Sign on
gPowered byeMuseum

Taos Moderns Learn More

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: Louis Ribak
Title: The Grotto
Date: c. 1960
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 16 x 12 in. (40.6 x 30.5 cm)
Louis Ribak (1903-1979)
c. 1960
Louis Ribak
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
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
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
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)
Andrew Dasburg
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)
Clay Spohn
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)
Clay Spohn
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
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)
Rebecca James