MORANG AND FRIENDS: The Toast
Posted on December 16, 2014
If the last two weeks at Matthews Gallery were an Alfred Morang painting, the cover image of this week’s Pasatiempo would be a good representation. Energetic figures dance between brightly colored food and libations in a surreal party scene that’s one part Matisse and two parts Bosch…
Yes, the response to our MORANG AND FRIENDS exhibition has been wild. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the wonderful press we’ve received.
Michael Abatemarco wrote Pasatiempo‘s lovely cover story “To Paris with Love“, which recounted Paul Parker’s hunt for a box of Morang’s possessions and his covert tribute to the artist in the Musee d’Orsay. An excerpt:
Morang and Friends is a rare sort of show for a Canyon Road gallery. Intent on presenting a visual record of the time, its co-curators have included about 40 works by the artist as well as a few made by his students at the Morang School of Fine Art, Janet Lippincott most notable among them. Also on exhibit are several of Morang’s personal effects, such as his violin, scorched in the fatal 1958 fire, as well as sketches, photographs, and a few wine and whiskey jugs the artist probably painted to make a quick buck (Morang often sold his artwork cheaply) — all from private collections. These are the sorts of holdings museums are more likely to show, but for Parker, Morang and Friends is a labor of love, not just an estate, or secondary-market, type of show. “It’s an attempt to reacquaint the public with a seminal artist not only because of his own work, but because of his influence,” Matthews said.
Lisa Barrow of Albuquerque’s Weekly Alibi wrote a beautiful blog post on Alfred Morang’s legacy, titled “To View a Life’s Wreckage“:
His work reflects a distinctive City Different of the 1940s and ‘50s—the color-drenched vistas of northern New Mexico, scenes of nightlife, plazas and adobes. His pen-and-ink compositions shiver with energy, even when depicting something so mundane as his own studio, but his canvases positively bristle with morasses of color and line. Layered with thick wads of oil paint, they’re sometimes abstract, reminiscent of Kandinsky, and other times figurative—underlining that neither Morang’s biography nor his output can be enclosed by simple descriptors.
Tom Collins of Albuquerque Journal North penned a lovely little review of the show that begins with the question “Who’d you rather have a margarita with? Georgia O’Keeffe or Alfred Morang?” Here’s an excerpt:
Now, at Matthews Gallery, we get to enjoy an intimate sort of visual biography of the man and artist with assorted artifacts, writings, letters (even his violin, sadly in need of repair), and all that exuberant work. And there is a great deal of it, all wildly energetic, expressive, and comfortably, vaguely familiar. All those belles de nuit and bar scenes a la Lautrec or George Grosz; shimmering, heavily impastoed Fauvist landscapes hinting Van Gogh (and predicting Tommy Maccione!); delicate watercolors of street scenes and landscapes. The styles get a little jumbled and […] but who cares? In all media, Morang’s works are attention-demanding, and there is an excellent catalogue of the show available with dates and a particularly touching personal essay by Paul Parker, “Hunting For Alfred Morang.”
That’s not to mention blurbs from Santa Fean NOW Magazine and THE Magazine (the latter will publish a review of the show in their February issue), and an in-depth interview on KVSF’s ArtBeat with Kathryn Davis.
Presiding over it all was our Morang expert Paul Parker, who co-curated MORANG AND FRIENDS with tireless enthusiasm. We’ll leave the last word to Parker, who was dubbed “a phenomenal researcher, storyteller, art collector and art guy” by Davis, and who made a touching toast to Morang under the artist’s murals at El Farol last Thursday. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:
Alfred Morang was, as local gallerist Zeb Conley said later, “the kind of person that art circles circled around.” He was a fantastic artist, a huge fan of the impressionists, and his work shows it. He was also a concert violinist, the youngest-ever solo violinist to play in Jordan Hall in Boston. He wrote short stories and poems and plays and was published alongside Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Frost. […] I wanted to read you a couple things that were said when he died, at his funeral.
This is a quote from a book by Walt Wiggins: “When Alfred Morang’s life came to a tragic end in January of 1958, nothing before or since has so shaken the New Mexican art community. Some say it was a sense of guilt that struck the community for not having shown a greater sense of appreciation for one who by destiny was different. One Santa Fean artist mentioned, ‘Why shouldn’t Santa Fe be stunned by the loss of Alfred? After all, he taught half of us how to paint and the other half how to see.'” I think that’s one of the best quotes about an artist I’ve ever heard.
The director of the art museum at the time Reginald Fisher said, “Friends, this is not a funeral, we are simply gathered here for a creative expression of merit and appreciation of a spirit that has been active in an activity that we in Santa Fe like to call art. Alfred was an inventive, searching and daring spirit, as French as Lautrec, yet he never saw Paris, and last week his restless spirit found peace.”
Randall Davey said, “I have known Alfred since he arrived back in 1937. He was a kind, a gentle and a humble soul. He was a great painter, and many of you did not think so because he often sold his work for a pittance out of necessity” […]
The last night of Alfred’s life, he was in Claude’s Bar down the street until midnight, and then he left and went back to his studio. The word is that he lit a gas heater, but it didn’t light. Then he went over and sat in the chair and lit a cigarette. It wasn’t that the whole place burned down, it was a flash fire.
In this story I wrote, I imagined being in Claude’s that night. It is rumored that the ghost of Alfred Morang walks in this place. As a toast, I’ll tell you what I would’ve said to Alfred that night at Claude’s, and we’ll have a drink and listen for Alfred’s answer.
At midnight, when Alfred supposedly left, I got a couple shots of cognac, and I said, “Alfred, I know you often say that you don’t believe in art for art’s sake, you believe in art for people’s sake. Can you explain to me what you mean by that, and please take your time.”
Come see our MORANG AND FRIENDS exhibition now through December 26th, and stay tuned for our upcoming blog collaboration with ArtBeat’s Kathryn Davis. Also, make sure to connect with on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily gallery news.
*Special thanks to Kathryn Davis for the photographs of Paul Parker’s toast.