Page 1


Modernism in the Southwest


Quest for the New Modernism in the Southwest January 26 - March 17.2018 Opening Reception Friday, January 26 Curated in conjunction with Victoria Addison

JĂłsef BakoĹĄ Emil Bisttram Howard Cook Andrew Dasburg

Fremont Ellis Raymond Jonson Gene Kloss Paul Lantz

William Lumpkins Willard Nash Sheldon Parsons Howard Schleeter

Will Shuster John Sloan Virginia True Cady Wells

Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 |

cover: Emil Bisttram, Ranchos de Taos Church, 1970, oil on canvas, 27 x 36.5 in

Quest for the New Modernism in the Southwest “The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul…a new part of the soul woke up and the old world gave way to a new.” - D.H. Lawrence (1924) OVERVIEW At the turn of the 20th century, when America and the world convulsed in eager anticipation of cultural revolution, Modernist artists transformedthe world of art by seeking a radical break with the conventions of the past and by searching for new forms of artistic expression. As the poet Ezra Pound later described it, the goal everywhere was to “make it new.” During this time, well-known Modernists were drawn to the Southwest, seeking to create a uniquely American artistic vision not anchored in European traditions or those of the East Coast. For these artists, New Mexico, in particular, offered a liberating place of the exotic, the majestic, the unexplored and the mystical—all rich as catalysts for original artistic expression and what they hoped would become a new, more powerful, American Modernist aesthetic. In Quest for the New, LewAllen Galleries surveys this powerful connection between place and spirit as it was manifested in the dynamic work of some of the most notable of these artistic pioneers of the Southwest. IMPETUS FOR THE NEW Modernism in American art, in the early part of the 20th century, was a visual response to currents more generally moving through society: expansion of individual freedom and expression, reform of political and cultural institutions and strictures, and cultural progressivism in general. Rejecting academic traditions and guidelines, Modernist artists vigorously challenged previous notions that art should only provide literal depictions of the visible world. The Modernists experimented with the expressive and emotional use of color, innovations of form, nontraditional materials, new techniques, and a variety of media. Many imbued their works with a powerful sense of spirituality. 2

The Southwest Modernists, who predominately originated from East Coast or Midwestern cities, were influenced by the ideas and innovations that were transforming the art world generally at this time. A number of the artists in this exhibition came to the Southwest in response to the exhilaration they felt from the new and revolutionary art exhibited for the first time in America at the 1913 Armory Show. Dozens of Modernist artists were wooed to New Mexico, as the ideal place to fulfill their quest for a new artistic vision, by the very influential Mabel Dodge Luhan, who was a major supporter of The Armory Show and a staunch advocate for both Modernism and the Southwest. In the Southwest, these artists largely defined their own traditions, creating groundbreaking works that established their singularity within the Modernist canon. Consciously and unconsciously, they incorporated into their new art the awe and spiritual influences of the mystical light, rugged mountains and desert scenery, the majestic terrain and unexpected colors of nature, as well as the panoply of people, cultures, rites, mysteries, and traditions inherent in the region. The expansive and breathtaking Southwest landscape symbolically underscored these artists’ search for personal and artistic freedom and individual fulfillment. In a region steeped in history, these artists created a new visual language that referenced unique views of the landscape and indigenous forms of artmaking in the Southwest while also addressing impulses solidly rooted in the transformations of the 20th century. American Modernism in the Southwest is a different visual experience than that of Modernism elsewhere. Whether the new Southwestern artworks were created in a Cubist, Post-Impressionistic, Futuristic, Abstract, or Transcendental manner, the paintings and prints highlighted in this exhibition are consistently infused with the region’s fundamental sense of captivating mystery, spiritual inspiration, and aesthetic power. DAEMON OF THE LAND At the core of the new aesthetic innovation for many was the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the Southwest, different from the pastoral woods and countryside of the East Coast. Its dramatic 3

desert terrain, crystalline light, vivid skies, and luminous long views of riveting mountain vistas awakened in many the drive to combine innovative Modernist pictorial style with images from this startling and unfamiliar landscape. There was also a ready openness to the impulse of mysticism that emanated both from the physical attributes of the new landscape—its strongly felt aura and haunting silence that stood in stark and welcome contrast to the congestion and cacophony of urban centers in the East and Midwest—linked with the romantic mystery of native peoples and ancestral Hispanic settlers whose rituals and culture touched the artists’ spiritual chords. The expansive landscape and endless skies of the Southwest underscored their desire for personal and artistic freedoms. The artists were enthralled by the region’s mystical light, its vast deserts and breathtaking mountains, as well as its centuries-old cultures and timeworn structures. Many believed they had discovered an unspoiled historicity of culture, rooted in antiquity—a place and vision that was uniquely and ineluctably American. Inspired by this culturally and visually rich environment, the artists sought to capture and convey an innovative, even mystical, vision of the land and the people of the Southwest. In the process, they produced some of the most enduringly significant images in American art history. Many works in this exhibition illustrate the effect that the perceived genius of the Southwestern land had on the new art being made here. The bold and scintillating colors of the topography appear in the vivid palettes of such exemplary paintings as Raymond Jonson’s Arroyo No. 4 (1922), Fremont Ellis’ House and Trees (1919), Emil Bisttram’s New Mexico Compound with Poplar (c. 1950), and Sheldon Parsons’ Alcalde, NM (n.d.). The magical sense of the Southwestern landscape deeply charged the artistic imaginations of many of the artists whose work is included in this exhibition. The mystical aura of place is most evident in John Sloan’s dramatic mountainscape New Mexico (1919), Emil Bisttram’s ethereal Ranchos de Taos Church (1970), and Cady Wells’ Penitente Procession (1939).


SPIRITUALITY & SOUTHWEST MODERNISM In the “exotic” region of the Southwest—seemingly lost in time—artists found deep inspiration that reverberated with the ancestral rhythms of ancient people and their traditions. Many had been affected by such influences as Kandinsky’s treatise, On the Spiritual in Art; the Theosophical philosophies of Russian mystic Madame Blavatsky; and the spiritually inspired teachings of the internationally acclaimed artist Nicholas Roerich. The Southwest Modernists often viewed painting as a spiritual pilgrimage—expressing an inner experience of reality rather than simply reproducing images of the external world. Many adopted Kandinsky’s view that color should be used in a painting as something autonomous—apart from the visual description of an object or other form.

With the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (1899), and the popularization of the idea of a subconscious mind, many artists began exploring dreams, symbolism, and personal iconography as avenues for the depiction of their subjective experiences. In this LewAllen Galleries exhibition, this can especially be noted in Raymond Jonson’s New Mexico Landscape (1927), Emil Bisttram’s New Mexico Compound with Poplar (1950), and Bisttram’s iconic Ranchos de Taos Church (1970). Many Southwest Modernists were also influenced by the spiritually potent writings of the thencontemporary Swiss psychologist Carl Jung who had made his own personal and spiritual journey to experience the ancient civilization of the Taos Pueblo. In the Southwest, artists consciously sought to find elements of Jung’s “primordial imagery.” Jung believed that there is an intrinsic symbolism, innate to all of mankind, that helps us mediate the omnipresent but oppositional forces in the human psyche. This symbolism is often embedded in religious art, mythology, and folk tales. One can readily experience this palpable spiritual power in works such as Penitente Procession (1939) by Cady Wells, Madonna of the Picture (1939) by Howard Schleeter, Return of the Processional (1967) by Gene Kloss, or in the transportive imagery of The Corn Dancers (c. 1950s) by Emil Bisttram.


Southwest American Modernists’ works conveyed layers of social and spiritual meaning as a part of the visual content these artists sought to express. In their art, they referenced the natural environment and history, and they made respectful homages to the Native American and Mexican residents and their spirituality, illustrated in this exhibition by Paul Lantz’s Chamita (1938) and Emil Bisttram’s Corn Dancers (c. 1950s). For each artist, Modernism was depicted through different methods of expression: line, mass, abstraction, and color were all used for visual or emotional effect. Artists frequently straddled the apparent divide between figurative and abstract art, creating works that were indigenous to the Southwest. This aspect can be seen in works included in this exhibition such as Raymond Jonson’s New Mexico Landscape (1927), Cady Wells’ Valdez (1936), William Lumpkins’ North of the Capitans (1932), or Howard Schleeter’s Northern New Mexico Mountain Village (1948). THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOUTHWEST MODERNISM The Armory Show of 1913 proved to be a very important springboard to the advent and development of Southwest Modernism. Conceived to throw down the gauntlet to the conservative world of academic art, The Armory Show proved to be a momentous art exhibition that shocked, baffled, and outraged the nation, altered our overall perception of beauty, and had an extremely profound and long-lasting effect on American art. Of the artists included in this LewAllen exhibition, two painters—John Sloan and Andrew Dasburg— participated in the Armory Show, and nearly all of the others visited the exhibit, an experience that, based on the artists’ own observations, had profound influence on their work as Southwestern Modernists. During the same era, a number of American artists—some of whom were to become anchored in the Southwest—studied in Paris and discovered Modernist, Abstract, and Cubist artists such as Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne. Among the various artists who worked in these cutting-edge styles were Howard Schleeter, whose Cubist style can be seen in Church (1942), and in Andrew Dasburg’s Cubism featured in Village Road (c. 1960s). 6

The painter Józef Bakoš, captivated by the artistic energy of Santa Fe, organized a group of young, like-minded Modernist artists, all in their early 20s: Los Cinco Pintores ("The Five Painters"). Members included Józef Bakoš, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, Willard Nash, and Will Shuster—all of whom (except Mruk) are represented in this LewAllen Galleries exhibition. As the first organized group of Modernist artists in the Southwest, their stated goal was to "take art to the people." The group’s endeavors were successful, and in December of that year, the New Mexico Museum of Art presented the first of several exhibitions as a group. In addition to their Midwestern Touring Exhibit in 1922, they also arranged a show in Los Angeles in 1923, Exhibition of Painting by Artists of New Mexico. This exposure enabled the underlying premises of the Southwestern Modernists to play an important and influential role in the larger story of American Modernism. While the Southwest Modernists may not have discovered the mythically elusive “Cities of Gold” sought by the Spanish conquistadors, at the end of their quest, they discovered something far richer: the early wellspring of the American idiom. – Justin Ferate


Józef Bakoš (1891-1977) was a significant contributor to American Southwest Modernism. Trained in Buffalo, Toronto and Denver, Bakoš is noted as an important member of Los Cinco Pintores (The Five Painters), which included Józef Bakoš, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, Willard Nash, and Will Shuster. Bakoš, captivated by the mystical beauties of New Mexico, expanded the American Modernist canon, producing works that depicted specifically American subject matter such as the majestic New Mexico landscape, indigenous adobe architecture, and Native American life and dance ceremonies.

overleaf: Józef Bakoš, Untitled (New Mexico), watercolor, 13.25 x 17.5 in 8

JĂłzef BakoĹĄ, Santa Fe No. 10, watercolor on paper, 13.75 x 20.375 in 9


Emil Bisttram (1895-1976) was awarded a Guggenheim Grant in 1931 to study with the world-famous muralist Diego Rivera in Mexico City. Bisttram first discovered Taos in 1930 and never left. While Bisttram’s early work was dominantly representational, his imagery ranged from representational, expressionistic, neo-classical, cubist, realist, and the abstract. In 1938, Bisttram cofounded the influential Transcendental Art movement with Raymond Jonson. These works were largely abstract, inspired by the spiritualism and color of Nicholas Roerich and the chromographic works of Wassily Kandinsky.

Emil Bisttram, The Corn Dancers, c. 1950s, watercolor, 21.75 x 16.5 in 11

Emil Bisttram, New Mexico Compound with Poplar, c. 1950, watercolor on paper, 17.75 x 23.375 in



Howard Cook, Deer Dancer, pastel on paper, 21.5 x 28.5 in 14

Howard Cook (1901-1980) studied printmaking with Joseph Pennell. In 1926, Cook traveled to New Mexico to create woodcuts for Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. In 1939, Cook settled in New Mexico, taking up mural painting. He produced a 16-panel fresco, The Importance of San Antonio in Texas History, for the Federal Building in San Antonio. Cook’s work in oils, pastels, watercolors, and graphics received critical acclaim.


Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979) has been called “the greatest draughtsman of landscape since Van Gogh.” In 1909, Dasburg traveled to Paris, introducing him to a group of Modernist artists including Morgan Russell. Russell and Stanton Macdonald-Wright had devised Synchromism—believing that paint colors should be orchestrated like notes in a symphony. Dasburg also discovered the paintings of Cézanne as well as Cubist works and soon became one of America’s leading early advocates for Cubism. In 1913, Dasburg exhibited at the renowned Armory Show. In 1918, Taos became Dasburg’s home, providing artistic inspiration for the rest of his life. Captivated by New Mexico’s landscapes and the rectilinear forms of traditional adobe buildings, Dasburg’s paintings reflect a unique imagery—conveying his artistic immersion into both Synchromism and Cubism.


Andrew Dasburg, Village Road, c. early 1970s, pastel on paper, 17.25 x 23.25 in 17

Fremont Ellis, House and Trees (Untitled), 1919, oil on canvas, 20.25 x 24 in 18

Fremont Ellis (1897-1985) settled in Santa Fe in 1919 and was a member of the avant-garde group Los Cinco Pintores (The Five Painters). Inspired by New Mexico’s landscape. Ellis’ paintings were largely impressionistic, evolving over time. Beginning with a flat, uniform style in the 1920s, he later incorporated rich layers of pigment applied with short, bold strokes. Ellis stated, “True Impressionism is not a way of painting, not a method, but a point of view.”


Fremont Ellis, Velarde Valley (New Mexico), c. 1940, oil, 11 x 14 in 20


Raymond Jonson (1891-1982) was inspired by the cutting-edge works shown at the 1913 Armory Show—particularly the expressive color-intense works of Wassily Kandinsky. In 1924, drawn to New Mexico’s majestic landscapes, Jonson moved to Santa Fe where he founded Atalaya Art School. Jonson’s painting, at this time, consisted of boldly executed landscapes using saturated colors. In 1938, strongly influenced by Kandinsky and the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, whose colorful works are infused with spiritualism and mysticism, Jonson co-founded the Transcendental Painting Group with fellow artist Emil Bisttram. Through abstract art, the Transcendental Painting Group sought to carry painting beyond the physical world, exploring new expressions of space, color, light, and design.

Raymond Jonson, New Mexico Landscape, 1927, graphite on paper, 11.25 x 14 in,




Raymond Jonson, Arroyo No. 4, 1922, oil on canvas board 15 x 24.25 in 25

Gene Kloss, The Open Road, 1941 etching, drypoint, aquatint, ed. 50, 9.75 x 13.75 in 26

Gene Kloss (Alice Geneva Kloss) (1903-1996) is among the major 20th century printmakers—known for Western landscapes and images of Pueblo Indians. A Taos art colony member, she created paintings, watercolors, and hundreds of etchings and aquatints over a 70-year career. Kloss was the first American woman printmaker to be inducted into the National Academy of Design.


Gene Kloss, Pueblo Firelight Dance, 1952, etching, drypoint, aquatint, ed. 50, 11.5 x 16.5 in 28

Gene Kloss, Return of the Processional, 1967, 2nd state, drypoint, aquatint, ed. 50, 12.8 x 18 in


Gene Kloss, Eve of the Green Corn Ceremony—Domingo Pueblo, 1934, drypoint/aquatint, 13.5 x 10.75 in


Gene Kloss, Shield Dancers, 1958, etching, drypoint, aquatint, ed. 25/35, 10.8 x 14 in


Gene Kloss, Summer Evening in New Mexico, 1941, etching, drypoint, aquatint, ed. 75, 8.8 x 11.75 in


Gene Kloss, Processional, Taos, 1948 etching, drypoint, aquatint, 9.8 x 13.8 in


Gene Kloss, Penitente Fires, 1939, drypoint/aquatint, ed. 50, 10.75 x 13.75 in


Gene Kloss, Night Ceremony of the Penitentes, 1932, etching, drypoint, aquatint, ed. 35, 5.8 x 8.5 in


Gene Kloss, Quoth the Raven Nevermore, 1973, etching, drypoint, aquantint, 10.8 x 14 in


Gene Kloss, Carding Wool the Old Spanish Way, 1985, etching, drypoint, ed. 50, 6 x 8 in


Paul Lantz, Recto: Chamita, Verso: Portrait of His Daughter, c. 1938, oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in 38

Paul Valentine Lantz (1908-2000) studied at the National Academy in New York and then in Europe. In 1929, architect Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter commissioned from Lantz a mural series for Santa Fe’s Hotel La Fonda. For decades, Lantz lived between New York and Santa Fe, moving permanently to Santa Fe in 1974. Among his commissions is a mural for the former Clovis, NM Post Office called Clovis Main Street.


William Lumpkins (1909-2000) was one of America’s first Abstract Expressionist artists. From 19381942, Lumpkins exhibited with the Transcendental Painting Group. Inspired by Nicholas Roerich and Wassily Kandinsky, the group sought to transcend the senses and explore spiritual realms through abstraction. Lumpkins received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1985.


William Lumpkins, North of the Capitans, 1932, watercolor on paper, 9.75 x 17.25 in 41

William Lumpkins, Near Abiquiui, 1981, watercolor on paper 17.25 x 23.25 in 42


Willard Nash, Road to Las Vegas, c. 1930s, lithograph on paper, 7 x 11.5 in 44

Willard Ayer Nash (1898-1943) was called “the American Cézanne.” A member of Los Cincos Pintores, together with Andrew Dasburg, he explored Cézanne’s pictorial structure and dynamic expression. In 1931, Mexican artist Diego Rivera hailed Nash as “one of the six greatest painters of the United States.”


Sheldon Parsons, Alcalde, NM, c. late 1920s, oil on panel, 16 x 20 in 46

Sheldon Parsons (1866-1943) was, from 1895 to 1912, a successful New York City portrait artist whose clients were largely national personalities. In 1913, Parsons moved to Santa Fe. Initially a figurative painter, Parsons became beloved for his “happy, serene, Impressionist landscapes.� Parsons was well respected in Santa Fe and became the first director of the New Mexico Museum of Art in 1918.


Sheldon Parsons, Garcia Street, Santa Fe, c. late 1920s, oil on canvas board, 9.625 x 7.75 in


Sheldon Parsons, September 30, c. late 1930s, oil on board, 12 x 9 in


Howard Behling Schleeter (1903-1976), who resided in New Mexico after 1929, worked in several kinds of media: gouache, watercolor, oil, scratchboard, and engraving. Though his work was primarily abstract, his 1936 WPA murals depict Western figurative scenes. He had several more commissions during 1936 and 1942 in locations including Santa Fe and Washington, D.C. In 1945, The Encyclopædia Britannica refers to Schleeter as “an artist’s artist.”


Howard Behling Schleeter, Still Life, #10, 1955, mixed media, 17.25 x 21.25 in


Howard Behling Schleeter, Blue Bird in a Landscape, 1947, mixed media, 18 x 14 in 52

Howard Schleeter, Church, 1942, watercolor on paper, 18.75 x 13.25 in 53

Howard Schleeter Madonna of the Picture, 1939, oil on canvas, 16 x 12 in


Howard Schleeter, Northern New Mexico Mountain Village, 1948, mixed media on paper, 17.25 x 23 in 55

Will Shuster, Pueblo Rancheria, oil on board, 20 x 24 in 56

Will Shuster (1893-1969) was a founder of Los Cinco Pintores (The Five Painters) whose goal was to promote Modernism. A painter, etcher, and craftsman, Shuster is often associated with his mentor, John Sloan. In 1926, Shuster built and burned the first ever Zozobra—a giant puppet symbolizing the gloom of the passing year now burned annually in effigy.


John Sloan (1871-1951) is one of the most celebrated painters of the 20th Century and is revered as “the premier artist of the Ashcan School.” Sloan regularly portrayed scenes of the daily lives of ordinary people—a revolutionary concept. In 1913, Sloan participated in the legendary Armory Show, which introduced Modern Art to American audiences. In 1919, Sloan first traveled to New Mexico and was so captivated that he bought a home and spent 29 summers painting in Santa Fe. John Sloan’s paintings shifted in subject matter upon his arrival in New Mexico, depicting his noted social realist style within New Mexico landscape’s mystical mountain setting.


John Sloan, New Mexico, 1919, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in 59


John Sloan, 1925 61


Virginia True (1900-1989) discovered Colorado in 1928, painting and sketching prolifically. Her fascination with Western landscapes, mining towns, cowboys, and native plants informed her work in Colorado and throughout her career. An advocate of Regionalism, True became the leading member of a five-member group called The Prospectors, which exhibited around the country. True’s paintings were regularly exhibited alongside works of Santa Fe and Taos artists, including Gustave Baumann, Victor Higgins, and Olive Rush.

Virginia True, Santa Fe, 1935, oil, 32 x 18 in 63

Cady Wells (1904-1954) relocated from Massachusetts to New Mexico in 1931 to study with Andrew Dasburg, introducing him to watercolor painting—a medium for which Wells became famous. In 1935, Wells went to Japan to study Japanese brush techniques. A master of watercolor, Wells’ paintings move fluidly between landscape, portraiture, and abstraction. His personal semi-abstract style brought considerable praise from critics and peers. In a catalog essay for Wells’ first New York exhibition in the 1940s, Georgia O’Keeffe praised him, saying: “I believe we are the two best painters working in our part of the country.” Cady Wells was given 21 solo exhibitions, was included in 70 group shows, and is included in literature about 20th Century American art.


Cady Wells, Valdez, 1936, watercolor on paper, 14 x 25 in 65

Cady Wells, Penitente Procession, 1939, mixed media on paper, 21.8 x 29.6 in 66



Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 | Š 2018 LewAllen Contemporary, LLC Artwork Š LewAllen Galleries

Quest for the New: Modernism in the Southwest  
Quest for the New: Modernism in the Southwest