An exhibition of more than 50 established and up-and-coming New Mexico artists opens next Sunday at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M.
“This exhibition demonstrates once again that New Mexico has a community of sophisticated artists of national importance,” said James Mann, who curated the “First Invitational New Mexico Painters Exhibition” at Highlands. “These artists are at the forefront of the remaking of visual art.
“The state’s spectacular natural environment provides inspiring energy for these artists’ unique work. Both New Mexico culture and global concerns are well represented. It’s an ambitious exhibition,” said Mann, who curated more than 50 exhibitions from 1996-2005 for the Las Vegas Art Museum in Nevada. “There’s an enormous variety of subject matter, ranging from portraiture and still life to landscape and mythology.”
Robert Bell, a Santa Fe art collector, patron, author and publisher, spearheaded the exhibition along with Eli Levin, a renowned Santa Fe social realism painter, printmaker and author.
“This is the first time such a large and coherent selection of like-minded figurative painters have exhibited together in New Mexico,” Levin said.
“Since I’ve lived in Santa Fe, I’ve wanted to show that there’s a dedicated, accomplished group of artists here who share common experiences and feelings about New Mexico. While many are well known, others are underrepresented in the public eye. It’s very exciting that Highlands wants to exhibit this significant art.”
Levin founded the still thriving Santa Fe Etching Club for printmakers.
In 1969, he established the longest-running drawing group in Santa Fe.
Bell said he hopes the exhibition will become an annual event.
“We have absolutely fantastic figurative artists in New Mexico,” he said. “Santa Fe has one of the most active printmaking communities in the country, in large part due to Eli. Most of the painters in this show are also printmakers.”
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Santa Fe artist Jack Sinclair, an acclaimed social realism painter and printmaker, who died in 2013.
“Jack was a very focused and observant artist with old-fashioned American integrity who painted common people,” Levin said. “He was a union worker himself and a master carpenter. We were concerned with the same social injustice issues. He was the most decent, dependable friend I ever had.”
Levin said some of the best-known and established artists featured in the exhibition include Jerry West, Geoffrey Laurence, Sara Novenson, Monika Steinhoff, William Gonzales, Anthony Ryder, Sarah McCarty, Nacho Jaramillo, Joel Greene, Thayer Carter and Janet Stein-Romero.
The exhibition also features promising up-and-coming younger artists such as Sarah Freeman, Trevor Lucero, Abby Mattison, Paul Steiner, Jesus Salas, Celeste Ryder, Alexis Palmaffy, Leslie Harris, Isaac Sandoval and Shawna Wangseng.
The Highlands University Foundation collaborated with Bell and Levin to produce the exhibition.
In 2013, Bell and Levin joined forces to establish the Dr. Robert Bell Permanent Art Collection at Highlands, with gifts of 200 and 100 paintings respectively.