Pedro Reyes Takes Direct Action in Santa Fe

You first see a group of anonymous protestors – statues that appear to be taking it to the streets with placards and bullhorns. Elevated at different levels, they present a monument to non-violent protest – a fitting opening to Pedro Reyes: DIRECT ACTION, on view at SITE Santa Fe through May 1.

Reyes believes in participatory art projects that transform art-making into social action.

The Protesters, Reyes’ 2016-2017 monument to unified voices that bring about change from non-violent protest. Courtesy: the artist, private collectors.
Memento, 2022 – vases made from gun parts by Albuquerque and Santa Fe students. All for sale.

The products of his 2022 Memento are right behind you – an array of fun flowers popping out of tall vases. Look closer.

The airy containers are transformed guns from a New Mexico buyback program that incentivized people to exchange their guns for grocery or home-store gift cards. The vases, made by welding-class students from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, are all for sale, with proceeds going to fund activities by New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

Turning the corner into the next installation, you encounter a wall of videos and shovels in a similar transformation – Palas por Pistoles – that Reyes organized in a particularly violence-prone community in western Mexico.

Reyes’ Palas por Pistoles (2006-present) – shovels made from melted-down gun parts, which were used by schools and museums to plant trees.

Reyes asked people to donate guns to be melted down for an art project promoting environmental peace. He received 1,527 weapons, crushed them in a public-art event, and commissioned a foundry to make shovels. Schools and museums used the shovels to plant 1,527 trees.

Every turn in the gallery reveals a different type of installation and project – libraries for “the people,” sculptures referencing language systems, posters protesting nuclear arms, and musical instruments and contraptions created from weapons.

You can’t miss the artist’s large volcanic-rock hand with pencil – an emblem of Reyes’ Amendment project that held community meetings where rewrites to the Second Amendment were proposed and discussed. The idea is that with so much discussion on policies these days, it’s better to write down the “amendments to the Amendment” in pencil! A list of suggestions is prominently posted nearby.

2002 Amendment volcanic stone hand writes the Second Amendment in pencil to facilitate changes in wording as necessary. On wall, multiple drafts of the Second Amendment generated in a Tampa, Florida community project.
Reyes’ 2022 marble sculpture, Colloquium (Parafrasis) depicting the architecture of speech; in background, icons of solutions to social problems from The People’s United Nations (pUN) project – food insecurity, population, gun control, mass incarceration.

Visitors tend to linger in the Disarm gallery, closely examining the various automated musical instruments created from firearms. Every few minutes, one of the pieces awakens to pluck a string or tap out a slow sequence. It’s a bit startling, not knowing which of the seven is going to activate next.

Harpanet and Cañonófono in Disarm Mechanized, mechanized instruments made from recycled gun and rifle parts. Courtesy: Enrique Rojas.
Reyes’ 2012 Disarm (Violin) from destroyed weapons, played in SITE Santa Fe concerts in 2023. Courtesy: the artist.

Take a look at our Flickr album to see more of the exhibition and to hear the sounds made by the Disarm instruments.

SITE Santa Fe provides “activators” for Reyes’ Music Machine installation – an experience that demonstrates how one artist’s imagination can make you stop and think, even if it’s toward the end of a deep, contemplative show.  Reyes features iconic firearms from three European countries – Austrian Glocks, Swiss Carbines, and Italian Barettas – that have been transformed into classy music boxes. When activated, each plays a musical composition by a famous composer from that country.

Gallery educator Red Hart about to activate Reyes’ Machine Music – crank-operated music boxes made of Swiss Carbine rifles, Italian Barettas, and Austrian Glock pistols.

Hear the artist talk about each of these works in the SITE Santa Fe audio guide, and take time to ponder taking direct action as you visit this beautifully installed, socially relevant, and thought-provoking show.

No Nukes installation with series of 2022 hand-painted Zero Nukes posters in different languages, representing many countries. Courtesy: the artist.

Fronteras del Futuro in the Southwest

Pow! Wham! What? It’s superheroes, avatars, and mixed-media channeling sci-fi social consciousness in an engaging, colorful, thought-provoking mix in the super-fun Fronteras del Futuro: Art in New Mexico and Beyond exhibition at Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center through March 12.

These artists love mixing pop culture images, found objects, and historic iconography to question where we’ve been and where we’re going. Take a look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

Some artists use pop culture to get our attention on deeper issues. The back-to-the-future B-movie poster series by Angel Cabrales prompts reflection on societal attitudes about immigrants and border issues.

2016 B-movie poster by Angel Cabrales to spur discussion on immigration and border issues. Courtesy: the artist.

Gilbert “Magú” Luján’s silkscreen merges the epic scope of Mesoamerican history into a contemporary context. A stylish Aztec couple takes a cross-border journey from Aztlán to Texas in a pre-Columbian-styled low rider.

1983 silkscreen Return to Aztlán by Gilbert “Magú” Luján; a cross-border journey and reflection on pre-Columbian roots and heritage.

One of the most epic achievements is a wall-length, accordian-folded letterpress codex – a collaboration by Enrique Chagoya, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Felicia Rice. Codex Espangliensis features pop-culture superheroes, pre-Columbian imagery, comics, and social declarations to explore New World history from 1492 to the present.

Designed to be read right to left: cover and first pages of Codex Espangliensis from Columbus to the Border Patrol, a hand-colored letterpress accordian-folded book.
Pages from 1999 Codex Espangliensis from Columbus to the Border Patrol, a hand-colored letterpress book by Enrique Chagoya, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Felicia Rice.

Another set of artists rummages around to find tossed-off computer parts, circuit boards, skateboard parts, and other found items to create their works.

Marion Martinez’s 2002 Pierced Heart/Milagro; circuit boards and wood. Courtesy: the artist
Esteban Borjorquez’s 2018 Zena of Urion – a sci-fi creation from discarded items. Courtesy: the artist.

Marion Martinez grew up near Los Alamos National Laboratory, and started visiting its salvage area to find components from which to assemble her artworks – transforming discarded tech into beautiful icons of Northern New Mexican heritage.

Eric J. Garcia’s 2005 lithograph Tamale Man.

Roswell political cartoonist Eric J. Garcia takes another angle on mixing New Mexico’s cultural, culinary, and nuclear history. His Tamale Man series features the transformation of a guy munching a tamale at the first blast at the Trinity Site into a radioactive superhero.

Ryan Singer’s painting series blends his childhood fascination with Star Wars and other futuristic sagas with his Navajo heritage and upbringing.

Ryan Singer’s 2021 acrylic, Rainbow Flavor.

Meet Ehren Kee Natay, a Diné artist, whose work opens the exhibition with a loving tribute to his grandfather, the first Native American to release a commercial record:

Whitney Resurrects American Optimism from Storage

To get a taste of exuberant optimism, travel back with the Whitney Museum of American Art in At the Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth-Century American Modernism, on view through February 26.

It’s a showcase for art created at the beginning of the 20th century – a time when European experimentation in abstraction, urban skyscrapers and other engineering marvels, Einstein’s breakthroughs, and the success of the women’s suffrage movement made artists optimistic about the future.

The show features work by well-known (and well loved) artists like lyrical abstractionist Georgia O’Keefe (Music, Pink and Blue No.2) and transcendentalist Agnes Pelton (Ahmi in Egypt).

Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1918 oil, Music, Pink and Blue No. 2. © 2022 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

But the news story here is the Whitney’s interest in pulling work by their contemporaries out of storage to provide a more expansive look at early American modernism. Nearly half of the works on display have not been out of the stacks for more than 30 years!

Look at Albert Bloch’s 1916 Mountain, which hasn’t been shown at The Whitney in 50 years. It’s somewhat shocking when you consider that Bloch was the only American invited to join the ground-breaking Der Blaue Reiter in 1911. It’s fitting that Bloch’s nearly forgotten, expressionist landscape was resurrected and featured as the show’s icon – a traveler on an upward journey toward a town on the hill amidst modernist peaks.

Albert Bloch’s 1916 Mountain.

The Whitney’s also pulled Carl Newman’s 1917 Bathers out of storage for this show and hung it side-by-side with Bloch.

Newman was an Academy-trained artist from Philly, but after getting swept up in the Parisian avant-garde one summer, he tried throwing art conventions out the window. 

Color, rainbows, naughty nudes, pleasure craft – a scandalous and joyous mix!

Carl Newman’s 1917 oil on linen painting, Untitled (Bathers)

And what about another “forgotten” convention-breaker? The vibrant 1926 Street Scene is by Yun Gee, a Chinese immigrant modernist who started his art career in San Francisco, but found more acceptance and exhibition opportunities in Paris. Gee was the only Chinese artist running in European modernist circles, and it’s nice to see his cubist expression of San Francisco’s Chinatown right where it belongs in the Whitney’s pantheon.

Yun Gee’s 1926 oil of San Francisco’s Chinatown, Street Scene. Courtesy: estate of Yun Gee.

Works by some of our modernist favorites are also featured – synchronist master Stanton Macdonald Wright, shape-shifter Arthur Dove, and former Brancusi studio assistant and abstracted design leader, Isamu Noguchi.

Henrietta Shore’s 1923 oil, Trail of Life – a recent acquisition by the Whitney to add Shore to its collection.

The stories and careers go on. The exhibition features artists from the West Coast, artists that fled to Paris and found success there, and some modernists that just couldn’t make a go of it and stopped making art entirely.

Henrietta Shore, the Los Angeles innovator who Edward Weston credits as a great influence on his style, was one who eventually opted out.

It’s a beautiful walk through the early 20th century to meet a new set of painters using abstraction to channel an optimistic future – E.E. Cummings (yes, the poet!), Blanche Lazzell of Provincetown, Aaron Douglas of the Harlem Renaissance, and Pamela Colman Smith of Tarot card fame.

Installation view of great modernists. In vitrine: Pamela Colman Smith’s 1909 Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck. Left to right: O’Keeffe’s 1918 Music, Pink and Blue No. 2; Stettheimer’s 1931 Sun; E.E. Cummings’s 1925 Noise Number 13; Macdonald-Wright,’s 1918 Oriental – Synchromy in Blue-Green; Richmond Barthé,’s 1933 African Dancer; Jay Van Everen’s 1924 Abstract Landscape. Photograph by Ron Amstutz.

Here’s a short video by curator Barbara Haskell where she talks about what it was like to find “forgotten” paintings and other stories behind the Whitney’s fascinating modernist reveal:

Scandinavian Folk Dressing Takes a Stand

Forget about the picturesque fjords and pastoral views reindeer herders that we imagine when we envision Scandinavia. Completely different stories of history, revolution, oppression, and cultural revival are told by the array of colorful, decorative, embellished and loved clothing in Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia, on view at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe through February 19.

You’re introduced to the iconic folk clothing of three cultures when you enter the exhibition – Sweden, Norway, and Sápmi, the homeland of the indigenous Sami people that stretches across the northern boundaries of Russia and the three other Scandinavian countries.

Detail of mid-19th to early 20th century woman’s dräkt from Sweden’s Delsbo parish in Häsingland historical province.
Young Swedish man’s dräkt, made in 1992 by Birgitta Lördal and Maj-Lis Halvarsson of Häsingland historical province.

But then it’s a deep dive into what each of these colorful creations represent.

The story behind Sweden’s folk costumes (folksdräkt) extends back into the 19th century, when rural peasants lived in a fairly hierarchical society and relied on their church clothes to signify where they ranked on the status ladder. Each community developed its own details and styling. In some communities, women used almanacs to help them keep track of various clothing combinations.

The exhibition displays an array of men’s and women’s country ensembles.

There are also examples of striking, elaborately silk-embroidered shawls that were essential to women’s status dressing.

In the 1800s, a series of economic and agricultural misfortunes caused rural Swedes to leave their communities and either migrate to the United States or to middle-class jobs in the city.

Swedish intellectuals worried that the rural population drain meant that country traditions and craftsmanship would vanish. Around 1900, cultural leaders prompted a craft awareness and revival movement ­– retail shops, showcases for hand-crafted clothing, and national museums.

Detail of woman’s 1834 silk-embroidered linen shawl, a status symbol worn on specified occasions; Leksand parish in Sweden’s Dalarna province.

Today, many Swedes gladly purchase and buy kits to make folksdräkt for festivals, parades, and other events.

The curators have even included items from a new cottage industry – protective garment bags specifically designed to store your folk costume!

In a whimsical touch, the curators have included a contemporary take from artist Heidi Mattsson – the Swedish national costume made from Ikea shopping bags, a cotton nightshirt and napkin, and sodacan pop tops!

And the curators have included several other inventive modern takes on national wear.

Heidi Mattsson’s 2018 Swedish national costume fashioned from napkin, soda can pop tops, cotton nightshirt, and Ikea shopping bags. I
Täpp Lars Arnesson’s 2016 winter dräkt for his young daughter in Malung parish in Sweden’s Dalarna province; blended decorative elements from other parishes.
2017 embroidered baseball cap created in Leksand parish in Sweden’s Dalarna province, using traditional symbols. Private collection.

The story told by Norweigan folk dress is more tightly linked to the long revolutionary fight for independence throughout the 19th century. Rural Norwegian peasants were land owners. To city dwellers laboring under Danish and Swedish domination in the 1800s, rural people epitomized the “independent everyman” who had more control over their personal destinies.

During Norweigans’ century-long fight for independence, political activists began adopting bunader, contemporary clothing inspired by preindustrial rural clothing as a sartorial statement about their desire for freedom. It popped up at youth rallies and dances.

1900 national costume – red bodice with beaded insert and dark skirt – typical of Norway’s Hardanger district, depicted in photo.
Hans Kristiansen Lybeck’s fantasy drakt, worn in Oslo’s National Constitution Day parade in 1906. Courtesy: Vesterheim Norweigan-American Museum, Decorah, Iowa.

In 1903, activist and regional dance expert, Hulda Garborg, outlined a philosophy for nationalized clothing and popularized it.  Everyone’s enthusiasm for and pride in the national costume kept going, even after independence in 1905. Even in the 21st century, it’s a sure-fire tourism draw up in Norway’s fjord country.

Close-up of Reidun Dahle Nuquist’s embroidered red-jacket bunad, made in East Telemark, Norway by a relative in 1960-1963. She wore it for her wedding and throughout her life.
Man’s 2018 bunad by Inger Homme and other artists in Valle in Norway’s Setesdal district; silver, gold, brass jewelry by Hasla AS.

In the Sápmi portion of the exhibition, the clothing and art is mostly contemporary, with a focus on making declarative statement about indigenous rights.

Long an oppressed minority, the Sámi people have been subject to racial injustice, forced relocation of children to boarding schools, and industrialization of their traditional lands north of the Arctic Circle. In many jurisdictions, they were forbidden to wear their traditional garb.

Symbol of Sámi pride: Jenni Laiti’s 2017 gákti creation from Karasjok – in Finnmark, the Norwegian side of Sápmi. Courtesy: the artist.

Around 1970, the Sámi were able to organize and raise public awareness about their status and why they opposed government dam building in Sápmi. Across their land, people began proudly wearing the traditional gákti and other symbols of their culture and engaging in direct political action on issues affecting them.

1966 summer gákti for a Sámi couple – wool tunics embellished with rose-colored ribbons and rickrack; made in Guovdageaidnu in Finnmark (Norwegian side of Sápmi)
Contemporary Sámi design: 2017 ready-to-wear cotton and poly “party outfit” by Stoorstålka (clothing line by Lotta W. Stoor and Per Niila Stålka) of Norrbotten (Swedish side of Sápmi).

The exhibition has posters and artwork proudly proclaiming native rights and identity, including an appropriated Sámi-style Rosie the Riverter image. For the contemporary eye, some of the most exciting clothing in the exhibition are by young Sámi designers and activists – ranging from Sámi-inspired home goods, modern woven designs, and even ready-to-wear party dresses from Sámi clothing lines.

The examples from Sámi makers demonstrate how design and fashion can help to reconnect young people with their ancestors’ heritage that society blotted out.

Jorunn Lokvold’s 2020 Igvu gákti with geometric applique, a style reconstructed in 1995.
Outi Pieski’s 2020 Ladjogahpir, a revival of a headdress symbolic of Sámi women’s resistance; from Utsjoki (Finnish side of Sápmi).

This wonderful exhibition demonstrates exactly how old traditions can be reinvented to gain traction, even in the 21st century. Take a look through our Flickr album.

Resistance and revival continue in the far North. Meet Jenni Laiti, one of the Sámi artists, activists, and change-makers, who introduces you to art-making in the Arctic:

Contemporary Artists Talk with Thomas Cole

There’s a big conversation going on about epic landscapes, people’s impact upon the wilderness, and personal connections to nature. It involves four contemporary artists and American master Thomas Cole, mid-19th century landscape painter and visionary, through February 12 at the Albuquerque Museum.

Plus, visitors are able to step back in time to visit Cole’s studio, arranged much as it was at the moment of his untimely death at the age of 47 – an unfinished canvas, paint palettes, his paint box, plaster casts, and mementos of his wilderness walks and trips abroad.

1835-1845 paint box, palette, and tools in Cole’s studio. Courtesy: Greene County Historical Society’s Bronck Museum.

This section of the four-in-one exhibition is Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration. The curators have also surrounded the studio recreation with a wide range of Cole’s studies and finished works, including his last completed commissioned work. Take a closer look in our Flickr album.

Unfinished Landscape with Clouds, paints, plaster casts, and furniture in Cole’s studio when he died in 1848. Courtesy: Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Cole redefined American landscape painting in the 1830s and 1840s by merging the style of romantic European landscapes with the dramatic skies, vistas, and mountains of New York’s Adirondack wilderness. His work kick-started the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and by the time of his untimely death at age 47, he was America’s best known and best loved artist.

Cole’s 1848 Gothic Ruins at Sunset, an unfinished work from his studio. Private collection.
Cole’s 1846 Schroon Lake, showing a civilized landscape at the edge of mountain wilderness. Courtesy: Adirondack Experience

During his life (1801-1848), Cole witnessed how pristine American wilderness was changed by proliferating settlements, roads, bridges, mills, and commerce along the rivers. Sometimes he chose to paint sights, like Niagara Falls, minus human intrusion; other times he gently inserted “civilization” into magnificent landscapes, as in Schroon Lake.

Cole had been a mentor to innovative landscape painters like Durand, Church, Kensett, and Cropsey. When Cole passed away suddenly, they were devastated. His wife left his studio just as it was, and for the next ten years she welcomed painters to make the pilgrimage to visit it, spend time, and gain inspiration.

Visitors enter this exhibition and confront Cole’s large 1838 work, Dream of Arcadia, showing a mythical time when civilization existed in harmony with nature.  Can this ideal state truly exist?

Thomas Cole’s 1938 Dream of Arcadia. Courtesy: Denver Art Museum.

The Thomas Cole National Historic site, which organized three of the four shows, answers this question through the eyes of two well-known contemporary artists – Kiki Smith, who owned a house along a creek a short distance from where Cole lived, and Shi Guori, who created camera obscura images at Hudson Valley sites where Cole stood and painted.

Kiki Smith: From the Creek is an immersive exhibition populated by the birds, beasts, insects, and plants along Catskill Creek – an area that Cole walked and knew well.

Kiki Smith’s 2016 bronze Eagle in the Pines in gallery with 2012-2014 jacquard tapestries

Visitors look up, down, and around to see owls, eagles, wolves, and pheasant peering back at them from perches, tapestries, frames, and vitrines…observing and being observed. Take a look at here.

2019 bronze Coxsackie sculpture of owl at the exhibition entrance.
Detail of Kiki Smith’s 2012 Cathedral jacquard tapestry (published by Magnolia Editions).

Kiki’s work always brings an air of other-worldly mystery. Here, it’s easy to enjoy all of her varied creations, which display her deep connection to nature and ask us to contemplate the cycles of life that busy people sometimes forget to notice. Cole’s paintings had the same impact.

Shi Guori’s Katerskill Falls, New York, July 26-28, 2019 – a 72-hour exposure made where Thomas Cole sketched in 1824. Courtesy: private collection.

Shi Guori: Ab/Sense – Pre/Sense presents monumental camera obscura images of landscapes Cole painted in the Hudson Valley 180 years ago. When he was growing up in China, Guori experienced the shock of rapid environmental disruption as Mao’s Cultural Revolution transformed the countryside.

Guori studied Cole’s documentation of similar 19th-century transformation in the Northeast, and traveled back to sites that Cole documented to bear witness to natural settings – somewhat still undisturbed – that resonated with Cole.

Guori built large camera-obscura tents, sat inside for up to 72 hours, and exposed light-sensitive paper to create his images. Images of Cole’s oil paintings at the same site are mounted nearby with Guori’s meditations on the experience.

Shi Guori’s camera obscura image The Clove, Catskill Mountains, New York, April 25, 2019. Courtesy: the artist
Basis for camera obscura work by Shi Guori: Thomas Cole’s 1827 oil The Clove. Image: Connecticut’s New Britain Museum of American Art.

In one case, Guori turned Cole’s own sitting room into a camera, capturing not only furniture that he would have used, but showing the image of nature that Cole surely would have spent hours gazing upon. View more of Guori’s work here.

Shi Guori’s camera obscura image View of the Catskill Mountains from Thomas Cole’s House, August 12, 2019 – which turned Cole’s sitting room into a camera. Courtesy: the artist

The fourth exhibition, Nicola López and Paula Wilson: Becoming Land, present large-scale environmental meditations on Southwestern desert landscapes. The Albuquerque curators selected these two popular New Mexico artists to get a bit of cross-cultural discussion going with Mr. Cole.

Glimpse some of the work in their gallery here.

Wilson, who works in Carrizozo, creates gigantic, mixed-media installations that prompt viewers to consider the interconnection among different people, desert landscapes, agricultural technologies, and even the debris left by civilization.

Paula Wilson’s 2021 monumental printed and painted installation, Yucca Rising. From the artist.

López, who works and teaches in New York, presents a large-scale cyanotype. Unlike Guori, who traveled to the Catskills to create his ghostly images with light, López was unable to travel during the pandemic and made this monumental work at home with the materials around her – a driveway, nearby desert plants, and the blazing New Mexico sun.

Detail of 2021 NeverWild cyanotype by Nicola López – ghostly images of New Mexico plants dwarfing mysterious architectural structures in the desert.

Congratulations to the Albuquerque Museum for inviting Thomas Cole’s team to collaborate in mounting such a beautiful, thought-provoking show.

Wit, Humor & Satire in Albuquerque

If you want to have a good laugh or contemplate a biting piece of social satire, head over to Wit, Humor & Satire at the Albuquerque Museum, on view through January 29.

Pulled from the museum’s permanent collection, themed sections of the show present artists’ side-glance takes on Western mythology, art jokes, image puns, and politics.

Right in the entry, you see the huge wall of Warhol Mao Tse-Tungs in blazing Pop Art colors, alongside Thomas J. Lane’s satirical ceramics – Bart Simpson impersonating Jesus and Homer as Buddha. Irreverant satire mixed with social commentary in impeccable execution.

Art history “jokes” and political portraits: Thomas J. Lane’s satirical Simpson ceramics with Warhol’s monumental 1972 Mao Tse Tung silkscreens.

There’s a dark 18th-century Goya etching in the first gallery and a funny Sloan print skewering 1920s tourists, but most of the offerings are more recent vintage, particularly whimsical sculptures and social commentary of the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. 

Comments on Commodification: John Sloane’s 1927 Indian Detour etching, a satire showing hoards of souvenir-buying tourists descending upon Indian pueblos on their Fred Harvey packaged excursions.

It’s nice to encounter clever Sixties and Seventies Warhol, Rauchenberg, and Red Grooms prints in other humorous sections of the show, and to revisit Southwestern superstars like the T.C. Canon and Scholder, who like challenging stereotypes of what people think of Western people and cultures.

Political commentary: Red Grooms’ 1976 silkscreen Bicentennial Bandwagon,”which references America’s troubled past versus all-out patriotic celebration of American history.

Most of the anti-War and social commentary are in the back half of the gallery, with strong pieces by Bob Haozous, John L. Doyle, and Sue Coe. Diego Romero lays it out with a lithograph that resembles his normal medium of politics-on-a-plate.

War: 1990 steel-plated sculpture El Piloto by Bob Haozous, depicting a skeleton pilot whose nose is a plane with a bomb trailing.
Political commentary: Diego Romero’s 2011 Apocalypto lithograph.

Another stand-out is the first poster ever designed by Keith Haring – a combination of images that came to define subterranean visual protest in the dark, scary times of 1980s New York. He debuted it for an anti-nuclear rally in Central Park, but his unforgettable images and icons soon became ubiquitous on City streets and subways, on T-shirts, and downtown art galleries.

Indigenous humor and commentary are well represented by Jason Garcia’s water-carrying pueblo gals in a contemporary landscape and Wendy Red Star’s Native seasons studio-portraiture spoof.

War commentary: Keith Haring’s first poster – his 1982 Anti-Nuclear Weapons Poster, featuring his iconic “radiant baby”.
Western mythologies: Subversive autumnal studio self-portrait from Wendy Red Star’s 2006 digital print series Four Seasons, which highlights artificial elements.

Too bad that no one knows who made the 1960s traditional Zuni pop-culture Disney necklace. But it’s fun to contemplate the Nike-sneaker sculpture/neckpiece by Sean Paul Gallegos.

Exploring wit: 1960s silver Zuni necklace by unknown artist featuring Disney characters inlaid with shell, coral, turquoise, and jet.
Commodification commentary: 2015 satiric “high fashion” neckpiece by Sean Paul Gallegos, created from recycled Nike sneakers and gold thread.

There’s a lot to think about and enjoy in this provocative show. Visit our Flickr album to enjoy more of our favorite works.

Art of Indigenous Fashion at IAIA

How do Native American designers transform traditional beading, ancient symbols, social commentary, and tribal embroidery into contemporary fashion? 

Answers are on display in the exhibition, Art of Indigenous Fashion at Santa Fe’s IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MoCNA) through January 8. It’s a fitting exhibition that opened in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWIA) Indigenous Fashion show.

Take a look at our favorite pieces in our Flickr gallery.

2015 Jamie Okuma wool dress with shells. Courtesy: National Museum of the American Indian
2022 Recon Watchmen costumes by Virgil Otiz (Cochiti Pueblo). Courtesy: the artist.

The show puts the work of 2022 Native American Treasure honoree Virgil Ortiz front and center, with three imposing Recon Watchmen costumes. No, it’s not runway fashion. But these futuristic sci-fi ensembles from the year 2180 are made for a film where protectors travel back in time to help the New Mexico pueblos successfully fight their opressors in the Revolt of 1680.

Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) combines film, fabric, headresses, and history to tell the story of a real-life Native revolution that Pueblo kids never learned in their New Mexican history classes. Look close at the awesome printed silk cloaks, lamé “armor”, and dramatic sculpted masks of these dramatic Native superheroes.

Next, you see how Native artists combined art and fashion from the mid-20th century until now.

Several historic pieces are by the godfather of Native American contemporary fashion (and early leader of IAIA), Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), who had a successful contemporary line in Scottsdale in the 1940s and1950s.

The clothes in this exhibition feature buttons and clasps made by Charles Loloma, a Hopi innovator in contemporary Native jewelry, who also had a shop in Scottsdale and joined New at IAIA in the Sixties. Lucky that collectors saved these gems for us.

1950s and 1960s ensembles by Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee). Private collection.
2016 ribbon dress by Jamie Okuma ((Luiseño/Shoshone/Bannock)) and 2018 silk dress by Orlando Dugi (Dine’). Courtesy: the artist; IAIA

The rest of the work in the exhibition represents the 2000s, primarily three types – ensembles taking a luxurious haute-couture approach, wearable social commentary, and sly conceptual art-as-fashion installations.

The 2000 embroidered, appliqued wool “Chilkat” cape by Pamela Baker (Tlingit/Haida) is regal enough to wear at any black-tie affair.

The same for Orlando Dugi’s (Dine’) 2018 feathered and beaded evening dress with a subtle golden eagle and touches of sparkling corn pollen. Dugi is a self-taught couturier, who meticulously applies each bead and feather himself.

Two dramatic red-carpet dresses by Lesley Hampton (Anishinaabe) that have appeared at recent Emmy and Golden Globe Award events are reminders of the inroads being made by Native Americans artists in the entertainment sector.

Among the most dramatic social-commentary work, Canadian design team Decontie & Brown (Penobscott Nation) has two attention-grabbers – a “wedding dress” offering the wearer protective spikes from unwanted advances and radiating power-feathers, and the “I Am A Reflection…” mirrored man’s coat. Absorbed in the kaleidoscope of the coat’s reflected light, viewers contemplate Decontie & Brown’s message as they marvel at the visual magic.

Decontie & Brown’s 2017 Armored Beauty wedding dress and 2021 upcycled I Am a Reflection…Mirror Coat. Courtesy: the artists
2018 It’s in Our DNA, It’s Who We Are ensemble by Anita Fields reflecting tribe’s past and present. Courtesy: Minneapolis Museum of Art

The elegant embroidered cashmere shift by Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dena/Cree) has delicate somber black wings fluttering across the back. But these are paired with a front shouting the savage message of 20th-century Indian boarding school government policy. Beautiful but chilling.

Anita Fields (Osage) is represented by a suspended fashion installation in the center of main gallery – a wildly oversized embroidered top hat and wedding coat titled “It’s In Our DNA, It’s Who We Are.” Intertwined strands are emblazoned on the front; images of the unfortunate treaty her tribe signed in 1808 line the inside.

Outside the main gallery, MoCNA has invited Mohawk multimedia artist Skawennati to create a digital mural and installation of her “Activist Avatars,” cyber-protesters modeling a virtual clothing line. Multiple screens of social-justice protesters in power-to-the-people cammo and calico march toward viewers in the MoCNA screening room to an energetic Native hip-hop track.

Skawennati’s (Mohawk) 2022 Calico and Camouflage: Assemble! multichannel video installation.

Many of the artists represented in this show – Patricia Michaels, Jason Baerg, Jamie Okuna, Sho Sho Esquiro, and others – were featured in this year’s Indigenous Fashion show. Watch the 2022 SWIA Fashion Designers runway videos here.

2019 silk and leather Sunset Dress by Jason Baerg (Cree Métis), symbolizing dynamic optimism and referencing trees, sky, and earth. Courtesy: the artist.

Transgressive Photography Shown in Santa Fe

Want to meet some people who enjoy breaking the rules?  You’ll meet plenty of mavericks who challenged the norm in Transgressions and Amplifications: Mixed-Media Photography of the 1960s and 1970s, an exhibition on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe through January 8, 2023.

Edward Weston and Ansel Adams set a high bar for classic, modernist photography, but the generation of image-makers who followed were driven to experiment, shake things up, and see where it all led. 

Detail of 1983 Joyce Niemanas Grandfather Polaroid collage
Detail of 1864 Lady Filmer’s album mixing watercolor and albumen print collage. Courtesy: UNM Art Collection.

Why not go back a hundred years and make new images with historic photo techniques (sun prints, anyone)? Has anyone tried embroidering photos? What about mashing up photo-silkscreen prints with readymade collages decorated with rubber stamps?

Can Polaroids be turned into fine art? Or making a sculpture or kitch card deck out of photos?  What about dreamscapes? What about creatively repurposing magazine photos or TV images?

A stroll through the gallery shows a broad range of creative 20th-century minds at work, with at least one case showcasing some 19th century pioneers.

Meet Lady Mary Georgina Filmer, a London society gal who mastered the art of photocollage as early as the 1860s. A page from one of her albums shows how she merged topsy-turvey photo images, botanical watercolors, and text to tell stories her own way – a true stay-at-home pioneer!

Lady Filmer’s album looks out on dozens of other Americans who went back into the time machine to toy with making albumen prints, stereographs, hand-colored photos, drawing, and cyanotypes. Example: the arresting 1970s hand-colored gelatin silver print by Karen Truax where she ghosts-out her central figure.

1970-1974 gelatin silver print Supernal by Karen Truax, featuring a bleached-out central figure and hand-colored domestic interior

For anyone curious about these old-timey methods, the curators have provided visitors with a place to relax, leaf through books about it, and watch YouTube videos on the gallery iPad.

Another gallery features artists who took photography mixed-media to the next level, like Rauchenburg’s litho that appropriates Bonnie and Clyde movie stills and an over-the-top abstraction by Thomas Barrow that combines gelatin silver print technique with a crazy-quilt of stencils, spray paint, and objects. So totally Eighties!

Detail of Thomas Barrow’s 1980 gelatin silver print Discrete Multivariate Analysis, mixing lights, objects, stencils, and spray paint

The third gallery displays lots of fool-the-eye and 3-D delights. What’s the most fun? Jerry McMillan’s photo-offset inside a “paper bag?” Betty Han’s Soft Daguerreotype of Xeroxed weeds on fabric? Probably Robert Heinecken’s T.V. Dinner/Shrimp. Hard to choose.

Robert Heinecken’s 1971 Van Dyke print T.V. Dinner/Shrimp, #1C. Courtesy: University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography.

Other sections of the exhibition show how 1970s photographers made images in which photography itself was the subject and told highly personal stories.

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Artist book: Keith Smith’s 1972 gelatin silver print Book 32 – a 3D take on photography.

And don’t forget the coda that features a dramatic images by more recent photographers that make provocative social statements and represent voices that were not fully represented within the university system during the 1960s and 1970s.

Lorna Simpson’s 1991 Black, a dye diffusion transfer print with engraved plastic plaques

Artists Call to Action for Central America

In the early 1980s, socially minded artists living downtown in New York couldn’t handle the news coming out of Central America and did something about it. The United States government was intervening in the affairs of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and everyone was worried that the situation was going to devolve into another Vietnam.

This is just one part of the story told by the dynamic, timely, informative exhibition, Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities, on view at the University of New Mexico Museum of Art in Albuquerque through December 3.

1981 pamphlet Mujer Revolución by Association of Nicaraguan Women. Private collection
1983 Print of Contra (after a drawing in Rock Comics, 1979) by Jerry Kearns, depicting communist fears stoked by the US government

In 1982, a group of New York artists collaborated with Latin American artists to create a show with contemporary art and cultural artifacts to draw attention to the escalating crises in Latin America. By 1984, organizers launched a national call to artists to raise money and awareness of what was happening.

Artists responded with performances, music concerts, films, poetry readings, and exhibition. In New York alone, over 1,100 artists participated in over 30 exhibitions.

Nationally, artists in 27 cities organized chapters and events and tried to build alliances in Latin America.

Videos, photographs, sculptures, paintings, and ephermera pulled from archives (like posters, buttons, mail art, and pamphlets) bring the story of artist-activists to life – their concerns about US government intervention, their efforts to organize artists across the United States, and their attempts to help artists living in oppressed Central American countries.

The Tufts University-organized show resurrects a largely forgotten story of artist activism, illuminates the tribulations of indigenous communities in Central America at the time, introduces us to contemporary works from artists inspired by their indigenous heritage, and gives us an idea of what’s happening in those countries now.

Two contributions to Solidarity Art by Mail project, a fast, cheap solution to boost Latin American and Caribbean participation in a 1984 New York exhibit at Judson Memorial Church. Private collection.

The three-floor show is packed with arresting images, works, and histories. The art work and documentation push and pull visitors between the international political crises of the 1980s and social-justice issues being addressed by artists today.

Take a look at the show on our Flickr site.

The installation features work by heavy hitters of the 1980s New York art scene – wall-size Vietnam-era work by Leon Golub, images documenting Ana Mendieta’s performance pieces, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sketches, maquettes, and exploding-banana image that branded the Artists Call Against US Intervention initiative.

The first-floor exhibition area includes Nancy Spero’s dramatic scroll-like drawing that calls attention to the oppression of Salvadorean women.

1984 Arts Magazine cover with Oldenburg’s image promoting Artists Call. Private collection

Downstairs, there’s another 1984 work that similarly unfurls the length of the gallery – an accordian-book project led by Sabra Moore that is a collaborative reconstruction of a rare 16th-century Mayan codex by 22 women. It’s the first time the codex has been displayed since 1984.

1984 “Reconstructed Codex,” a project organized by Sabra Moore with contributions from 22 diverse female Latin American and US artists. Courtesy: Barnard

The third floor packs a punch, installing revolutionary images and publications around the infamous (and censored) Hans Haacke piece that questions the aftermath of the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.  Across the room, visitors pour over Carlos Motta’s 2005 wall-sized chalkboard installation Brief History of US Interventions in Latin America since 1946. 

Although the 1980 artist-activists did not achieve all of their utopian goals, the contemporary selections show that social consciousness, pride in indigenous heritage, and artistic futures are still alive – including a beautiful feathered immigrant history dome by Batriz Cortez, stitched by a team of immigrant collaborators.

2021 sculpture 1984: Space-Time Capsule by Salvadorian artist Batriz Cortez and immigrant collaborators – a shelter for immigrant histories.

Learn more about how the curator Erina Duganne and her collaborator Abigail Satinsky created this remarkable show:

Art for the Future will be on display at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum from March to August 2023.

Carlos Motta’s 2005 detailed chalkboard installation Brief History of US Interventions in Latin America since 1946. Courtesy: the artist

O’Keeffe Museum Shows Georgia at Home

One of the most photographed artists of the 20th century, everyone is used to seeing Georgia O’Keeffe in her “formal” pose and gear – angular black hat, stark wrap dress, punctuated by her modernist Calder pin, standing against the New Mexico sky peering solemnly into the future.

In its latest offering, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is giving fans a special treat (and a different view) through its exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe, a Life Well Lived: Photographs by Malcolm Varon, on display in Santa Fe through October 31.

2021 print of Varon’s 1977 photo of Georgia relaxing at Ghost Ranch. Courtesy: the artist
Georgia’s 1946 Part of the Cliff, a painting inspired by the view through her studio window.

The show features a smiling, at-ease 89-year-old surrounded by family, friends, companions, and pets – images quite apart from the GOK that we all admire and revere. How did this happen?

In the 1960s in New York, photographer Malcolm Varon established quite a reputation for documenting painters’ works in a way that captured a lot of their spirit. No wonder that in the mid-1970s, he was summoned out to Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu to document some of Georgia’s huge body of work.

While he was working with the artist during the summer of 1977, a journalist arrived to interview the icon for a feature in ARTnews.

No photographer had been attached to the story, so Georgia came up with hew own solution – ask her colleague Malcolm to shoot her in the setting of her Ghost Ranch home.

Since Malcolm was already familiar with the operations around Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, he ended up taking about 300 photos of her homes, the landscapes that inspired her, and the people who kept things humming.

2021 prints of Varon’s 1977 portraits of Ida Archuleta, Candelaria Lopez, and Estiben Suazo, the people who managed Georgia’s homes and properties. Courtesy: the artist.

Despite Georgia’s reputation as a loner living out in the middle of nowhere, Malcolm appreciated that the day-to-day operations in the outback were quite fun, busy, natural, and happy at her two studio compounds.

ARTnews made a few selections from Varon’s photographs and ran them in the feature, but the majority of the 300 shots were never printed or seen…until now.

Visitors at the GOK museum pour over every detail of the portraits and landscapes, enjoying a new, different glimpse of the artist and her world – Varon’s portrait of Georgia’s sister, beautiful portraits of her property caretakers (whose families still take care of the GOK home for the museum), and her assistant Juan Hamilton.

The curators present several paintings from the 1940s showing the same cliffs, landscapes, and skies that Varon captured in the summer of 1977. Visitors have fun shifting back and forth between the oil paintngs and photos.

2021 print of Varon’s 1977 photograph of the tall ladder at Georgia’s Abiquiu home – a platform from which she surveyed the world. Courtesy: the artist

2021 print of Varon’s 1977 fun photograph of Georgia at Ghost Ranch with her friend and assistant, artist Juan Hamilton with the Pedernal as backdrop. Courtesy: the artist

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Listen in as the curators of this delightful show draw back the curtain on the legendary O’Keeffe, her relationship with photography, and what happened when a trusted friend got her to smile for the camera: