NEW LANDSCAPES, NEW VISTAS: Early Pueblo Pottery

 Maria Martinez- Revolutionary San Ildefonso Potter- Matthews Gallery Blog- Photo Courtesy Steve ElmoreThe tale of our current exhibition NEW LANDSCAPES, NEW VISTAS: Women Artists of New Mexico begins twenty-three miles northwest of Santa Fe in the San Ildefonso Pueblo, population 458. The village has a long legacy of women potters, whose innovative ceramics techniques and designs inspired traditional and modernist artists who traveled to New Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. San Ildefonso is known as the epicenter of Pueblo pottery for good reason, as discussed by our guest blogger Steve Elmore. Elmore’s extensive pottery collection appears in the show. 

From 1875-1925, the polychrome or multicolored pottery produced at San Ildefonso reached a distinguished peak in the creative history of Pueblo pottery in the Southwest. Indeed, the residents of this small Pueblo village on the Rio Grande, northwest of Santa Fe, are direct descendants of the prehistoric Pueblo peoples of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon, whose tradition of potting spans a thousand years of human history.

Juana Leno- Acoma Polychrome Olla circa 1965- Matthews Gallery BlogJuana Leno, Acoma Polychrome Olla, c. 1965

San Ildefonso remains a small village. In 1900 there were only 30 households and in 1910 eight women are noted in the census as potters. We are fortunate to the know the names of these early potters. At the turn of the century, the most established potters were the husband and wife team of Martina Vigil (1856-1916) and Florentino Monotoya (1858-1918). Martina’s excellent molding combined with Florentino’s skilled painting produced many exquisite jars, including many fine large storage jars. Most are polychromes. Born in the 1850s, they were certainly potting by the 1870s if not earlier, and their joint efforts became a model for the production of San Ildefonso polychromes: a family effort involving both partners.

Traditionally, San Ildefonso pottery was decorated with black designs over a gray slip on a bulbous rounded form. The use of red clay was confined to the rim and a narrow band around the base of the jar. With arrival of the Santa Fe Railway in the region, potters at San Ildefonso began introducing red clay into the painted design on the main body of the jars. What prompted this introduction of red is unknown, but most scholars suggest that the arrival of thousands of travelers from the Eastern United States on the new railroad sparked the change. The tourists were eager to purchase pottery, and the polychrome wares of Acoma Pueblo quickly led the market. Acoma pottery, with precise four-color drawings on thin symmetrical jars, set the standards for the tourist trade.

Acoma Polychrome Olla- Matthews Gallery BlogAcoma Polychrome Olla

Certainly the innovators of their time, Montoya and Vigil might have been the first at San Ildefonso to use red with the black design. Perhaps a trader suggested it directly or merely showed them the brightly colored Acoma pieces which were their competition. By the early 1880s, hundreds of polychrome jars were being produced annually by the skilled potters of San Ildefonso for the tourist and museum trade. In response to this demand, and for almost fifty years thereafter, the potters of San Ildefonso created well molded pots traditionally decorated in black and red, whose size and beauty have not been surpassed.

Most traditional San Ildefonso water jars were painted with a mix of black geometric and floral patterns. With the addition of red paint, the drawings themselves begin to develop into elaborate flowing motifs covering the entire jar. The addition of red heightens the intensity of the black design and seems to urge the painter on to larger, more complex drawing. Previously simple designs are repeated in a larger and more intricate manner.

Nampeyo- Black on Red Hopi Seed Jar, c. 1900- Matthews Gallery BlogNampeyo- Black on Red Hopi Seed Jar, c. 1900

Beginning in the 1880s, an amazing array of both realistic and abstract bird motifs are also introduced along with other pictorial elements. I suspect Nampeyo‘s Sikyatki Revival in Hopi pottery influenced this emphasis upon bird designs. Her seed jar form was clearly copied repeatedly by at least one San Ildefonso potter along with her curvilinear drawings. The shape of the San Ildefonso vessels also evolves, from bulbous jars with small necks to elegant tapered vases with small bases and flared out rims: the classic “Tunyo” form. For fifty years of San Ildefonso pottery making, we can study the steady growth and development of an art form as it crests into a peak!

As Pueblo pottery enjoyed increasing popularity with the American public, many distinguished potters took the polychromes to new heights of creativity and expression. Among these were Maria (1887-1980) and Julian Martinez (1879-1940), Maria’s sister Anna and her husband Crescencio, and Tonita and Juan Roybal. Montoya and Vigil were perfect role models for the younger Martinezes who built upon their success.

Maria and Julian Martinez- San Ildefonso Blackware Plate circa 1925- Matthews Gallery BlogMaria and Julian Martinez, San Ildefonso Blackware Plate, c. 1925

This florescence of polychrome production was brought to an abrupt halt by the Martinezes’ invention of painted blackware around 1920. As Ruth Bunzel, author of The Pueblo Potter, observes, the attraction of the blackware is the minimized painted matte designs which emphasize a dominant polished slip. This subtle, monochromatic aesthetic is the exact opposite of the polychromes where intricate black and red designs were sharply contrasted against the midtone grey sip. In time the blackware style won the marketing war and by 1925 Bunzel could no longer find a single piece of polychrome ware in the village.

It is perhaps ironic that the Martinezes, known best for their blackware, themselves began as polychrome potters and were among the greatest of them. Although most of their output became blackware, Maria and Julian continued to produce occasional polychrome masterpieces up until Julian’s death in 1943. One cannot help but wonder if the bold artistic tradition of the polychrome pottery didn’t occupy a special place in their hearts. Martinez family members and other San Ildefonso potters have continued to produce the polychromes in limited numbers, particularly Popovi Da, his son Tony Da, and today, of course, Cavan Gonzales and Russell Sanchez.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog, where we’ll explore the links between early Pueblo pottery designs and modernist aesthetic innovations. See all of the artwork from NEW LANDSCAPES, NEW VISTAS on our homepage, and connect with us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest for daily gallery news. 

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THE QUINTESSENTIAL MODERNIST

Randall Davey- Leaving the Paddock- Matthews Gallery Blog

We’re ending our SPRING OF MODERNISM blog series with the tale of a pioneering artist who was the model of a New Mexico modernist. Randall Davey (1887-1964) was born in East Orange, New Jersey. His father was an architect, and he enrolled at Cornell for architecture in 1905. Three years later he dropped out and moved to New York to study art, to the consternation of his father.

At the New York School of Art, Davey forged a close friendship with teacher and Ashcan School artist Robert Henri. Henri was friends with the founders of the Taos Society of Artists, and worked hard to cultivate New Mexico’s budding reputation as an arts destination. In 1910, Davey exhibited with George Bellows and Stuart Davis and in 1913 his artwork was in the New York Armory Show, the most influential modern art exhibition in U.S. history.

Portraits of Santa Fe Artist Randall Davey- Matthews Gallery Blog
Davey and artist John Sloan visited Santa Fe in the summer of 1919, and Davey fell in love with the Land of Enchantment. His art career in New York had stalled, and the Southwest adventure offered a fresh start. Davey bought an old mill on Upper Canyon Road and moved there permanently the next year. It was a path that had been calling him since his early days as an artist. Inspired by the metropolitan subject matter of the Impressionists, Davey developed a diverse oeuvre of still lifes, horse-racing and polo scenes, artistic nudes and landscapes.
Davey was a true Renaissance gentleman: he made paintings, prints and sculptures, played cello, built a polo field on Upper Canyon Road and was always dressed to the nines (even when he was painting in the hot sun).
Prints and a Drawing by Santa Fe Artist Randall Davey- Matthews Gallery Blog
The lifelong automobile enthusiast died in a car accident on a trip to California at 77 years old. After his death, his wife donated the Davey house and land to the Audubon Society. The Randall Davey House is still open for tours on Fridays, and stands as a tribute to an artist who helped make the Santa Fe art colony what it is today.
A Davey House docent visited the gallery for our SPRING OF MODERNISM opening, and kindly offered us a private tour. Keep your eye on the blog for photos from the tour and more information on Davey. Make sure to visit our exhibition before it closes on March 31st, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more gallery news.

MORANG AND FRIENDS: Alfred in Paris

Alfred Morang Portrait- Morang and Friends Exhibition- Matthews Gallery BlogAlfred Morang, 1952

“After Morang’s death, all of a sudden people started to realize that he was a great artist. People regretted that they didn’t pay enough attention to him,” Santa Fe art collector Paul Parker said at the end of our interview last week.

As Parker will tell you, Alfred Morang’s death in a Canyon Road fire in 1958 was the end of an era in Santa Fe. From his arrival in 1937, Morang had helped cultivate a vibrant art scene in the City Different. His house parties of the 1930’s and 40’s earned him a reputation as “one of Santa Fe’s… most colorful Bohemians,” as the Santa Fe New Mexican dubbed him in his obituary. Morang was a masterful painter who drew inspiration from the French Impressionists, and a talented teacher who passed his knowledge to the next generation of Santa Fe artists. He was a great writer, musician and radio broadcaster.

However, towards the end of Morang’s life, he and his wife Dorothy divorced and he became increasingly isolated. He spent most of his time fervently painting in his Canyon Road studio. Santa Fe artist Bill Tate had this recollection of a frigid winter in the 1950’s:

Oh my, it was cold! The snow was pouring down unmercifully and as I walked into Alfred’s tiny studio, I pushed paintings aside to make a path, then found them sliding in behind me as I penetrated the cache of completed canvases. It appeared that paintings were everywhere. There in the middle was Alfred, happily painting away, bundled up like a Siberian monk—galoshes, muffler, sweater, heavy top coat which came to his ankles, and a woman’s hat pulled snuggly down over his ears and neck.

The studio had a sky light, but where the glass was supposed to be, there was none. Alfred had hung an old muslin sheet over the opening to shut out the falling snow. Evidently Alfred had let the fire go out in the small space heater. Or maybe had forgotten to pay his gas bill. I don’t know. But it was awful. I had been there just a few minutes when the muslin partially ripped loose from the ceiling and began flopping in the wind. Snow dumped all over Alfred as well as the canvas.

Alfred never looked up, never stopped painting. His blue-cold hands kept mixing painting and dabbing it on the canvas. Occasionally, he would lean back to assess the effect, but throughout, he was totally oblivious to my presence… or the muslin that danced in the bitter breeze.

I attempted to speak, but only a chatter came out. I retreated to the warmth of my own studio. To the day he died, Alfred never knew I was there.

This somber image of an artist in the winter of his life is not how Parker likes to think of Morang. Soon after he first visited Santa Fe in the 1990’s Parker developed a fascination for the Santa Fe icon that has taken him on many adventures, including a national treasure hunt that inspired our latest exhibition. The artifacts Parker discovered will appear alongside artwork by Morang and his contemporaries in our December 12-26 exhibition MORANG AND FRIENDS, evoking an era full of crackling creativity. Morang stood at its warm heart.

In the story below, Parker captures the Santa Fe zeitgeist before and after Morang’s death, and travels to Paris to complete a mission in Morang’s memory:

 Alfred Morang- Santa Fe Hillside 1949- Matthews Gallery Blog Alfred Morang, Untitled (Santa Fe Hillside) 1949, Oil on Canvas

HUNTING FOR ALFRED MORANG

by Paul Parker

I had been thinking about this mission for a long time and I finally find myself in the library seated in front of this antique microfilm viewer the size of a small refrigerator and I have loaded the reel containing the early 1958 issues of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

I was not sure why I had this unremitting need to know more about Alfred Morang. I had first seen his work painted on the adobe walls across from the bar in El Farol on Canyon Road and in Maria’s on Cordova, but I know the real inspiration came from my good friend Jim Parsons in Taos. Jim was an art dealer and appraiser forever and a friend and mentor for 20 years. When he mentioned that Alfred Morang was one of his favorites I knew I needed to pay attention. It was like Willy Wonka telling me about one of his favorite chocolate bars.

It helps that Alfred was such a compelling man, so well versed in music and literature as well as painting. He was the youngest person ever to perform a solo violin concert in the prestigious Jordan Hall in Boston. He was also an accomplished writer. The London Times once called him one of America’s leading non-political short story writers. Erskine Caldwell was a friend of his and he often visited Alfred and his wife Dorothy in Santa Fe.  Alfred’s short stories and poems were published alongside Frost, Poe and Mark Twain. I do know the main reason I am so drawn to him is that his art touches me. Behind that art is Alfred’s story, his life experience and that is what drove him to create the art that Jim and I and many others enjoy so much.

Alfred Morang- Untitled Portrait of a Woman 1950- Matthews Gallery BlogAlfred Morang, Untitled (Portrait of a Woman) 1950, Oil on Board

There is a very sad part to his story and it is that part that drew me to the library. Alfred Morang died in a fire in his Canyon Road apartment studio on a cold January night at the age of 56. I had wanted to come here to the library and read the January 29, 1958 issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican for some time. I wanted to know the details, I wanted to read what people said, I wanted to know what page it was on and how big the article was. I was scrolling through the microfilm and as I started approaching the day he died I realized I was reading the papers that he probably read unaware he only had days to live.

The closer I got to the issue of the paper I had come to see the more time I took reading the articles and I even started reading the ads. I lingered the longest on Tuesday’s edition dated January 28, 1958. That was the last paper Alfred could have read.

There was an article on that day that I am sure must have caught Alfred’s eye and the headline read, “French Ballet loses Backing”. Alfred never made it to Paris, but his heart was there. His heroes were the French Impressionists and he considered himself to be one of them. Monet and Bonnard were his favorites. The article explained that the French Education Ministry had withdrawn the government subsidy for the production of Francoise Sagan’s ballet “The Broken Date”. The ministry’s action followed a storm of protest. Apparently one dance was performed in a bathroom setting designed by painter Bernard Buffet and was described by some critics as scandalously erotic. I would like to have gone to Paris with Alfred and attended that performance. A French ballet with a bathroom setting designed by Bernard Buffet coupled with scandalously erotic, I am sure we both would have enjoyed that.

That Tuesday the Lensic was showing “Pal Joey” starring Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. Kaune’s was having a sale featuring Pork Chops at 59 cents a pound and Swanson’s Pot Pies at four for a dollar with your choice of chicken, turkey or beef. Cherry Motor’s at 607 Cerrillos Road had an ad for the new Rambler American for $1789. The ad proclaimed that one had been driven from New York to Los Angeles using only 80 gallons of gas averaging over 30 mpg. I remembered that time. One week before this ad ran I had celebrated my 12th birthday and becoming a teenager was in sight. Unlike today I was looking forward to getting older and that was the time I began thinking about cars. Chevrolet had just introduced the 283 V-8 a year earlier in the now iconic 1957 Chevy. The fuel economy push left over from the war was fading fast and the Plymouth Hemi and the “Little GTO” were on the horizon. The economical 6 cylinder Rambler American never had a chance.

IMG_0474Alfred Morang, Pecan Grove, Oil on Panel

I read every bit of that Tuesday’s paper. It was as if I felt that Alfred would be okay as long as I did not turn the page, but I knew it was time to see what I had come to see. I took a last look at the classifieds and marveled at an ad for a 2-bedroom adobe with wall-to-wall carpet “close in” for $16,500 and then I hit the button and watched the microfilm reel turn slowly.

The first thing I saw positioned on the top left side of the front page of that Wednesday edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican was a large photograph of a cat crouching on the corner of a charred mattress. The rest of the bed was strewn with papers and tubes of paint. Underneath the right half of the photo was a caption “Mourning for Her Master…This lonely cat was found wandering through the charred ruins of the home of her master Alfred Morang who died in the fire early this morning. The cat is on the bed where he died.” Morang’s friends had commented on his love of cats and noted that he often went hungry himself so he could afford to feed them. Two other cats perished in the fire with him. Unfortunately I discovered that the cat on the mattress in the picture had to be put down because it had extensive lung damage. There was also a picture of Alfred. A cigarette in a holder was hanging from the corner of his mouth dangling over his scraggly beard and he was wearing a black hat with a brim that was tilted slightly to the left making him look decidedly like an artist and decidedly French. The story next to the photo read “Well Known Artist Dies In Home Fire… Alfred Morang, 56, one of Santa Fe’s best known and most colorful Bohemians died at about 1:30 am last night in a tragic fire at his home in the 600 block of Canyon Road.”  Friends reported they had last seen Alfred in Claude’s bar around midnight. His apartment was just up the alley out back.

Five days after the fire the New Mexican noted…“Funeral services were held Saturday at the Fairview Memorial Park Crematorium in Albuquerque for Alfred Morang, widely known Santa Fe artist, writer and critic who was burned to death early Wednesday morning in a fire at his home here. The body was escorted to Albuquerque by a group of close friends, including Randall Davey, Will Shuster, Harlan Lizer, Walter Dawley and William Currie. Alfred was transported in a Spanish Colonial coffin made by Abolonio Rodriguez, custodian of the art museum.”

IMG_0505Alfred Morang, Guadalupe Plaza 1947, Oil on Board

Alfred was born in Ellsworth, Maine in 1901 and came to Santa Fe in 1937. Like many who came here he suffered from TB. He immediately became a fixture in the Santa Fe art scene. He wrote a weekly column for the newspaper and he produced a weekly radio program for 17 years on KVSF called “The World of Art with Alfred Morang.” Most of all he was famous for his enthusiasm for art and his ability to teach and many benefited from “The Morang School of Fine Art”.

Walt Wiggins authored a book published in 1979 appropriately titled “Alfred Morang…A Neglected Master”. Walt uncovered several quotes during his research for his book and my favorites include the following.  “When Alfred Morang’s life came to a tragic end in January of 1958 nothing before or since has so shaken the New Mexico art colony. 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 Fe artist reasoned, “Why shouldn’t Santa Fe be stunned with the loss of Alfred?  After all, he taught half of us how to paint and the other half how to see.”

The February 10th 1958 issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican carried the report of the local memorial service for Alfred in Lorraine Carr’s column “It Happened in Old Santa Fe”. Dr. Reginald Fisher, director of the Art Museum spoke first. “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. Last week his restless spirit found peace.”

Painter and close friend Randall Davey was next. “I have known Alfred since he arrived back in 1937. He was a kind, a gentle and a humble soul and in all those years I never heard him speak unkindly of his fellow man. He was a great painter; many of you did not think so, because often he sold his work for a mere pittance through necessity. Nevertheless it was great art and the happiest work I have seen in New Mexico. He had a love and a delight for painting and I doubt that anyone will surpass him in this field.”

IMG_0495Alfred Morang, Untitled (Mountain Landscape), Oil on Board

I hope Alfred enjoyed himself on that Tuesday. I hope he spent some time with friends and some extra time petting his cats. I hope he wrote another poem and put the final touches on his most recent favorite painting before he headed down the alley to Claude’s that evening.

Claude James ran the well-known Canyon Road bar where he often spent time and, as legend has it, her rowdy spirit was just what was needed to run that place. I would love to have met Alfred there that fateful night for a few drinks. I’m sure we would have talked through the evening about art and life as we cast occasional glances at the ever present ladies that were often the subject of his paintings and when Claude said “It’s midnight, would you fellows like another one?”  I would nod and say, how about a couple of shots of your best cognac. I would love to take a sip, lean back and turn to him and say “Alfred I know you often say that you don’t believe in art for art’s sake, but you believe in art for people’s sake. Can you explain to me what you mean by that, and please…take your time?”

A few weeks after I finished writing this story I found myself engrossed in the details of planning a trip to Paris. I was not sure why, but suddenly it came flooding over me with incredible clarity. Human life really is very fragile and it really is all going to come to an end someday and we do not know when. I knew then I needed to go to Paris and I needed to go now. Unfortunately most people have that epiphany too late in life. They start thinking about the things they never got to do after it’s too late to do them. I knew then that this sudden obsession with Paris was a message from Alfred. Paris was his promised land, but he never made it there and I was going to go for both of us.

I told a friend in Santa Fe this story and he said, “You should do something for Alfred in Paris.” It was a great idea, but what would I do? I had been in Paris 5 days when I suddenly knew. I found an image of a Morang painting on my laptop. I printed it and wrote a bit on the back about Alfred and headed off to the Musee d’Orsay. This time as I enjoyed the paintings I was also searching for a repository for Alfred’s work and I finally found it. I can tell you that a fine example of the genius of Alfred Morang now has a home in Musee d’Orsay on the banks of the Seine and it will take a jackhammer to find it. He is close to Monet and Bonnard, the masters he so admired. Alfred, you finally made it.

Source: Bill Tate’s tale first appeared in the 1979 book Alfred Morang: A Neglected Master by Walt Wiggins.

FOUR CENTURIES: Monnoyer’s Mark

Still life attributed to Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery blog

We discovered this still life at the preview of a Santa Fe estate sale. It was tucked in a dark upstairs corner of the house, far from the Picasso print and treasure trove of art books on prominent display in the living room. Lawrence lingered for a while to take in the flamboyant bouquet with its rich rosy tones. There was an excited glint in his eye.

A few months later, the painting has found a home under the glowing lights of our European art room. We know a lot more about it now than when it first caught Lawrence’s fancy. It’s attributed to Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699), a 17th century Franco-Flemish painter who wielded his brush for Louis XIV. Its siblings hang in some of France and England’s most famous estates.

Our adobe art abode is a very different venue, but this 300-year-old artwork gives us the opportunity to transport gallery visitors across the sea and through the ages. Look below to chase Monnoyer through the palaces where he left his mark, and don’t miss the painting’s debut at our opening for FOUR CENTURIES: European Art from 1600 to 1950 on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 pm.

Hôtel Lambert- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

Our first stop is the Hotel Lambert on the Ile Saint-Louis, site of Monnoyer’s first Parisian commission in 1650. The artist grew up in Lille, France and trained in Antwerp, but it was the lavish estates in and around Paris that claimed his considerable interior decorating talents. Monnoyer’s floral designs in the grand mansion would delight its many owners and guests for centuries to come, from a famous Polish political salon to Voltaire, Chopin, Balzac, Delacroix and Dali. Unfortunately, the Hotel Lambert was badly damaged in a 2013 fire and is under renovation.

Chateau de Marly- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer-  Matthews Gallery Blog

 

Artist Charles Le Brun, who painted a series of renowned ceiling frescoes at the Hotel Lambert, brought Monnoyer along for a commission at Louis XIV’s Chateau de Marly. The (relatively) small country estate was the king’s escape from the more rigid world of Versailles, and aristocrats fiercely battled for a chance to stay there. Alas, the twelve pavilions that flanked the water and their intricately adorned interiors are long gone, but the commission launched Monnoyer into a new stratosphere.

Palace of Versailles- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

Monnoyer worked with Le Brun once again on the ornamentation of the Palace of Versailles. For this and other high profile royal projects, he developed a style that was far removed from his training in the subdued still life painting techniques of the Low Countries. The bold, ornamental approach is in full force in our still life, recalling the spectacular garlands of flowers he painted on the ceiling of the Queen’s pavilion at the Chateau de Vincennes. Monnoyer also made reference sketches and etchings for French tapestry workshops, greatly influencing European decorative styles for years to come.

Boughton House- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

A commission from the Montagu House in London drew Monnoyer away from Paris in 1690. He adorned dozens of panels with fruits and vegetables and painted several portraits, some of which now reside in the state rooms of Northamptonshire’s Boughton House. The artist remained in England until his death in 1699, but his distinctly French style lived on in the artwork of two of his sons.

Make sure to attend the opening of our FOUR CENTURIES exhibition on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 pm, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for daily gallery news.

NOT A POP ARTIST: Five Sides of Jim Dine

Jim Dine Rainbow- Matthews Gallery Blog

 

78-year-old artist Jim Dine has earned his place in any good post-war art history textbook. Picking exactly when to spotlight the artist must be a difficult task for scholars. The painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, stage designer and performance artist has a way of diverging from the status quo and ending up at the forefront of new art movements. Just when things get established, he’s off on his own again.

A mixed media drawing  by Dine recently found its way to Matthews Gallery, so we took the opportunity to explore 5 manifestations of the chameleonic artist:

Fluxus Performer

Dine grew up in Cincinatti and got his BFA from Ohio University. When he arrived in New York in 1958, the art world was fixated on a type of work you couldn’t sell in a gallery. Some critics called them “wacky nightmares“, others described them as “a three-ringed circus with undertones of group therapy“, but Dine and his friends Claes Oldenberg, Allan Kaprow and John Cage dubbed their performance art pieces “Happenings”.

Happenings were designed to be as ephemeral and unpredictable as day-to-day life—but a little weirder. Battles between ballerinas and roller-skaters, reenactments of the Lincoln assassination, bikini stripteases and blue ice cream feasts were all passionately performed, often in rapid sequence. Whether you call it though-provoking or senseless, the Fluxus movement was one-of-a-kind. For Dine, all the world was a stage until…

Pop Progenitor

Jim Dine- Robe Diptych- Matthews Gallery Blog

 

Jim Dine, Red and Black Diptych Robe, 1980

In 1962, Dine’s paintings appeared alongside work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and others in the Pasadena Art Museum’s show New Painting of Common Objects. Curated by Walter Hopps of Ferus Gallery (site of Warhol’s first solo show), the exhibition was a seminal moment for a new movement: Pop Art.

Dine’s inclusion in the exhibition made perfect sense at the time. He was experimenting with serial imagery of familiar objects and symbols like bathrobes, hearts and tools. However, the artist’s expressive style and often tender subject matter clashed with the postmodern angst of other Pop progenitors. Soon enough, he was plotting his escape…

Modernist

Jim Dine- Paris- Matthews Gallery Blog

Jim Dine, Paris Smiles in Darkness, 1976

Dine moved to London in 1967, a strange decision considering his controversial history with the United Kingdom. A year before his solo exhibition at London’s Fraser Gallery was raided by police and the owner was fined for showing “indecent” images.

The artist defiantly continued to his relationship with Fraser and used his time in Europe to study the work of Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and other modernists. In 1971 he returned to the United States, ready to chart a new course…

Neo-Expressionist

Jim Dine- A Lady Sitting Drawing- Matthews Gallery Blog

 Jim Dine, A Lady Sitting, Mixed Media, 1975

Minimalism was en vogue when Dine arrived in New York, but the artist wasn’t interested. Instead he focused on figure drawing, refining his skills in various mediums and earning a reputation as a master draftsman. The mixed media drawing in our collection is from this period. A stunningly realistic face painted in oil is framed by confident charcoal marks and a glowing crayon color field.

In the years to come Dine’s figurative work would mark him as a founder of Neo-Expressionism, but critics could never assign the artist a particular label for long…

Modern Individualist

2008_JimDine_23220011

Installation shot, Jim Dine: Poet Singing (The Flowering Sheets)

 Perhaps Dine’s artistic identity is best summed up by MoMA:

This commitment to a personally invested, image-dictated content and a continuing interest in the technical and expressive potential of every medium has characterized Dine’s work as a whole. Thus, Dine has often been out-of-step with the major movements of the post-World War II period and must be considered a modern individualist.

It’s a bit of a non-title, but Dine defies labels at every turn. The almost-octogenarian is still working his way into new chapters of art history.

Check out our website for more on Jim Dine, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr for to-the-minute gallery news.

From MoMA to Matthews: Gauguin’s Metamorphoses

Paul Gauguin - Mahana No Atua - Matthews Gallery Blog

Paul Gauguin, The Day of God (Mahana No Atua), woodcut

There’s no record of what Paul Gauguin’s last lover Marie-Rose Vaeoho thought of him, but their courtship must have been rough. By the time Gauguin reached the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa in 1901, he had eczema, syphilis, malaria, tooth rot, a heart condition and a very bad liver. Local teen Marie-Rose gave birth to his daughter in September of 1902, and he died on May 8, 1903. Gauguin’s body was already rotting in the tropical heat during the burial.

This distasteful finale is an ill-fitting epilogue to Noa Noa, Gauguin’s fanciful (and mostly false) account of his early travels in Polynesia. The artist’s twilight years may have been ruled by destruction and decay, but he clung to themes of rebirth, transformation, divinity and utopia in his art and writing. The New York MoMA’s new exhibition Gauguin: Metamorphoses centers on woodblock prints and other works on paper that he produced between 1889 and the time of his death. At Matthews Gallery we have two Gauguin woodblock prints from the same period that he made to accompany his Noa Noa memoir.

From MoMA:

 These remarkable works on paper reflect Gauguin’s experiments with a range of mediums, [including] radically “primitive” woodcuts that extend from the sculptural gouging of his carved wood reliefs […]. Gauguin’s creative process often involved repeating and recombining key motifs from one image to another, allowing them to evolve and metamorphose over time and across mediums.

For Gauguin, the printmaking process was a natural extension of this mercurial philosophy. It allowed him to mirror and tweak imagery between prints and even in different runs of the same print.

 In New York, you can see several versions of Gauguin’s Noa Noa woodblock prints. In Santa Fe, come track the evolution of the series through two of our works. Here’s a peek—

Paul Gauguin- Mahana No Atua- Woodblock print and painting- Matthews Gallery Blog

The Day of God (Mahana No Atua), our woodblock print and the painting

Our woodblock print and its oil counterpart were created around the same time and are close mirror images of each other. Both show three women on a shore with a Polynesian sculpture (based on carved Buddhist reliefs from Java) rising above them. In the painting, our eyes are drawn to the bright colors and wild abstract forms of the water. In the print, the women and the statue stand out as bold graphic elements, highlighting the symmetry of the composition.

Gauguin’s decision to reverse the composition from one work to the other brings up some interesting interpretive questions. The three women in the foreground may represent birth, life and death. If their positions can be so easily flipped, perhaps life’s course isn’t so linear either. Viewed together, the works form a loop that reflect Buddhist beliefs concerning rebirth.

Paul Gauguin- LUnivers Est Cree- 5 Versions- Matthews Gallery Blog

Five versions of Paul Gauguin’s L’Univers Est Cree, including ours (center)

We’ve written about our version of L’Univers Est Cree on the blog before, but Gauguin, his son Pola and artist Louis Roy made several print runs from the block. Some are crisply defined and others are murky with only a few details clearly in view. Some incorporate bright reds and yellows, while others are starkly monochrome.

When Gauguin presented his Noa Noa prints in a private studio show in Paris in 1894, he hung several versions of each print. The decision seems like the artist’s acknowledgment of his futile struggle to embrace a paradaisical version of his island experiences. As scholar Alaistar Wright puts it, the repeated, ever-changing images “allowed him to reflect on the impossibility of having any authentic experience in his dreamed-of Polynesian idyll.”

Visit us at Matthews Gallery to see Paul Gauguin’s incredible woodblock prints. To learn more, read our blog post about “L’Univers Est Cree” and listen to Lawrence’s accompanying podcast.  For daily gallery news, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

MEMORY IN BLUE: Jan van Leeuwen

Jan van Leeuwen- Barbed Wire Number 1- Matthews Gallery Blog

Jan van Leeuwen, Barbed Wire No. 1 (Cyanotype), Matthews Gallery

What color is memory? Is the human soul tinted by life’s great joys and sorrows?

Jan van Leeuwen‘s darkest recollections are a deep blue tide. His self-portraits take shape much like memories do. It’s a long process with details fading in and out of focus, projecting visions of the self that never feel quite complete. It took a lifetime for the photographer to discover his medium, but when he did the images came spilling out.

Jan van Leeuwen- Cyanotype Portraits- Matthews Gallery Blog

Leeuwen was born in Amsterdam in 1932. In 1940, when the artist was 8 years old, the Dutch surrendered to the Nazis and Leeuwen watched as his community fell apart. Jewish neighbors and schoolmates fled or were taken. Over the course of the four-year occupation, the young boy’s confusion turned to anger, frustration and guilt.

Leeuwen’s first career was as a kitchen wares distributor, and he learned how to work a camera by photographing the products. He took his first serious stab at the medium in 1986 when he was in his 50’s, mostly so he’d have something to do when he retired.

Jan Van Leeuwen- Cyanotype Portraits- Matthews Gallery Blog

Drawing inspiration from the innovative spirit of the Dutch Renaissance masters, Leeuwen developed his own method of producing photographs. He uses a 100-year-old wood camera to capture an image on resin-coated paper, creates a negative and then makes a contact print using a UV-B lightbox.

The process of capturing and transferring the images echoes the artist’s struggles with the trauma he experienced in his youth and the impact it has had on his identity. For the cyanotype in our collection, the artist used a long exposure to fracture himself into eight meshed figures. The only thing starker than their furrowed brows is the strand of barbed wire that stands in their way.

Jan Van Leeuwen- Cyanotype Portraits- Matthews Gallery Blog

Leeuwen created Barbed Wire No. 1 in 1993. A year later he quit his job to pursue photography full-time. Since then he’s had a stellar contemporary art career, with shows across the world and artwork in The Photo Review, Art in America and many other publications.

The artist’s success hasn’t dampened the intimacy of his self-portraits, or lightened the burden of his memories. However, Leeuwen reminds us that sadness is accompanied by beauty, and creation always surmounts the pain of destruction.

Learn more about Jan van Leeuwen’s art and life on the Matthews Gallery homepage, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more gallery news.