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The 1940s was an important transition period for the Taos art community. A group of modernist artists arrived who would set a new artistic course for a generation. Following World War II, Taos became an important crossroads in contemporary American art, a place where the influences of European and American modernism came together. Artists from New York and San Francisco, the cradles of post-war abstract painting, found in Taos a conducive place to work devoid of the distractions of the big cities. Many of the modernist artists arrived in Taos with little if any knowledge of the earlier artists, as if inexplicably drawn to the Town's inherently creative atmosphere. Many came to study under the G.I. bill.

Joining Andrew Dasburg as mentor to these new artists in 1939 was Thomas Benrimo, another early American modernist. New York artist Louis Ribak arrived in Taos in 1944 with his wife, painter Beatrice Mandelman, and emerged as a leader of the younger generation. Agnes Martin, now an internationally acclaimed artist came to Taos a few years later as a student with the University of New Mexico's summer Field School of Art. In the early 1950s, Clay Spohn, an abstract expressionist, and Edward Corbett, an artist with a growing reputation as a modernist, arrived from San Francisco. Their colleague, Richard Diebenkorn, although not a Taos resident, showed at the Town's premier art gallery, Galeria Escondida, as well as the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where he received a Masters Degree in Art in 1951. In the same way that the Taos Art Colony in earlier decades attracted other artists to the area, these new artists were visited by their friends and associates, including such major figures as Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Clyfford Still and Morris Graves.

The influx of dozens of artists by the 1950s had established Taos as one of the centers of modernist artistic activity in the United States. In the middle part of the decade, a number of them began showing together in art galleries and museums and were collectively known as the Taos Moderns. Although they never created a formal group such as the Taos Society of Artists had done, they changed the artistic direction of the community.

Their paintings were either abstract, using subject matter, or non-objective compositions of pure form. The stark New Mexico landscape brightened their palettes just as it had that of earlier artists. Cultural influences continued to be important as well. The timelessness they perceived in Pueblo Indian culture and the deep connection to the land they noted in the everyday life of both Indians and Hispanics influence experimentation and innovation in their own art.

If there was any one guiding philosophy during this period, it was a commitment by artists to seek 'the new' in their visual imagery. Many of them were not content with depicting the surface beauty of the landscape or the figurative portraits done by earlier artists. Instead, they wanted to capture the underlying structure of a subject to reveal its true meaning.

Artist: Andrew Dasburg
Title: Woodland Fragments
Date: 1957
Medium: Sepia ink on paper
Dimensions: 30 1/4 × 25 in. (76.8 × 63.5 cm)
Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979)
1957
Andrew Dasburg
Artist: Rebecca James
Title: Winter in Taos (Brown Bear's Tooth and Honey Locust Thorn)
Date: 1948
Medium: Oil painting reverse on glass
Dimensions: support: 18 x 14 in. (45.7 x 35.6 cm) frame: 24 13/16 x 20 7/8 x 1/2 in. (63 x 53 x 1.3 cm)
Rebecca James (1891-1968)
1948
Rebecca James
Artist: Edward Corbett
Title: White Painting
Date: 1957
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 36 1/4 x 43 in. (92.1 x 109.2 cm) Framed: 37 1/4 x 44 1/8 x 1 7/16 in. (94.6 x 112.1 x 3.6 cm)
Edward Corbett (1919-1971)
EDWARD CORBETT (1919-1971), moved to Taos in 1951.

I intend my work as poetry. 56

—Edward Corbett, 1952

Edward Corbett believed, with the rest of the abstract expressionists, that the value of art is intrinsic. He reflected on his own intentions as a painter and an intellectual at grips with ideas that dominated his world at the time:

I knew that I had to find a way of painting that I could do as well as [the Europeans] did their Surrealism and Cubism … and I had to literally work towards a discovery. I didn’t know what I was working towards. It was a mystery. The end was there but it was imagined. The end. I could imagine without knowing what it looked like in the painting … 57

By the time he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1952 “15 Americans” exhibit, Corbett had found the imaginative track he would continue to follow. The process began with his childhood in the Southwest and continued through his time as a student, and later a teacher, at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco. 58 He made his first visit to Taos as early as 1947 and relocated there
in 1951. 59

Corbett completed only four or five paintings during his 20 years in Taos; the balance of his works were drawings in charcoal, chalk, pastel, pencil, and occasionally, casein. He started painting by placing colors on the canvas and then gradually eliminating or lessening them by covering them with white. 60 The canvases are filled with almost imperceptible detail. These paintings provided the structural and thematic basis for his later work.


According to Corbett, “Abstract appearances are seen, the matter is felt, the experience is emotionalized, and through continual experience the symbol is formed.” 61 Abstract appearances—suggested by the land and by architectural forms that grow out of nature—led him to a symbology of the land, not landscape pictures. Corbett, however, was equivocal about the natural environment as a catalyst for art. He wrote, “I admit to being influenced by not only nature out-of-doors, but nature within,” and concluded, “If sources of nature exist, I trust they do not influence the painting.” 62 Perhaps this denial of the influence of natural forms served as a defense measure: fully abstract work could have lost some of its magic if described with words such as “this is a cliff.”


Whatever they were based on, Corbett’s images suggest the fullness of night, heavy snow, deep canyons, stark light; subtle hues fill paper and canvas with considerable life force, the understated vigor of immensely rugged land overflowing with delicacies of color and movement and light flashes. In his Taos drawings, the interplay of negative and positive creates depth; their soft-edged forms interlock in a lyric poetry of form. His work, often in grays and browns, shows that the successful use of hue is a matter of making combinations and relationships rather than the degree of pigment saturation. Corbett’s exacting drawings create the tension of anticipation, “not the experience of possessing an event, but a mystery … about what might happen.” 63 [cite source]


Edited excerpt from David Witt, Taos Moderns (1992)
1957
Edward Corbett
Artist: Clay Spohn
Title: Vertical Modulations in Light and Dark
Date: 1961
Medium: Oil painting on linen
Dimensions: Overall: 64 3/16 x 50 in. (163 x 127 cm)
Clay Spohn (1898-1977)
1961
Clay Spohn
Artist: Clay Spohn
Title: Untitled landscape (Taos Valley and Sacred Mountain)
Date: 1956
Medium: Oil on Masonite
Dimensions: panel: 12 7/16 × 15 7/8 in. (31.6 × 40.3 cm)
Clay Spohn (1898-1977)
1956
Clay Spohn
Artist: Andrew Dasburg
Title: Untitled (Winter Plains)
Date: 1959
Medium: Pastel on paper
Dimensions: Overall: 16 15/16 x 21 5/8 in. (43 x 55 cm)
Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979)
1959
Andrew Dasburg
Artist: Edward Corbett
Title: Untitled (head)
Date: 1963
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: sight: 17 3/8 x 13 3/8 in. (44.1 x 33.9 cm) frame: 19 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (48.3 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)
Edward Corbett (1919-1971)
EDWARD CORBETT (1919-1971), moved to Taos in 1951.

I intend my work as poetry. 56

—Edward Corbett, 1952

Edward Corbett believed, with the rest of the abstract expressionists, that the value of art is intrinsic. He reflected on his own intentions as a painter and an intellectual at grips with ideas that dominated his world at the time:

I knew that I had to find a way of painting that I could do as well as [the Europeans] did their Surrealism and Cubism … and I had to literally work towards a discovery. I didn’t know what I was working towards. It was a mystery. The end was there but it was imagined. The end. I could imagine without knowing what it looked like in the painting … 57

By the time he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1952 “15 Americans” exhibit, Corbett had found the imaginative track he would continue to follow. The process began with his childhood in the Southwest and continued through his time as a student, and later a teacher, at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco. 58 He made his first visit to Taos as early as 1947 and relocated there
in 1951. 59

Corbett completed only four or five paintings during his 20 years in Taos; the balance of his works were drawings in charcoal, chalk, pastel, pencil, and occasionally, casein. He started painting by placing colors on the canvas and then gradually eliminating or lessening them by covering them with white. 60 The canvases are filled with almost imperceptible detail. These paintings provided the structural and thematic basis for his later work.


According to Corbett, “Abstract appearances are seen, the matter is felt, the experience is emotionalized, and through continual experience the symbol is formed.” 61 Abstract appearances—suggested by the land and by architectural forms that grow out of nature—led him to a symbology of the land, not landscape pictures. Corbett, however, was equivocal about the natural environment as a catalyst for art. He wrote, “I admit to being influenced by not only nature out-of-doors, but nature within,” and concluded, “If sources of nature exist, I trust they do not influence the painting.” 62 Perhaps this denial of the influence of natural forms served as a defense measure: fully abstract work could have lost some of its magic if described with words such as “this is a cliff.”


Whatever they were based on, Corbett’s images suggest the fullness of night, heavy snow, deep canyons, stark light; subtle hues fill paper and canvas with considerable life force, the understated vigor of immensely rugged land overflowing with delicacies of color and movement and light flashes. In his Taos drawings, the interplay of negative and positive creates depth; their soft-edged forms interlock in a lyric poetry of form. His work, often in grays and browns, shows that the successful use of hue is a matter of making combinations and relationships rather than the degree of pigment saturation. Corbett’s exacting drawings create the tension of anticipation, “not the experience of possessing an event, but a mystery … about what might happen.” 63 [cite source]


Edited excerpt from David Witt, Taos Moderns (1992)
1963
Edward Corbett
Artist: Edward Corbett
Title: Untitled
Date: c.1952
Medium: Charcoal and pastel
Dimensions: Overall: 34 x 27 in. (86.3 x 68.6 cm) frame: 45 1/2 x 35 1/2 in. (115.6 x 90.2 cm)
Edward Corbett (1919-1971)
EDWARD CORBETT (1919-1971), moved to Taos in 1951.

I intend my work as poetry. 56

—Edward Corbett, 1952

Edward Corbett believed, with the rest of the abstract expressionists, that the value of art is intrinsic. He reflected on his own intentions as a painter and an intellectual at grips with ideas that dominated his world at the time:

I knew that I had to find a way of painting that I could do as well as [the Europeans] did their Surrealism and Cubism … and I had to literally work towards a discovery. I didn’t know what I was working towards. It was a mystery. The end was there but it was imagined. The end. I could imagine without knowing what it looked like in the painting … 57

By the time he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1952 “15 Americans” exhibit, Corbett had found the imaginative track he would continue to follow. The process began with his childhood in the Southwest and continued through his time as a student, and later a teacher, at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco. 58 He made his first visit to Taos as early as 1947 and relocated there
in 1951. 59

Corbett completed only four or five paintings during his 20 years in Taos; the balance of his works were drawings in charcoal, chalk, pastel, pencil, and occasionally, casein. He started painting by placing colors on the canvas and then gradually eliminating or lessening them by covering them with white. 60 The canvases are filled with almost imperceptible detail. These paintings provided the structural and thematic basis for his later work.


According to Corbett, “Abstract appearances are seen, the matter is felt, the experience is emotionalized, and through continual experience the symbol is formed.” 61 Abstract appearances—suggested by the land and by architectural forms that grow out of nature—led him to a symbology of the land, not landscape pictures. Corbett, however, was equivocal about the natural environment as a catalyst for art. He wrote, “I admit to being influenced by not only nature out-of-doors, but nature within,” and concluded, “If sources of nature exist, I trust they do not influence the painting.” 62 Perhaps this denial of the influence of natural forms served as a defense measure: fully abstract work could have lost some of its magic if described with words such as “this is a cliff.”


Whatever they were based on, Corbett’s images suggest the fullness of night, heavy snow, deep canyons, stark light; subtle hues fill paper and canvas with considerable life force, the understated vigor of immensely rugged land overflowing with delicacies of color and movement and light flashes. In his Taos drawings, the interplay of negative and positive creates depth; their soft-edged forms interlock in a lyric poetry of form. His work, often in grays and browns, shows that the successful use of hue is a matter of making combinations and relationships rather than the degree of pigment saturation. Corbett’s exacting drawings create the tension of anticipation, “not the experience of possessing an event, but a mystery … about what might happen.” 63 [cite source]


Edited excerpt from David Witt, Taos Moderns (1992)
c.1952
Edward Corbett
Artist: Malcolm Brown
Title: Untitled
Date: c. 1950
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 13 3/4 x 24 in. (35 x 61 cm)
Malcolm Brown
Malcolm Brown was active/lived in New Mexico, New Hampshire. Malcolm Brown is known for Modernist landscape painting.
c. 1950
Malcolm Brown
Artist: Edward Corbett
Title: Untitled
Date: c.1963
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 60 1/16 x 47 15/16 in. (152.6 x 121.7 cm) Framed: 61 x 48 15/16 x 1 9/16 in. (154.9 x 124.3 x 3.9 cm)
Edward Corbett (1919-1971)
EDWARD CORBETT (1919-1971), moved to Taos in 1951.

I intend my work as poetry. 56

—Edward Corbett, 1952

Edward Corbett believed, with the rest of the abstract expressionists, that the value of art is intrinsic. He reflected on his own intentions as a painter and an intellectual at grips with ideas that dominated his world at the time:

I knew that I had to find a way of painting that I could do as well as [the Europeans] did their Surrealism and Cubism … and I had to literally work towards a discovery. I didn’t know what I was working towards. It was a mystery. The end was there but it was imagined. The end. I could imagine without knowing what it looked like in the painting … 57

By the time he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1952 “15 Americans” exhibit, Corbett had found the imaginative track he would continue to follow. The process began with his childhood in the Southwest and continued through his time as a student, and later a teacher, at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco. 58 He made his first visit to Taos as early as 1947 and relocated there
in 1951. 59

Corbett completed only four or five paintings during his 20 years in Taos; the balance of his works were drawings in charcoal, chalk, pastel, pencil, and occasionally, casein. He started painting by placing colors on the canvas and then gradually eliminating or lessening them by covering them with white. 60 The canvases are filled with almost imperceptible detail. These paintings provided the structural and thematic basis for his later work.


According to Corbett, “Abstract appearances are seen, the matter is felt, the experience is emotionalized, and through continual experience the symbol is formed.” 61 Abstract appearances—suggested by the land and by architectural forms that grow out of nature—led him to a symbology of the land, not landscape pictures. Corbett, however, was equivocal about the natural environment as a catalyst for art. He wrote, “I admit to being influenced by not only nature out-of-doors, but nature within,” and concluded, “If sources of nature exist, I trust they do not influence the painting.” 62 Perhaps this denial of the influence of natural forms served as a defense measure: fully abstract work could have lost some of its magic if described with words such as “this is a cliff.”


Whatever they were based on, Corbett’s images suggest the fullness of night, heavy snow, deep canyons, stark light; subtle hues fill paper and canvas with considerable life force, the understated vigor of immensely rugged land overflowing with delicacies of color and movement and light flashes. In his Taos drawings, the interplay of negative and positive creates depth; their soft-edged forms interlock in a lyric poetry of form. His work, often in grays and browns, shows that the successful use of hue is a matter of making combinations and relationships rather than the degree of pigment saturation. Corbett’s exacting drawings create the tension of anticipation, “not the experience of possessing an event, but a mystery … about what might happen.” 63 [cite source]


Edited excerpt from David Witt, Taos Moderns (1992)
c.1963
Edward Corbett
Artist: Emil Bisttram
Title: Untitled
Date: n.d.
Medium: pastel on paper
Dimensions: Overall: 12 3/4 x 15 1/2 in. (32.4 x 39.4 cm) Framed: 20 1/4 x 22 1/4 in. (51.4 x 56.5 cm)
Emil Bisttram Hungary (1895-1976)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Bisttram
n.d.
Emil Bisttram