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painting

Artist: Antonio Molleno
Title: "Aloysius Gonzaga" Nuestra Sta Rosa de Lima
Date: c. 1825
Medium: santo - retablo painted wood
Dimensions: Overall: 14 3/4 x 10 7/16 in. (37.5 x 26.5 cm)
Antonio Molleno (1800-1845)
c. 1825
Antonio Molleno
Artist: Andrew Dasburg
Title: "Roundabout" Kingston, NY
Date: 1918
Medium: Oil painting
Dimensions: Overall: 20 1/16 x 23 13/16 in. (51 x 60.5 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)
1918
Andrew Dasburg
Artist: Timothy Nero
Title: "untitled, .02"
Date: 1998
Medium: drawing on paper over wood with beeswax
Dimensions: 9" H x 6" W
Timothy Nero
Lakewood, OH

Dates in Taos: 1991-2004
1998
Timothy Nero
Artist: Bill Gersh
Title: #1 Tennessee Williams
Date: 1986
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 37 1/4 x 49 1/4 in. (94.6 x 125.1 cm)
Media File
Bill Gersh (1943-1994)
1986
Bill Gersh
Artist: Bill Gersh
Title: #2 Keith Richards
Date: 1986
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 37 1/4 x 49 1/4 in. (94.6 x 125.1 cm)
Bill Gersh (1943-1994)
1986
Bill Gersh
Artist: Bill Gersh
Title: #3 Gunslinger Truman Capote
Date: 1986
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 37 1/4 x 49 1/4 in. (94.6 x 125.1 cm)
Bill Gersh (1943-1994)
1986
Bill Gersh
Artist: Conrad Cooper
Title: ¿No Somos Hombres?
Date: 2012
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Framed: 30 x 35 in. (76.2 x 88.9 cm)
Conrad Cooper
2012
Conrad Cooper
Artist: Oli Sihvonen
Title: 3 by 3, 2 Blue, Brown and Green
Date: 1975
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 29 1/8 x 29 3/8 in. (74 x 74.6 cm)
Oli Sihvonen (1921-1991)
OLI SIHVONEN (1921-1991), first lived in Taos in 1949.

On a warm blue ground lie five diagonally compressed ellipses of identical size: three cold blue, one brick red, and one alizarin. Their careful spatial and color relationships push and bend the parameters of the canvas, and alter the viewer's balance and sense of personal space. 40

—Vivian Milford, 1983 [cite source]

Josef Albers's influence came to Taos with the arrival of one of his students, Oli Sihvonen, who studied with Albers at Black Mountain College, North Carolina from 1946 to 1948. For Albers, “Abstraction is the essential function of the Human Spirit.” 41 For Sihvonen, this meant that a work of art intended no representation of or reference to any other identifiable thing. A painting made in this manner included flat color, no romantic evocations, no gestural expressiveness, but instead a clean, pure, effortless look. In Taos, Sihvonen continued his studies at Louis Ribak's Taos Valley Art School in 1949 and 1950, seven years before he became a full-time Taos resident with the support of a Wurlitzer Foundation grant. By 1950, he was working exclusively with abstract imagery. Before the end of the decade, he was doing work such as Fenestra #2.

Not all of Sihvonen’s output was in paint. He made a group of sheet metal reliefs whose linear elements were were executed with a hammer and punch. Sihvonen's use of line was non-descriptive. He developed a similar idea in drawing by extending long intricate lines into what appears to be an endless pattern of springy, wiry forms covering the entire surface of the paper.

Sihvonen gained recognition outside New Mexico for a series of ellipses begun in Taos. He painted these elliptical shapes in clear, luminous colors. He described them as “ellipses in a surround. The environment is a surround—one is among, not in it.” [source?] In the series Dialogue, begun by 1962, he explored the relationship of forms within compositions (often in just two or three colors, as in Dialogue (Green/Violet), 1965)—the dynamic integration of forms. This approach was well-suited to someone who perceived the “surround.” Even here, where the work of a Taos Modern achieved its most extreme reduction, the influence of the natural environment remained. While the shapes in the Dialogue series represented no objects, Sihvonen speculated that the massive forms of mountains and the giant shadows cast gave at least a suggestion to his artistic course. 42

Many of Sihvonen’s paintings were large compared to those of other Taos painters, who seldom attempted to work in sizes much over five by six feet. There was little market in New Mexico for paintings on a public or architectural scale. The broader acceptance of large works in the East, and the inclusion of Sihvonen’s work in a major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, led him to move to New York in 1967.

Edited excerpt from David Witt, Taos Moderns (1992)
1975
Oli Sihvonen
Artist: Tom Dixon
Title: 4CM
Date: 2005
Medium: Oil on masonite
Dimensions: board: 71 15/16 x 48 in. (182.8 x 121.9 cm)
Tom Dixon (b.1947)
Dates in Taos: 1981
2005
Tom Dixon