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.
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.
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.
Marion Martinez grew up near Los Alamos National Laboratory, and started visiting its selvage area to find components from which to assemble her artworks – transforming discarded tech into beautiful icons of Northern New Mexican heritage.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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’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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Congratulations to the Albuquerque Museum for inviting Thomas Cole’s team to collaborate in mounting such a beautiful, thought-provoking show.
If you want to have a good laugh or contemplate a biting piece of social satire, head over to Wit, Humor & Satireat 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Iconic imagery, big statements, technical mastery, and long-distance endurance are all on display from the second you enter Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror at The Whitney – the mind-bending retrospective of one of the century’s most celebrated artists.
Then you realize that this 12-part extravaganza is only half the story – a mirror image of the Whitney retrospective that is also on display 90 minutes south at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Each has different works and minutely different themes (the number paintings vs. the flag), but reflect the same scale and scope of the artist’s astonishing 70-year career.
Most art lovers know that the early work of Johns and Rauschenberg in the late 1950s and early 1960s helped to redirect the New York art scene from Abstract Expressionism toward Pop. But show puts a much-needed spotlight on the rest of Johns’ career – how he kept experimenting with media, pushing his own boundaries, manipulating paint to evoke an emotional response, and not letting any art-world “ism” impede his creative journey over the next 50 years.
Hear what the show’s two curators, Scott Rothkopf (NYC) and Carlos Basualdo (Philly), have to say about Johns, the “rules” he “broke,” and the mark his work left upon 20th century American art:
The sheer magnitude and quality of the artist’s output is on full display as you take the journey through the Whitney – masterful paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, and sculptures.
As soon as the elevator doors open at The Whitney, viewers are confronted with a curved wall that contains dozens of surprises – a chronology of prints stretching from Johns’ early days in New York through works completed as recently as 2019. Walking left to right, the wall serves as a mini-retrospective as well as the intro to the larger show. Bravo to the team for this brilliant, engaging welcome.
But then you see works done in South Carolina, where Johns took in the beach and sky and recollected back to his childhood in the South. Big, bold, mystical, evocative puzzles taking the form of large-scale canvases, small intimate sculptures, and all forms of drawing and mark making.
You experience a room where the team has brought together work originally shown by Leo Castelli in his New York townhouse gallery in 1968. The exhibition designers mimic the size of the original gallery to let you experience the same thrill of interacting with these big, colorful, slightly conceptual, architectural paintings.
The centerpiece of the Whitney exhibition is a spectacular gallery created by the exhibition team to showcase the retrospective’s theme – how Johns used doubles and “mirroring” to explore perception and entice viewers to ponder the works more carefully. The exhibition designer explains and shows how the famed bronze Ballantine ale cans are the fulcrum around which Johns’ subsequent work revolves:
There are hundreds of loans from other museums and private collectors, and the two museums even swapped some of their own holdings.
And Johns himself has loaned never-before-exhibited works, including watercolors and drawings that he did in the 1980s. Although the colors draw you in, they represent the artist’s process of working through the ravages of HIV and loss inside the art community.
The curatorial precision of the show allows you to experience an evolving appreciation of Johns’ later work – experimental monotypes in the print studio, contemplation of the arc of life in monumental elegiac grey paintings, and sculptures completed in the 2000s. See more on the Whitney website about the works in the show.
The latter are displayed in natural light, which allows you to enjoy the cast bronze and aluminum number blocks as the sun shines over the Hudson from different angles. The changes illuminate the hand work, gestures, and conceptual rigor over time – a fitting encapsulation of this two-city tribute to Mr. Johns.
The sights you’ll see! The people you’ll meet! There’s nothing like seeing 20th-century New York through the eyes of one of most astute observers of the human condition. It’s why people have been flocking to The Met to see Alice Neel: People Come First, on view through August 1.
Considered one of America’s greatest figurative painters, Alice herself considered her relentless artistic pursuit more in line with history painting. And what a history you’ll experience, walking through room after room of insightful portraits and cityscapes.
Alice’s colorful, insightful works introduce you first-hand to bohemian life post-WWI, the Great Depression, the socialist fight for workers’ and artists’ rights, the push for civil rights, the art underground, and the rise of feminism.
Through it all, Alice kept raising her family and painting in her home studio, sparing nothing in her portrayals of kids experiencing the world, families just trying to make ends meet in Harlem, marriages, births, and annual trips to the country.
Her earliest artistic influence was her early 20th-century academy training, in which the bravura brushwork of Robert Henri was admired – merging virtuoso painting with unfiltered views of everyday people and sights. Alice drew and painted like a virtuoso herself, sure of her ability of laying down an expressive line.
Throughout her life, her frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum bolstered her work with the continued influence Cassatt, Soutine, and other grand masters of the brush and the masters of social commentary, like Jacob Lawrence or Daumier.
The result is a decade-by-decade window into the life, times, struggles, and perseverance of a working mother-artist who took the same master, unflinching approach to documenting her pregnant daughter-in-law, civil rights leaders, Andy Warhol, and her own aging body.
The drawings at the Morgan, David Hockney: Drawing from Life, on view through May 30, are a tribute to the friendships maintained and the artistic experimentations sustained over the artist’s 83-year lifetime.
The show was created by the National Portrait Gallery in London and centers on 100 portraits of five people who sat for Hockney across the decades – his mother and several close friends.
The exhibition is organized by person, so you can compare how each person looked from the beginning of Hockney’s studies, across the years, and most recently when they came to visit him in Normandy, where he lives now.
Most of the works are from the Hockney Foundation or from the artist’s own personal collection, which makes the show extra-special.
The exhibition begins with a series of self-portraits that Hockney did as a teen, and features his etching series about his first trip to America in the early 60s. Then it jumps to the many portraits he did of his mother in England.
Each series shows off his masterful accomplishments in precise colored pencil, mixed-media collage, watercolor, crayon, arranged Polaroid mosaics, etchings, ink washes, tight pencil sketches, and the biggest leap of all – digital drawings from his iPad.
Walking past the portraits, self-portraits, sketchbooks, and digital drawings, it’s quite a tribute to an artist who never stopped looking, wanting to sit with his favorite people, and slowed down to adopt techniques by other masters that he admired.
Take a look at works by a pop-culture virtuoso. Here’s a brief introduction to the exhibition by the Morgan’s director:
Take a walk through the exhibition on the Morgan’s website here, and join a YouTube tour with the curator here.
Abstraction was being invented, monarchies were falling, wars were raging, and modern 20th century artists decided to turn advertising on its head, too. Artists left studios in droves and began making posters, brochures, billboards, traveling agit-prop theater wagons, and new-fangled telecommunications towers.
The focus is the period between WWI and WWII, when the avant-garde began mixing it up to bring about a whole new world for consumers, city planners, publishers, and the proletariat. Take a look at our favorite works in our Flickr album.
The 300 works in the show are principally works on paper, collected by and donated to MoMA by Merrill Berman – a treasure trove that includes particularly rare and unique items that the curators use to tell quite a story.
One entire wall is dedicated to Ms. Popova, where you can stroll by paintings, covers for sheet music, and prints – all the ways she applied her genius. Another long wall displays dynamic work by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky, whose Advertising-Constructor agency mixed poetry and innovative, angled constructivist style to sell chocolate and other consumer products.
Mixed-media plays a major role in the exhibition, with several galleries showing how European artists embraced collage and photomontage both in their personal studio work and in graphic designs that shook up the look of mass market publications, industrial marketing, postcards, and political posters.
Another section of the show provides an introduction to innovative Polish, Hungarian, and Dutchindie zines shared, collected, and treasured by cutting-edge writers and designers excited by possibilities of the early 20th century.
Angled, geometric, and loaded with innovative typography, these rare magazines share the space with paintings by Mondrian, sculpture by Moholy-Nagy, and other geometric shape-shifters.
Women are prominently showcased in every gallery of the exhibition, including the massive wall of Soviet posters by female designers whose images celebrate the contributions of women to the industrial workforce.
Visionary drawings, watercolors, and poster posters are around every corner – and most are never-before-seen surprises. Before WWII brought it all to an end, the curators show the modern innovations that these creatives had in mind – new architecture, advertising constructions, and modern furniture fairs.
Walter Dexel’s 1928 design combines an airshaft, ad kiosk, and telephone booth. Herbert Bayer’s design for an electrified ad tower for an electricity company, done when he was just a student at the Bauhaus. Willi Baumeister’s 1927 poster that directly declares interior designs of the past are over.
Elena Semenova’s 1926 design sketch for a Russian worker’s lounge looks like a precursor to WeWork.
Enjoy this special program with Ellen Lupton and curator Jodi Hauptman in a fascinating discussion about work by several revolutionary designers and how so many intermingled careers in graphic and fine arts during tumultuous times: