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Uncommon vision: Museum publication looks beyond its own collection to explore the diversity of NM art

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Museum’s 50th anniversary was in 2017, yet the museum is still celebrating. This year’s celebratory event takes the form of the publication of the book “Albuquerque Museum Art Collection: Common Ground.” It’s the fourth and final title in a series published over several years about the institution’s collections.

“Dreams Unreal” by Titus O’Brien

Museum Director Andrew Connors said one thing that Josie Lopez, the museum’s curator of art, wanted to do with the “Common Ground” volume was to highlight not only notable New Mexico artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Luis Jiménez and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and many others, but also artists from out of state whose work is in the collection. Connors, Lopez and Lacey Chrisco, the assistant curator of art, are the co-authors of “Common Ground.”

Albuquerque Museum director Andrew Connors.

“The book allows us to tell a more complete story about the art collection (than the current exhibit of the same name). And quite frankly, it allows us to tell a New Mexico art history from a more diverse vantage point than any museum anywhere has discussed it,” Connors said. “That’s because our collection represents not just the ‘three cultures’ (Hispanic, Native American and Anglo), the stereotype of New Mexico, but (it’s) much more broad than that.”

Art within the “three cultures” concept is itself diverse and includes Hispanic folk art, Native American jewelry and ceramics, and paintings by late 19th and early 20th century Anglo painters in Taos and Santa Fe. Still, “three cultures” leaves out a far broader diversity of artists, some quite famous, who don’t fit into that concept, Connors said.

Among those are a series of serigraphs on paper (“Mao”) by Andy Warhol, named for Chinese leader Mao Zedong; a lithograph by Marc Chagall; an etching-and-drypoint by famed Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco; an etching by German artist Käthe Kollwitz; and a colored woodcut on paper by Utagawa Hiroshige, a 19th-century Japanese printmaker.

A comparatively obscure artist in “Common Ground” is Bonnie MacLean. In the book is a psychedelic rock poster MacLean created for triple concerts by Eric Burdon, Mother Earth and Hour Glass at the Fillmore Auditorium in October 1967. The same poster image is one of a dozen by MacLean in the more recently published book “Dreams Unreal: The Genesis of the Psychedelic Rock Poster.”

In the late ’60s, MacLean’s started making illustrations for poster images promoting rock concerts in counterculture San Francisco. “Though many of her posters owe an obvious debt to (fellow poster artist Wes) Wilson,” writes Titus O’Brien, the book’s author, “it was no mean feat to propel his pioneering style in new directions while meanwhile developing her own.”

MacLean was the only woman who consistently designed major work in that poster art milieu, he wrote. MacLean and Wilson died earlier this year.

In the foreword of “Dreams Unreal,” Scott B. Montgomery writes that, “…(rock) poster artists pushed themselves and inspired one another to outdo themselves in an explosive artist environment.”

The “Dreams Unreal” posters are now in the museum’s art collection, thanks to a donation by Dr. James Gunn, of Truth or Consequences. Connors said the museum is fortunate that Gunn realized his accumulation of the posters over years resulted in a fairly representative survey from the era of the late 1960s and early ’70s.

“Exhibitions come and go,” Connors commented. “It’s the books that remain on our shelves we can reference and are inspired by.”

The University of New Mexico Press published “Dreams Unreal” and the Museum of New Mexico Press published “Common Ground.”