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: Ted Egri
Title: #264 Untitled (Abstract Cones)
Date: n.d.
Medium: bronze
Dimensions: entire piece: 10 3/8 × 15 × 12 in. (26.4 × 38.1 × 30.5 cm)
Ted Egri (1913-2010)
n.d.
Ted Egri
Artist: Louis Ribak
Title: Abstract Black with Colors
Date: c. 1950
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 55 x 33 in. (139.7 x 83.8 cm)
Louis Ribak (1903-1979)
c. 1950
Louis Ribak
Artist: Ben Wade
Title: Abstraction
Date: c. 1960
Medium: Limestone sculpture
Ben Wade (1919 - 2007)
Boise, ID

Dates in Taos: 1970-2005

c. 1960
Ben Wade
Artist: Louise Ganthiers
Title: Bouquet
Date: c.1950-1960
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 45 15/16 x 24 3/16 in. (116.7 x 61.4 cm) Framed: 46 7/8 x 25 1/8 x 1 1/4 in. (119.1 x 63.8 x 3.2 cm)
Louise Ganthiers (1907-1982)
LOUISE GANTHIERS (1907-1982), moved to Taos in 1950.

From a study of these paintings it appears obvious that the artist is heading toward a completely non-objective type of painting … her work demonstrates how a serious painter holds the mental conception within the bounds of plastic color. 46

—Alfred Morang, 1952 [cite source]

Louise Ganthiers came to Taos with the hope of becoming an artist. An administrator in a textile business, she had a longstanding interest in art and studied with the figurative-fantasy artist Rufino Tamayo in New York. In Taos, she became familiar with the artistic concepts of Hans Hofmann, and applied the results of all her training to her work. 47 In a statement about her relationship to art, she said:

I don't paint with ease. I wish I were capable of the smashing directness of some of my contemporaries. Some of these sketches have that quality. In carrying them further will I move toward the lyric, the muted understatement of the beautiful and gentle? I have been struggling to reach further into the abstract to break up forms in new ways to fix a space dimension on the canvas that has not been my approach. Yet if I find that I am saying something that infers crassness or harshness I won’t be happy. I have tried to speak in different ways against tragedy, injustice and waste but my way is not that of harshness. 48 [cite source]

Ganthiers waged a struggle on both artistic and economic fronts. In the 1950s, she sold frozen custard to Taos tourists during the summer; she also went to San Francisco to find work and to show her paintings. There her paintings caught the attention of prominent art critic Alfred Frankenstein, who wrote several reviews of her work over the years. He may have seen the encaustic painting Buffalo Dancer (1954). There is an undeniable wildness to the figure which seems to be of another world. The dancer clearly has merged with the animal spirit. Frankenstein wrote:

Miss Ganthiers … is a painter who likes a rich, complex impasto, lays on her color most often with the palette knife, and brings off whatever she does with great skill and finely imaginative design. Her abstractions are excellent, but most striking of all are her pictures derived from the Indian dances she has seen in Taos, where she lives. Her big single figures are magnificently drawn, and her studies of group choreography handle the rhythms, the color, and the mysterious character of their subjects equally well … [It is refreshing] to see this theme handled by a creative artist who brings it genuine imagination, selectivity and power over the expressive values of paint. 49 [cite source]

Edited excerpt from David Witt, Taos Moderns (1992)
c.1950-1960
Louise Ganthiers
Artist: Clay Spohn
Title: Brown Landscape Images
Date: n.d.
Medium: Oil on board
Dimensions: Overall: 20 3/8 x 26 7/8 in. (51.8 x 68.2 cm) frame: 22 1/2 x 28 7/8 in. (57.2 x 73.3 cm)
Clay Spohn (1898-1977)
n.d.
Clay Spohn
Artist: Doel Reed
Title: Cabresto Canyon
Date: 1972
Medium: Casein
Dimensions: Overall: 20 7/8 x 27 15/16 in. (53 x 71 cm) frame: 24 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (62.2 x 84.5 cm)
Doel Reed United States (1894 - 1985)
Remembered as an important member of the Taos art community after 1960, Doel Reed achieved an international reputation as a landscape artist and printmaker, and as a master of aquatint. His paintings and aquatints were earth-toned and geometric in style and featured architectural forms of the New Mexico landscape.

He was born in Logansport, Indiana, and from 1924 until 1959, chaired the art department at Oklahoma State University. Then he moved to Talpa, near Taos, New Mexico where he and his family had been spending many summers and he had done and he did much sketching in Arizona and New Mexico, especially the countryside and pueblos near Talpa. His method of working was to sketch in the field and then complete the paintings in his studio.

He first pursued architecture but enjoying drawing, enrolled at the Art Academy of Cincinnati from 1916 to 1917 and 1919 to 1920. He served in World War I and was gassed and temporarily blinded. After months in base hospitals in France, he returned to the Art Academy and became interested in graphics. However, in those days, there were few schools specializing in that subject, so he was largely self taught. In 1952, he was elected to the National Academy of Design.

He wrote a book, Doel Reed Makes an Aquatint, published 1965, and known for oils and caseins, he earned much fame from his aquatints.

An article titled 'Doel Reed Haunted by Nature's Moods', by M.J. Van Deventer, was in Southwest Art, August 1985 (p 58)


Source:

Dean Porter and Teresa Ebie, Taos Artists and Their Patrons
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encylopedia of Artists of the American West

His historic Taos studio has been created as the Doel Reed Center
http://drca.okstate.edu/doel-reed-bio
1972
Doel Reed
Artist: Louis Ribak
Title: Canyonlands (Canyon Series)
Date: c. 1960
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 47 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (120.7 x 80 cm)
Louis Ribak (1903-1979)
c. 1960
Louis Ribak
Artist: Robert D. Ray
Title: Carpe Diem, I
Date: 1972
Medium: Oil on mounted linen
Dimensions: Overall: 8 13/16 x 8 13/16 in. (22.4 x 22.4 cm) Framed: 10 1/16 x 10 1/16 x 1 7/16 in. (25.5 x 25.5 x 3.6 cm)
Robert D. Ray (1924 - 2002)
Dates in Taos: 1954
1972
Robert D. Ray