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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.

Sorted AscendingTitleDateArtistClassificationDimensions
#264 Untitled (Abstract Cones)n.d.Ted Egri
Ted Egri (1913-2010)
sculpture entire piece: 10 3/8 × 15 × 12 in. (26.4 × 38.1 × 30.5 cm)
Abstract Black with Colorsc. 1950Louis Ribak
Louis Ribak (1903-1979)
LOUIS RIBAK (1903-1979), moved to Taos in 1944.

In his first show in eight years [Louis Ribak] reports from Mexico and the Southwest with added strength and color. There is new freedom with emphasis on forms as such rather than on objects ...

—New York Times, May 1954

Beginning with work that was included in the 1934 Venice Biennale and continuing with his social realist painting of the 1930s, Louis Ribak captured vibrant images of urban life with considerable power. He was making an important career when, in 1944, he abandoned New York for Taos with his wife, Beatrice Mandelman. Various reasons have been suggested for the move: Ribak’s health; John Sloan's suggestion that the couple move to New Mexico; and their general disenchantment with New York. All these were probably contributing factors, but, since there was a good deal of wanderlust in Ribak, perhaps he just needed a change. As curator Harry Rand observed in the catalog of a 1984 exhibition of Ribak’s late paintings,

Something entirely unsuspected gripped Ribak in the Southwest and he was never able to disenthrall himself from the heady solemnity of the landscape, its beauty or emotive potential.

Ribak's approach shifted from social realism to full abstraction during his Taos years. Much of his early Taos work consists of semi-abstract landscapes, artistically descended from the paintings of American artist Albert P. Ryder. In Ryders’ work there is a living aspect to the environment in which humankind is not isolated, but is instead an intimate part. Ribak seems to have brought this concept with him from New York but, under the powerful influence of contact with New Mexico's pueblos, it was dramatically reinforced, expanded, and adapted to the changed circumstances of his life. He had to change to meet the demands of the new environment. Mandelman later said, “We had to start all over again. We spent the first couple of years painting the landscape” as a means of coming to understand the West.

Highly respected by his peers, Ribak was looked up to by the Taos Moderns as “an elder compadre,” a role model. In 1947, he opened the Taos Valley Art School for returning veterans who used their GI Bill benefits to pay tuition and living expenses. In addition to attracting beginners, mature artists who needed no training used the stipend to enable them to continue painting and drawing. Ribak, like Andrew Dasburg, offered no ideology to his students: “I’m not truly anything. I’m against everything. Damned abstract[ionist]s, realists, illustrators …” He condemned taking any single approach—he believed this would lead to academicism, an art of deadness, whether abstract or representational.

Ribak was well-acquainted with the work of the abstract expressionists and knew artists of the New York School. In the mid-1950s, Mandelman and Ribak sojourned in New York, then returned to Taos. From that time, Ribak developed the lyrical abstract expressionism that would occupy much of his subsequent career. Movement No. 1 and Movement No. 2 are examples. The flowing calligraphy evident in much of his work developed from decades of landscape drawings. His abstract paintings seem not to have come from cubism so much as out of his own preoccupation with working directly from nature.

Edited excerpt from David L. Witt, Taos Moderns: Art of the New (1992).
painting Overall: 55 x 33 in. (139.7 x 83.8 cm)
Abstractionc. 1960Ben Wade
Ben Wade (1919 - 2007)
Boise, ID

Dates in Taos: 1970-2005

sculpture
Bouquetc.1950-1960Louise Ganthiers
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)
painting 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)
Bridging Yellowc. 1958Robert M. Ellis
Robert M. Ellis United States (1922-2014)
Robert M. Ellis (April 14, 1922 – September 13, 2014) was an American artist. His professional career spanned six decades as an artist, educator, and museum director, including eight years as Curator of Education at the Pasadena Art Museum in California, twenty-three years on the art faculty of University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, and ten years as director of UNM's Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico. His work is in numerous museum collections, including the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, and Roswell Museum and Art Center. Apart from his distinguished career as a painter, Ellis left an indelible mark on the art world in both southern California and northern New Mexico. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Ellis
painting Overall: 18 3/4 x 47 13/16 in. (47.7 x 121.4 cm) Framed: 26 1/8 x 57 3/8 x 2 9/16 in. (66.3 x 145.7 x 6.5 cm)
Brown Landscape Imagesn.d.Clay Spohn
Clay Spohn (1898-1977)
painting 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)
Bultoc.1940Patrociño Barela
Patrociño Barela United States (1902 - 1964)
Patrociño Barela worked most of his life as a wood carver in Taos, New Mexico. As a santero (an artist who creates sacred images), Barela is recognized by New Mexico's living artists as a major source of inspiration. His carvings are not only expressive of the rich Hispano heritage within which he created, but artistically his works display parallels to Romanesque art, Modern art, as well as to the primitive art of other world cultures. http://www.laplaza.org/art/barela/
sculpture Overall: 27 3/16 x 17 11/16 in. (69 x 45 cm)
Bulto- Hope or the Four stages of Manc.1940Patrociño Barela
Patrociño Barela United States (1902 - 1964)
Patrociño Barela worked most of his life as a wood carver in Taos, New Mexico. As a santero (an artist who creates sacred images), Barela is recognized by New Mexico's living artists as a major source of inspiration. His carvings are not only expressive of the rich Hispano heritage within which he created, but artistically his works display parallels to Romanesque art, Modern art, as well as to the primitive art of other world cultures. http://www.laplaza.org/art/barela/
sculpture Overall: 16 1/8 x 7 1/16 in. (41 x 18 cm)
Cabresto Canyon1972Doel Reed
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
painting 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)
Canyonlands (Canyon Series)c. 1960Louis Ribak
Louis Ribak (1903-1979)
LOUIS RIBAK (1903-1979), moved to Taos in 1944.

In his first show in eight years [Louis Ribak] reports from Mexico and the Southwest with added strength and color. There is new freedom with emphasis on forms as such rather than on objects ...

—New York Times, May 1954

Beginning with work that was included in the 1934 Venice Biennale and continuing with his social realist painting of the 1930s, Louis Ribak captured vibrant images of urban life with considerable power. He was making an important career when, in 1944, he abandoned New York for Taos with his wife, Beatrice Mandelman. Various reasons have been suggested for the move: Ribak’s health; John Sloan's suggestion that the couple move to New Mexico; and their general disenchantment with New York. All these were probably contributing factors, but, since there was a good deal of wanderlust in Ribak, perhaps he just needed a change. As curator Harry Rand observed in the catalog of a 1984 exhibition of Ribak’s late paintings,

Something entirely unsuspected gripped Ribak in the Southwest and he was never able to disenthrall himself from the heady solemnity of the landscape, its beauty or emotive potential.

Ribak's approach shifted from social realism to full abstraction during his Taos years. Much of his early Taos work consists of semi-abstract landscapes, artistically descended from the paintings of American artist Albert P. Ryder. In Ryders’ work there is a living aspect to the environment in which humankind is not isolated, but is instead an intimate part. Ribak seems to have brought this concept with him from New York but, under the powerful influence of contact with New Mexico's pueblos, it was dramatically reinforced, expanded, and adapted to the changed circumstances of his life. He had to change to meet the demands of the new environment. Mandelman later said, “We had to start all over again. We spent the first couple of years painting the landscape” as a means of coming to understand the West.

Highly respected by his peers, Ribak was looked up to by the Taos Moderns as “an elder compadre,” a role model. In 1947, he opened the Taos Valley Art School for returning veterans who used their GI Bill benefits to pay tuition and living expenses. In addition to attracting beginners, mature artists who needed no training used the stipend to enable them to continue painting and drawing. Ribak, like Andrew Dasburg, offered no ideology to his students: “I’m not truly anything. I’m against everything. Damned abstract[ionist]s, realists, illustrators …” He condemned taking any single approach—he believed this would lead to academicism, an art of deadness, whether abstract or representational.

Ribak was well-acquainted with the work of the abstract expressionists and knew artists of the New York School. In the mid-1950s, Mandelman and Ribak sojourned in New York, then returned to Taos. From that time, Ribak developed the lyrical abstract expressionism that would occupy much of his subsequent career. Movement No. 1 and Movement No. 2 are examples. The flowing calligraphy evident in much of his work developed from decades of landscape drawings. His abstract paintings seem not to have come from cubism so much as out of his own preoccupation with working directly from nature.

Edited excerpt from David L. Witt, Taos Moderns: Art of the New (1992).
painting Overall: 47 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (120.7 x 80 cm)