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 salvage 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 installationBrief 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
What happens when a Native American MacArthur genius is asked by SITE Santa Fe to create an art exhibition during a time of a global pandemic and social justice marches? And invite him to a location where Native Americans make up a significant percentage of the population?
The result is Jeffrey Gibson: The Body Electric – a constantly surprising gallery journey where shape-shifting, cultural disassociation, beadwork, kitsch-image appropriation, gender-identity questions, and science-fiction inspiration reigns.
The show is filled with life-size beaded dolls and garments, films, pulsing papered walls, mysterious film experiences, and social statements either woven or stamped onto clothes (or are they banners?).
Gibson, who is based in New York, is an intertribal artist who is a member of Mississippi Band of Choctaw and half Cherokee. However, his influences were forged from prestigious art schools, international travel, and living in non-Native societies.
The opportunity to come to Santa Fe, host a cinema series and several performances, and stay out West for a while was an open door to explore inter-cultural influences, host discussions with appreciative audiences, and show off his wide intellectual and artistic breadth.
In many of his works, Jeffrey mixes traditional “Indian” materials like beads or fringe with slogans, sayings, dime-store “Indian” images, and big-time art-world references.
See some our favorites from this exhibit in our Flickr album and hear Jeffrey explain his influences in SITE Santa Fe’s audio guide.
The little beaded birds that greet visitors in the first gallery and the big beaded life-sized “dolls” in the second were inspired by Jeffrey’s early work in the ethnographic collections of the Field Museum, where he encountered Haudenosaunee-made beaded tourist-trade whimsies and traditional “third gender” dolls for the first time. Why not make his own, but over-size them?
The nearby video gallery features a kaleidoscopic multichannel video of Sarah Ortegon, an award-winning Eastern Shoshone/Northern Arapaho jingle dress dancer, performing to the energetic Sisters track by A Tribe Called Red. This piece – She Never Dances Alone – refers to the dancers who came to the Standing Rock Reservation and lent their support to the 2016 pipeline protests though dance.
Here’s Sarah Ortegon in Gibson’s 2019 Times Square installation of She Never Dances Alone here…wait for it:
And here’s another look at Gibson’s 2020 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, where he mixed works from his studio with artifacts and art from Brooklyn’s own collection.
And check out Gibson’s work our album documenting the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian exhibition of Native painting, Stretching the Canvas.
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 curators pay tribute to these avid Aesthetic Movement collectors by framing these promised gifts with reproduction period wallpaper and fixtures, and it’s hard to decide where to look first.
The approach to this marvelous exhibition gives modern gallery-goers an experience of what Gilded Age interior designers had in mind – cramming foyers and drawing rooms with lush paintings, flashy techno brass furniture, Japanese-style ceramics, art pottery, and fringed upholstered seats decorated with Arts & Crafts tiles that throwback to mythical times.
The mix of styles and techniques – some old and some new – reflect a time when consumption of luxury goods ran wild with the ascension of New York City as the trading and shipping capital of the world. Many of the pieces reflect new machine-made technology mixed in with a bit of medieval nostalgia via the British Arts and Crafts movement.
Although the exhibition is slightly hidden away, the landscapes appearing throughout the show provide windows to lush valleys of the Rockies (thank you, Mr. Bierstadt!), autumn colors of the Catskills, and spectacular, tranquil shorelines on Maine’s rocky coast. All are either in their original fancy frames or reproductions from the era.
Most of the works are oil paintings, but (in case you didn’t know) New York was also the epicenter of the movement to make watercolor paintings the equal of any fine salon work. The curators have included work by the masterful William Trost Williams, so you can enjoy a side-by-side comparison of the techniques he used to give those oil painters a run for their money. Every time we’ve visited this show, visitors simply stand transfixed, drinking in the saturated, tranquil views of the faraway.
The ceramics, cloisonné tabletops, andirons, and many large-scale pieces reflect the period’s mania for anything with a hint of Japanese or Chinese style – delicate birds flitting through bamboo and fierce dragons swirling in magical space. Designers for the upper classes were captivated by images from kimonos, scrolls, screens, and ceramics from the East and made sure that custom commissioned pieces were on trend.
The mesmerizing beacon within the show is the spectacular array of Tiffany necklaces in the center – dramatic opals and sapphires, often encircled by intricate grapevines in gold or another nod to nature-by-design. The effect of these beauties side by side is magical, and you can imagine a Gilded Age beauty making an entrance with one of these dazzlers.
The Met just announced that its September 2022 Costume Institute exhibition would be displayed in the period rooms of the American Wing, so we’ll see if Mr. Bolton and his team deploy any period finery in the more-is-more 19th-century area.
Read more about pieces in this fantastic donation on the MetCollects blog and flip through close-ups of some the featured works.