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drawing

Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Woman's Face
Date: c.1948
Medium: Charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 18'' x 13''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
c.1948
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Woman's Face
Date: c. 1958-60
Medium: Pencil, charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 17 1/2'' x 11 3/4''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
c. 1958-60
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Edward Corbett
Title: Women by the Sea
Date: 1961
Medium: Ink on paper
Dimensions: sight: 9 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (24.5 x 34.3 cm) mat: 15 x 20 in. (38.1 x 50.8 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)
1961
Edward Corbett
Artist: Oscar E. Berninghaus
Title: Wood Haulers
Date: 1945
Medium: Pen and ink
Dimensions: Overall: 18 x 15 in. (45.7 x 38.1 cm) Framed: 28 1/2 x 25 1/4 in. (72.4 x 64.1 cm)
Oscar E. Berninghaus United States (1874-1952)
1945
Oscar E. Berninghaus
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)
ANDREW DASBURG (1887-1979), first visited Taos in 1918.

I really taught people to see: a sort of evangelist for modernism, because of my experience of seeing Matisse paint for most of an hour.

—Andrew Dasburg, 1975

Not only did Andrew Dasburg meet Henri Matisse, but he also discovered the work of Paul Cézanne in Paris (1909-1911) and became one of the first American artists to grasp the possibilities of modernism. Dasburg’s work was included in the famous 1913 Armory Show, and in the 1916 “Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters.” No other artist moved to Taos having already achieved a significant presence in the American art world.

During the 1920s, when Dasburg divided his time between New York and New Mexico, he painted landscapes and still lifes. He moved permanently to Taos in the 1930s but soon contracted Addison's disease, which left him too weak to produce much artwork. By 1947, he recovered sufficiently to resume his career and join the Taos Moderns. As he had done throughout his long career, Dasburg gave active encouragement to advanced art students such as Earl Stroh. He was greatly admired and respected by the Taos Moderns who, if they did not know his place in American art history before coming to Taos, soon learned of it. But Dasburg was also open to inspiration. According to Stroh, Edward Corbett’s startling white abstractions influenced both Dasburg and Thomas Benrimo to create their own essays in white.

Dasburg's gradual return to painting and drawing led to the period of his finest work, from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Dasburg studied the Taos Valley until he could convey its underlying geometry with an intimate precision. In his drawing, he looked beyond the smooth, feminine forms to reveal the skeleton beneath with supreme economy of line. He painted the Taos Valley not as a mass of geometric blocks but as a vital, living thing. In the land’s visual rhythm he found harmony coming out of contrasts, an artistic perception of nature and time and also an artistic attitude.

In an address to University of New Mexico art students in 1953, Dasburg spoke of how an artist should approach the process of creation:

What is a work of art if not elevation of spirit? Something that in its best instances has the power to instill with a heightened awareness of life—both its joy and enigma. Be the theme lyrical or tragic, a great work of art is always more profound and at the same time simpler than the verbiage with which we obscure in trying to describe it. Someone is always introducing the word “problem” to replace joy, a sense of play, and mystery which is the fertile soil of art. The only problem that confronts the artist beyond his daily bread is to rid his mind of cobwebs of confused thought and to throw away the crutches of theory. Work is the mother of craft which cannot be earned as an end itself but only as servant to a guiding vision. A purpose to be achieved.

Late in life, Dasburg was honored with museum shows in Dallas, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and New York. When he died in 1979, he was the last surviving artist of the Armory Show, and the last direct link to the earliest days of American modernism.

Edited excerpt from David L. Witt, Taos Moderns: Art of the New (1992)
1957
Andrew Dasburg
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Yin-Yang And Bird Designs
Date: 1962
Medium: Pencil on paper
Dimensions: 10 1/2'' x 8''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
1962
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Yin-Yang Designs
Date: 1962
Medium: Pencil on paper
Dimensions: 10 1/2'' x 8''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
1962
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Youth With Blue Cap
Date: c. 1960
Medium: Pastel on brown charcoal paper
Dimensions: 19'' x 12 3/4''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
c. 1960
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Youth With Electric Hair and Staff
Date: 1977
Medium: Pencil and charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 19 3/4 × 13 7/8 in. (50.2 × 35.2 cm)
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
1977
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Youth With Hat And Big Eyes
Date: 1978
Medium: Pencil, charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 19 1/2'' x 14''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
1978
Marylou Reifsnyder
Artist: Marylou Reifsnyder
Title: Youth's Face
Date: c. 1960
Medium: Pencil on paper
Dimensions: 17 1/2'' x 11 3/4''
Marylou Reifsnyder (1922-1990)
c. 1960
Marylou Reifsnyder