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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Sumner and Dene gallery is hosting “Frank McCulloch: New Mexico Landscapes,” featuring 23 paintings, as part of a celebration of McCulloch’s coming 88th birthday. The solo exhibition runs through June 30.

“Early Morning Gorge” by Frank McCulloch is an abstract homage to his minimalist series executed during an artist residency at the Roswell Art Center during the 1970s.

Some football players are lauded for their ability to produce all-purpose yards on the field of play. McCulloch is a musician, painter, studio art teacher and raconteur who holds a master’s degree in biology and taught science courses at Princeton University. McCulloch has been producing all-purpose cultural yardage in the field of art for his entire adult life.

Along with McCulloch’s 23 recent paintings, the exhibition includes a three-album collection of his music CDs.

McCulloch’s long studio career took him across a spectrum of styles, subjects and general approaches to making marks on canvas. During the 1970s, McCulloch created a series of beautifully executed large format minimalist abstractions while completing an artist residency at the Roswell Fine Arts Center. Those paintings became an influential foundation for McCulloch’s subsequent landscape renderings.

In his luscious “Paisaje Naranjo” – orange scenery or landscape – McCulloch pulls out his best abstract chops to create an absolutely breathtaking sunset.

Once again McCulloch selects lines from his abstract magnum opus to manifest “Evening,” a jaw-dropping pictorial with a snippet of bosque and a clouded sky teeming with purples, pinks and blues that are scrumptious enough to eat right off the canvas.

In “Horizon Trees” McCulloch gets more real with two winter-stripped aspens on a hillside casting pale shadows toward a distant lavender mountain range. Many of McCulloch’s recent paintings share a lovely soft focus that provides a sense of space and atmosphere.

There once was a professional wrestler named Gorgeous George who sported blond tresses and sequins as he performed televised theatrics. McCulloch has rendered a gorgeous gorge replete with abstract theatrics in “Early Morning Gorge,” another homage to the Roswell series.

Thankfully “Early Morning Gorge” doesn’t need embellish-ments to reveal its razzmatazz nor does it require a rehearsal to takedown the viewer. All on its own, McCulloch’s view of the Taos Gorge pins the observer to the floor with the weight of its butterfly wing beautiful palette and extraordinary composition.

McCulloch’s “Autumn at Taos” is resplendent with russet foreground foliage sprinkled with sage-green brush and Naples yellow linier zig-zag rows of botanicals drawing the eye toward a slate-gray mountain range. This image and others form an immortal chapter in the Southwestern saga that is continually being written.

Many years ago, when I lived in the Manzanos, I visited one of McCulloch’s shows at the DSG Gallery. On the way home, I noticed how closely his paintings depict the high, dry nature in which we find ourselves. It is one thing to painstakingly copy landscape photographs. It is quite another to impart the sight, sound and smell of sage-covered hills, bubbling streams and the slow-rolling Rio Grande.

McCulloch is a master magician who can soften the hardened heart, open the jaundiced eye and offer the viewer a renewed excitement about being alive.

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