Robert M. Ellis (1922-2014) Sky Views Askew - Landscape Paintings from the 80s

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ROBERT M. ELLIS (1922 - 2014)


Robert M. Ellis (1922 - 2014)

Sky Views Askew: Landscape Paintings from the 1980s Exhibition Dates: May 14th - July 10th, 2022

1335 Gusdorf Rd. Suit i . Taos New Mexico . 87571 . 575 .751.1262 .

Robert M. Ellis, photograph by Paul O’Connor

San Cristobal Valley #31, 85 x 85” size diagonally, oil on canvas, 1984 Image 1

INTRODUCTION Robert M. Ellis, an artist and educator, enjoyed experimenting with his artwork, often painting landscapes from a bird’s eye perspective, reconfiguring his square canvas to create diamond forms, and creating rhomboid-shaped mono-prints of valley views and landmark scenes of northern New Mexico. Inspired by the design of irrigated fields of norther New Mexico, Ellis played on the creation of traditional landscapes, accentuating the existing geometric forms by framing them within geometric shapes. Along with the use of aerial perspectives, Ellis created elongated rectangular fields that draw the viewer into the painting.

Ranchos Church, 28.75 x 40.25” framed , monoprint and pastel on paper, 1985 Image 2

View of El Salto, 28 x 28”, framed, lithograph on paper ed. 1/25, 1986 Image 3

With many distinctive phases during the artist’s career, Sky Views Askew: Landscape Paintings from the 1980s is comprised of pieces from a later exploration by Ellis, which spanned nearly a decade. The paintings featured in this exhibition were created from 1981 to 1990 during the artist’s time teaching landscape painting at the D. H. Lawrence Ranch through the University of New Mexico’s extension program. It was the rich, cultivated farmlands of Northern New Mexico that inspired the geometric realizations of Ellis’ landscape series, particularly the San Cristobal Valley which surrounds the ranch. The San Cristobal Valley was not discovered by the artist until the summer of 1980. Immediately, the patchwork of acequia, irragated land wholly captured the attention of Ellis. Just north of Taos, these farmlands are even more remote and expansive than the rest of the high desert country of Northern New Mexico. By the end of 1981, Ellis had created enough paintings from this ariel perspective series that he premeried them at the Wildine Gallery in Albuquerque.

San Cristobal Valley #8, 39.5 x 39.5” diagonal framed size, monoprint on paper, 1981 Image 4

Robert in his Albuquerque Studio, photograph by Eric Andrews c. 2012

San Cristobal Valley #27, 31 x 31” framed, oil on canvas, 1985 Image 5

Had it not been for Ellis’s time spent in California, the artist may have never been lured to these intricate landscapes. After earning his Master’s Degree at the University of Southern California, Ellis became Curator of Education at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum). While Curator in Pasadena, Ellis was involved in Marcel Duchamp’s first exhibition in the United States. He also worked with artists like Andrew Dasburg and discovered paintings by Agnes Martin. This exposure to artists with connections to Taos ignited a curiosity for New Mexico.

San Cristobal Valley #22, 30.25 x 43.25” framed, monoprint and pastel on paper, 1982 Image 6

Valdez Valley #3, 26 x 26” framed, aquatint on paper ed. 22/25, c. 1970s Image 7

Storm at Rio Grande Gorge, 18 x 24”, oil wach with lithography crayon.

Storm at Rio Grande Gorge, 24 x 29.75” framed, oil wash with lithography crayon on paper, 1982 Image 8

San Cristobal Valley #17, 67.88 x 67.88” size diagonally, oil on canvas, 1985 Image 9

Installation Photo

San Cristobal Valley #16, 33.5 x 22” image size, monoprint on paper, 1981 Image 10

View of Ranchos Church #3, 26.25 x 26.25”, image size, monoprint and pastel on paper, 1987 Image 11

Installation Photo

San Cristobal #1, 67.88 x 67.88” size diagonally, oil on canvas, 1985 Image 12

Rio Grande Gorge #17, 42 x 31” framed, lithograph on paper ed. 3/32, 1983 Image 13

Robert at his home studio, photo courtesy of Robert M. Ellis Trust c. 1980s

When Ellis accepted his position as professor at UNM, he shifted into an entirely new aesthetic climate. Sky Views Askew reveals the transition of his work from pure abstraction to more realistic landscapes.

Detail of: San Cristobal Valley #31

Rio Grande Gorge #16, 22 x 30” image size, lithograph on gray paper ed. 1/40, c. 1982 Image 14

The landscape and iconic landmarks of Taos and the surounding area, unfamilar to the artist at first, seemed intimidating to capture. The Rio Grande Gorge in oil stick on paper pictured above, as well as the winter scene, San Cristobal Valley #31 , a detail of which is pictured opposite, were among the artist’s first fully realized successes works within this sereis.

While creating this landscape series, Ellis retired as a professor at UNM in Albuquerque. He then went on to become Director of the Harwood Museum of Art in 1990. Through this position, Ellis befriended and supported the artists in Taos, helping to promote the more modern and forwardthinking. Here, Ellis became accredited with assisting in one of the Harwood Museum’s most profound acts of service to the larger Taos community by procuring seven large, minimalist paintings by Agnes Martin. These paintings are on permanent display at the Harwood Museum. By sharing his own artwork and the art of those he supported, Ellis imparted a significant contribution to the legacy of art in Taos.

Taos Mountain (Brown), 18 x 15” image size, lithograph / chine colle on paper, 1988 Image 15

During his time in Taos, the artist was awarded the UNM Regents Meritorious Service Medal in 1997 and the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1998. The town of Taos declared June 3, 2001, Robert Ellis Day, in honor of his retirement. And, he was awarded lifetime membership by the Harwood Museum Alliance in 2006, along with Gus Foster. -- Excerpt from Bill Whaley’s interview with Robert M. Ellis, Taos Portraits

Robert and his parrots, photo courtesy of Robert M. Ellis Trust

1335 Gusdorf Rd. Suit i . Taos New Mexico . 87571 . 575 .751.1262 .