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BeatRice Mandelman octobeR 15 – novembeR 13, 2010 Selected works from the 1960s

ISBN 978-0-9827872-3-6 Price $20.00

Cover detaiL, from left to right: Birds (Green and Black #1402), c. 1960s, Collage with gouache and pencil on canvas, 23 1/2" x 16" Circles (Formerly No. 12) (60-p04), c. 1960s, Casein on masonite, 48" x 24"

Published on the occasion of the exhibition, "1960s Revisited," October 15 - November 13, 2010, curated by Gary Snyder. Š 2010 David Richard Contemporary

GalleRy DirectoRs David Eichholtz & Richard Barger

130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 |

1960 s to the mid 1970 s: the poetics and problematics of white

Excerpt from Beatrice Mandelman: Taos Modernist, University of New Mexico Press, 1995. Robert Hobbs, The Rhoda Thalhimer Endowed Chair of American Art, VCU and Visiting Professor, Yale University. © The Mandelman-Ribak Foundation. In this decade Bea Mandelman oscillated

about the period. It's not a soft feminine

between art as social critique and as a sanc-

period. The fiestas are over. The celebrants

tuary from current difficulties. At the begin-

have gone home. It is time to face reality.

ning and the end of the decade she was making collages that related to the specific

Obviously, she was reacting against her

problems of first race relations and then the

own works of c. 1959—1960 and was creat-

war in Vietnam. In these works Mandelman's

ing pieces that she believed to be in sync

old social realist attitudes reemerged.

with the changing temper of the times. But

"Collage best represents my concern for the

in 1967 Mandelman is quoted as saying "that

stresses and the shifting, transitory nature of

the 'calm' of the geometric forms is her reac-

human experience," the artist has reflected.

tion against the hostile and disturbing cur-

"Art can be a powerful mirror of the quali-

rents that she finds in the world.” Her vacil-

ties of life." In the early sixties she also made

lation between these two attitudes may be

a few assemblages of found objects that

explained in part by a desire to leave mean-

may have been inspired by the Museum of

ing open-ended and to trust the unconscious

Modern Art exhibition entitled The Art of

to be her guide [...]. In 1977, she explained,

Assemblage. She considers her assemblages

"My art is planted in allowing my

as social statements, and even made the fol-

inner being to be free.” The idea that art is a

lowing observations about them: "Without

form of unconscious or intuitive communica-

the social statement there is not art. If there's

tion is a legacy that Bea inherited from the

any truth, it's in the artist's reaction to man's

Abstract Expressionists. Like them she has

reaction to the social situation at any par-

had problems knowing when a work is fin-

ticular moment."

ished. [...] Mandelman has stated, "The painting tells me when it’s got it. Most of my work

In the intervening years between her two

is unfinished."

series of collages, Mandelman created several series of constructivist works that she

Although Mandelman's collages are intended

herself has regarded as either social com-

to be challenging political works of art as

ment or an escape into the radiance of beau-

Why Choose Murder, Civil Rights and Vietnam

tiful and satisfying forms. For example, in an

attest, these pieces also participate in the

undated typescript, Mandelman wrote:

artist's proclaimed goal to articulate negative space. Knowing that she was employing

The work IS hard-edged because the world is

abstract forms that could easily become mere

hard-edged now. The artist answers the time,

decoration, Bea avoided obvious designs.

projects, and makes an emotional statement

"I don't want to impose patterns," the artist

DETAIl: Birds (Green and Black #1402), c. 1960s, Collage with gouache and pencil on canvas, 23 1/2" x 16"

later noted in her informal journal. "I want my

qualities of presence and absence elicited by

painting to have not pattern but order and

a blank canvas have intrigued Mandelman for

structure underneath—not on top—not what

several decades, beginning with her paintings

you see—hidden, covered—but felt." She has

and collages of the early 1960s. The artist

related that the two artists, in her opinion,

has noted, "I try to paint silence that speaks."

who most clearly understand the power and

At another time she asked herself the rhe-

subtlety of negative space are José de Ribera

torical question, "Are my paintings poems

and Henri Matisse.

with absent words?" Similar to Matisse, Mandelman recognized that the power of the

Working with negative space required con-

blank canvas needed to be respected and if

trapuntal thinking. The background with

possible enhanced through the creative act.

which an artist begins in this kind of art is nei-

Matisse stated early in his career, "If upon a

ther neutral nor a void. Rather it is an already

white canvas I jot down some sensations of

established presence that must be considered

blue, of green, of red—every new brush stroke

in relation to the colors and lines, which punc-

diminishes the importance of the preceding

ture, divide, and transform it into an entirely

ones." [...]

different kind of surface. The contradictory

While a preference for white develops natu-

which both the artist and the audience are

rally from Mandelman's work of the late

left holding the bag. As Mandelman herself

1950s, her use of it in the 1960s is consistent

recognized, forms can assume contradic-

with the new emphasis on areas of unprimed

tory meanings in abstract art. [...] "I have a

and unpainted canvas in the Color Field

constant dialogue between opposites.�

painting of Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland and in the reductive aes-

Poised on ambiguity, Mandelman's works

thetic that became known as Minimalism.

at times rest on watersheds of difference. Meanings trail in different directions, bifurcat-

In many of Bea Mandelman's works the power

ing content into polar opposites, making one

of white in conjunction with a limited palette

a mockery of the other, or at the very least an

is integral to the completed piece. Beginning

inverse mirror. Too often we expect Modernist

in the 1960s she often reduces her palette to

art to resolve contradictions and offer solu-

primary colors used in conjunction with black

tions that can be described in a discursive

and white. Recalling the discipline of many

fashion. But what these works of art do best

painters who were members of the American

is to keep the contradictions in suspension

Abstract Artists association established in

and allow viewers the opportunity to view

New York City in 1936 who held Mondrian's art

them aesthetically. Meaning in Modernist art

in high regard, Mandelman's rigor implies an

is not subject to straightforward ratiocination

interest in retrieving and expanding aspects

as in philosophy, but is a poetic construction

of this vanguard current that she had ignored

of possibilities that can easily devolve into

two decades earlier. The limitations of color

seeming contradictions of slipping signifiers.

were also a way to analogize her affinities

Not just propaganda, this art manifests or

with ancient, tribal, and folk art while remain-

symbolizes a range of feelings and is not sim-

ing modern. In addition, these brilliant colors

ply a vehicle of persuasion.

reflect major changes in tribal and folk art, which has been intensified in the twentieth

Art may be most effective as a political tool

century through the use of aniline dyes and

when it allows us to come to terms with the

commercial paints. [...]

ideological construction of reality. Since ideologies are special ways of masking contradic-

To the question "Why does the artist choose

tions according to the needs and attitudes of

to imply meanings through abstraction rather

specific groups and since artists may be mar-

than depict them directly?" Mandelman has

ginal to their public, ample opportunities exist

responded enigmatically, "White memories

for both subtle and blatant contradictions

...The painting should be more like a dream,

between the ideologies of artists and their

disquieting and concealing....I don't preach at

public. In Mandelman's art this rift is mani-

the observer."

fested formally in terms of her use of white to bridge a number of binary oppositions includ-

But since Modernism has often been con-

ing presence/absence and space/wall. The

ceived as an unforgiving style, the radical

polarities are indicative of unresolved ten-

amputation of form from narrative mean-

sions in modern society—tensions which are

ings often causes the act of interpretation

exacerbated in Mandelman's work because of

to assume the features of a snipe hunt in

her desire to belong to the fashionable realm



of the international vanguard in which the

from Arroyo Hondo. White can be a symbol

major formalist critic of the 1950s and early

of the primordial, which is reenacted in art by

1960s Clement Greenberg was champion-

the awesome and immutable canvas or sheet

ing Color Field painting for its way of forg-

of paper facing an artist before her first mark

ing an inextricable bond between painting

is made. [...] Mandelman equates white with

and support (such as canvas or linen) and for

the mystery of the unknown, which might be

permitting this support an eloquent role in

the yet uncreated force of the universe or its

the completed work. At the same time that

ultimate end.

she wished to keep abreast of changes in the art world, Mandelman wanted to remain true

After initiating the discourse on the poetics

to her early liberal upbringing and need to

and problematics of white in her works of

regard humanity as an extended family. These

the early 1960s, Mandelman began in 1964 to

contradictions in her art function as artistic

investigate the formal problem of replacing a

koans—contradictions that allow viewers to

clearly articulated background with oscillating

come to terms with the contradictory nature

planes of color. She undertakes this problem

of reality.

in such works as Blue Moon, which appears on first inspection to be colored forms placed

Although it is impossible to assign a spe-

against a white background, but on pro-

cific iconographic meaning to the drips in

longed examination reveals subtle overlap-

Mandelman's paintings or to the color white

ping shapes that shift between foreground

in her art, one can defend their high import

and background. [...] Given Mandelman's

by pointing to the fact that the Modernist

interest in both form and political content,

style is an elevated discourse even if a mys-

one might hazard an idealist interpretation to

terious and at times confounding one. While

the effect that the lack of a definite ground

Modernists originally intended to distill a host

affirms a new sense of doubt pervading the

of associations into an essence that could

country in the 1960s when old values and

be understood in the then supposed univer-

attitudes were beginning to be seriously

sal languages of color and form and found

questioned. But the formal characteristics of

instead that their works were open to a host

these works do not necessarily convey such

of interpretations, the serious and committed

a political content. More to the point is the

tone of this style indicates its significance,

manner in which Mandelman's work partici-

even if that import cannot be channeled into

pates in the ideology of progress that in the

one unequivocal meaning. […]

1960s affected even the arts, an ideology that assumed the glamour, the element of sur-

In Mandelman's work the poetics of white

prise, and the planned obsolescence of high

depend upon its plethora of references. White

fashion. [...] Even though they might take on

might be associated with clouds, light, snow,

the spirited quest for novelty and change of

purity, the canvas itself, the void, with begin-

fashion, Mandelman's works do not promote

nings and with endings—meaning death—

the values of industry: their assertively hand-

with mysterious signs painted on rock walls

painted edges reinforce the artist's connec-

centuries ago, with the background of many

tions with handmade objects.

Native American pots and Hispanic santos, and with the flesh color of the Christ figures

DETAIl: Morning (70-SUN05), c. 1960s Acrylic on canvas, 32" x 40"

Occasionally during this period, Mandelman

collages. An excellent example is Vietnam, a

undertakes a critique of other artists' work.

descendent of the elegant abstracted post-

An example of this vying with tradition is

ers undertaken by several Russian artists who

her Black Cross, which reconstitutes George

had exceedingly high expectations for the

O'Keeffe's paintings of crosses by placing

intellectual curiosity and openness to change

one in a rigorously geometric format. While

of an unimpeded proletariat. Unlike Russian

Mandelman's painting might appear to reject

Constructivists who thought their work

the religious overtones of O'Keeffe's art, it in

would be as suitable for posters as for paint-

fact serves as a Rosetta stone for her inter-

ing, Mandelman's work does not become an

ests in New Mexican religious art, the auster-

effective forum for political persuasion. [...]

ity of the landscape, and the intensity of the light in the Southwest. More than most of her

Rather than turning art into propaganda,

abstract paintings, this work underscores the

Mandelman transforms the raw material of

way that Mandelman has abstracted from

life into art. The result is a collage that is more

nature rather than rejected it. Even in such

satisfactory as art than information because

a seemingly nonobjective piece as Birds, the

the reference to current events have become

artist indicates a desire to perpetuate a dia-

highly aestheticized. Vietnam indicates a

logue with nature.

major problem for political art, which can become a means for dignifying conflicts and

In addition to nature, memories of Russian Constructivist utopianism pervade Mandelman's

aggrandizing war rather than undermining it.

Arrangement #2 (60-COL07), c. 1960s, Collage with cut paper, pencil drawing, sand and gouache 6

on mat board, 19 3/4" x 15 3/4"

Birds (Green and Black #1402), c. 1960s, Collage with gouache and pencil on canvas, 23 1/2" x 16"

Circles (Formerly No. 12) (60-p04), c. 1960s, Casein on masonite, 48" x 24"

Collage No. 9 (60-PR17), c. 1960s, Mixed media collage on mat board, 15 7/8" x 19 5/8" 7

Homage to Homer (60-PR12), c. 1960s, Acrylic with mixed media collage on masonite, 48" x 35 1/2"

Morning (70-SUN05), c. 1960s, Acrylic on canvas, 32" x 40"

Space Series VI (60-SP 1-09), c. 1960s, Collage on cardboard, 24" x 17 7/8" 8

Space Series #20 (60-SP 1-01), c. 1960s, Mixed media with collage on matboard, 19 3/4" x 15 3/4"

Space Series #35 (60-SP 5-10), c. 1960s, Collage and acrylic on mat board, 15 5/8" x 19 5/8"

Space Series #39, (60-SP 5-18), c. 1960s, Collage and acrylic on mat board, 19 5/8" x 15 5/8" 9

Space Series #62 (60-SP 3-27), c. 1960s, Gouache on paper mounted on illustration board, 16" x 11 3/4"

Space Series #64 (60-SP 3-30), c. 1960s, Acrylic, collage on mat board, 13 1/2" x 13"

Space Series #79 (60-SP 5-15), c. 1960s, Collage and acrylic on mat board, 19 5/8" x 19 5/8" 10

Space Series #84 (60-SP 1-16), c. 1960s, Acrylic on cardboard, 19 7/8" x 15 7/8"

Space Series #99 (60-SP 1-05), c. 1960s, Mixed media with sand and collage on mat board, 19 3/4" x 15 3/4"

Untitled (60-P44), c. 1960s, Acrylic on canvas, 47 1/4" x 31 1/2"


Untitled (60-COL 3-05), c. 1960s, Acrylic and collage on canvas paper, 11 7/8" x 15 7/8"

Untitled (60-COL 3-08), c. 1960s, Acrylic and collage on canvas paper, 19 7/8" x 16"

Untitled (60-SP 1-12), c. 1960s, Collage on cardboard, 19 7/8" x 15 7/8" 12

Untitled (60-SP 1-13), c. 1960s, Collage on cardboard, 15 7/8" x 19 7/8"

Untitled (60-SP 1-18), c. 1960s, Collage on mat board, 19 7/8" x 15 7/8"

Untitled (60-SP 4-36), c. 1960s, Collage and acrylic on paper, 9 1/2" x 11 3/4" 13

Untitled (60-G 2-15), c. 1960s, Gouache on paper, 27 1/2" x 39 1/2"

Untitled (60-COL 3-04), c. 1960s, Ink and collage on canvas paper, 19 7/8" x 16"

Untitled (Eye to Eye) (60-COL 1-01), c. 1960s, Mixed media with collage on paper, 14

12 1/2" x 17"

Untitled (Freaks) (60-COL 1-05), c. 1960s, Mixed media collage on paper, 19 7/16" x 12 3/16"

White No. 1 (60-PR15), c. 1960s, Acrylic with mixed media collage on paper, 11" x 9"

beatRice Mandelman octobeR 15 – novembeR 13, 2010 Selected works from the 1960s

GalleRy DirectoRs David Eichholtz & Richard Barger

130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 |

Beatrice Mandelman Selected works from the 1960s  

A small solo exhibition in the north gallery of Beatrice Mandelman, a Taos Modernist, will offer a selection of her work from the 1960s, inc...

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