Trude Fleischmann - 2/15/2016

Today's blog post comes from Curator of Photography, Kate Ware.


Trude Fleischmann, Portrait of Toni Birkmeyer, 1935, gelatin silver print, 4 7/16 × 3 5/16 in.
Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art
Jane Reese Williams Collection, Gift of Roberta DeGolyer, 1991 (1991.3.11)

Vienna, the cosmopolitan capital of Austria, was a hub of artistic and intellectual exchange in the early 1900s, with a vibrant culture of theater, cinema, music, and dance, as well as science and philosophy. Sigmund Freud had recently published The Interpretation of Dreams, Arnold Schoenberg was developing his twelve-tone method in music, and Gustave Klimt painted women engulfed by flattened patterns and lozenges of gold. In Vienna and across Europe, artists in many disciplines shared a post-war mission to create art that was freed from the rules of the past.

In 1920, twenty-five-year-old Trude Fleischmann (1895-1990) opened a photography studio in Vienna that quickly became a destination for the region’s cultural elite. During the studio’s eighteen-year run, Fleischmann photographed many luminaries including composer Alban Berg, architect Adolf Loos, conductor Arturo Toscanini, and theater director Max Reinhardt.

Two of Fleischmann’s gem-like portraits from that period are in the museum’s collection and are featured in the current exhibition Stage, Setting, Mood: Theatricality in the Visual Arts. These two prints showcase Fleischmann’s characteristic style. Undoubtedly influenced by Viennese turn-of-the century modernism, the young artist adopted its highly stylized and theatrical approach as well as its tendency to revel in surfaces and patterns.

We see this in Fleischmann’s dazzling 1928 image of Sibylle Binder, a stage and film actress, who is presented as elegant, ethereal, and unabashedly sensational. The artist emphasizes Binder’s spangled headdress and delicate profile, making her appear as rarefied and exquisite as the women in Klimt’s paintings. She is a modernist goddess: accomplished, liberated, and gorgeous. Fleischmann’s portrait of ballet master Anton “Toni” Birkmeyer is also highly theatrical, showing the dancer posing in his stage makeup, his face a mask of dramatic sensitivity.

By crafting images that suffused her sitters in the glow of beauty and sensuality, Fleischmann established a role for herself in this dynamic but short-lived world of creative visionaries. Her studio remained a gathering place until 1938, when she – and many of her portrait subjects -- was forced to flee Austria to escape Nazi persecution. Whatever lives were lived by the people in her pictures, in Fleischmann’s portraits they are preserved forever as intriguing and extraordinary.

Looking Back - 2/1/2016

Today's guest blogger is Rebecca Troy.

New Mexico Museum of Art's exhibition, Looking Forward, Looking Back featured the art of three female artists, Ligia Bouton, Micol Hebron, and Angela Ellsworth. To celebrate the work of the aforementioned artists, and in an initiative to involve the public beyond the scheduled exhibitions, Rebecca Aubin, the museum's Head of Education and Visitor Experience and Merry Scully, Head of Curatorial Affairs and curator of the exhibition, arranged on a wintery morning of the 9th of January, for the artists to visit Santa Fe. The patrons of the museum and the general public would have the opportunity to hear the artists speak and ask questions of these three influential artists. The conversations about art would take place in the historic St. Francis Auditorium located in the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Micol Hebron
Gallery Tally, Ken Nurenburg, Columbus Museum of Art, History
(percentage in the holdings
as listed on their collections website), 2013 – ongoing
Crowdsourced, digitally produced poster, Courtesy of the artists

Micol Hebron, a professor and activist, talked passionately about her feminist posters, which inform the public of the obvious polarization of the female artist. Her graphic depiction of data demonstrates the female artist's overdue need for recognition using a medium similar to the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist conscious group adopted in the 1980s who clearly influenced Micol Hebron. Hebron, also known as "the soccer mom to the art world," urged the audience to support "the women we know, and the women we don't know," and, in closing challenged the audience to constantly ask--incite--questions, because bringing into the light what is not discussed is a method for radically changing the status quo. Hebron runs the hugely successful Feminist Friday, and The Situation Room, a public art space located in LA where Micol Hebron lives and works.

Angela Ellsworth, Seer Bonnets: A Continuing Offense, 9 bonnets, pearl corsage pins, fabric, steel, and white oak plank; dimensions variable, 2009-2010
Installation view, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Australia
Photo credit : Paul Green

Angela Ellsworth's work, Seers and Bonnets: A Continuing Offense 2009-10 is a vivid re-expression of the female role within the Mormon faith. Ellsworth's critique features nine suspended bonnets, and a hand crafted cart. Each bonnet featured represents one of Lorenzo Snow's nine spouses, and utilizes the opposing forces of fabric and steel--Snow being one of the prophet's of the Mormon faith, and Ellsworth's great grandfather--to demonstrate the stark understanding of women who are confined to domesticity under Mormonism. Ellsworth's short film, Kicking Up Dust, breathes new life into the understanding of womanhood, or, sister-wives, by exploring the need to embrace one's own true sexuality, and by demonstrating the unity of women across the boundaries of color.

Ligia Bouton, Understudy for Animal Farm, 2012-2014, 26 hand-made pig heads, hand painted wooden cart with mirror and racks, 6 custom sand bags, 82 x 128 x 19 in.

Ligia Bouton's Understudy For Animal Farm pays homage to George Orwell's famed novel by engaging her audience through the use of a simple pillowcase, and therefore, creating "a domestic space of absolute power." Bounton uses the traditionally feminine realm of sewing, to transform an everyday household item into animal masks, which when worn renders the wearer unable to see. Bouton's interactive art creates a magnetic pull between desire and control. Desire is felt by the potential wearer as they are given the option of choosing from many masks, however, being made vulnerable in a public space, having to navigate without sight, and Bouton's power to choose from one of the many potential backdrops made available by her, brings the control back to the artist, and the art itself. Over 500 people have been photographed as part of Understudy For Animal Farm.

Merry Scully's expert navigation in the group talk that followed each artist's self introduction demonstrated to the audience how inextricably linked each artist is. Not only did Micol Hebron, Angela Ellsworth and Ligia Bouton create art through the process of transcendence--their choice to comment on and re-imagine their pasts--but, each artist is in the profession of teaching, of, influencing the next generation of artists.

As the event drew to a close the audience members were encouraged to ask questions. The main topic of discussion was the need for more women artists to reach the status of their male contemporaries, and--as understood through the lens of the female artist--for women to achieve this feat they must continue to gain the support they deserve, from major galleries across the world. The New Mexico Museum of Art is one such institution, dedicated to, and, continuing to promote women in the world of art. Looking Forward, Looking Back ended its run January 17th.

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