Sights to behold: Virtual exhibit looks at works from the collection of UNM's art museum - Albuquerque Journal

Sights to behold: Virtual exhibit looks at works from the collection of UNM’s art museum

“Hindsight/Insight” offers virtual visitors a taste of the University of New Mexico Art Museum with works ranging from Bruce Conner’s Funk Art to the sublime modernism of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) “White Flowers,” 1926, oil on canvas, 32 x 12 inches. (Courtesy of the University of New Mexico Art Museum)

Online and ongoing at artmuseum.unm.edu, the self-guided virtual exhibition includes more than 50 works. The show emphasizes international art movements of the 1960s and ’70s, including Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual Art and California Funk. That section features artwork by Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Bridget Riley, Robert Ryman and De Wain Valentine.

In a nod to New Mexico, it also includes modernist works by Rebecca Salsbury James, Raymond Jonson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Florence Miller Pierce and Horace Towner Pierce. The exhibition also includes video commentary from the museum staff.

“Untitled,” circa 1957-1961, Bruce Conner (American, 1933 -2008), acrylic paint and applied found objects on canvas 72 x 54 x 2 inches. (Courtesy of The University Of New Mexico Art Museum)

Valentine’s 72-by-72 inch “Circle Blue Rose Flow” resin sculpture (1970) is the first piece to greet visitors. Both heavy and fragile, it normally lives in its own custom crate, draped in quilts to protect the edges.

“It’s got these beautiful subtle shifts of color,” curator Mary Statzer said.

For Valentine, a smooth surface was the whole point of the work and he did not want it to look old

The artist was part of the Los Angeles-based Finish Fetish art group. Including Judy Chicago, it featured a collection of minimalist artists who used highly finished polished surfaces.

“The Moon Cast a Shadow on a Midsummer Night,” 1962, Joan Brown (American, 1938-1990), oil on canvas, 73 x 72 inches. (Courtesy of The University Of New Mexico Art Museum)

Transcendentalist Painting Group founder Jonson’s “Variations on a Rhythm — T,” 1933, inspired a musical composition by University of New Mexico graduate Lauren Coons. An icon allows visitors to hear the piece. Incubated in Taos in 1938, the TPG formed to explore a heightened vision of the American landscape, employing free-wheeling surrealist imagery to depict a transfigured, spiritually alive America.

“Hidden Squares,” 1961, Bridget Riley (English, b. 1931), emulsion on board, 36¼ x 36¼ inches. ()

British artist Bridget Riley’s “Hidden Squares,” 1961, showcases the dizzying work of one of the founders of Op Art. Although her black and white circles and squares appear as crisp geometric perfection, the emulsion on board includes some imperfections, Statzer said.

“When you get up on it, you can see pencil lines where she gridded it out. There’s knots in the wood that she painted out.”

The piece was a gift from Clovis postman Vernon Nikkel, who bought works from then-emerging artists, Statzer added.

“Divorcee’s Apartment in Adam’s Point,” 1971, Jack Mendenhall (American, b. 1937), oil on canvas, 68 x 81 inches.

Funk Art painter Bruce Conner swept the streets of San Francisco for found objects to embed in his assemblages. Bay Area artists formed the movement as a reaction against the nonobjectivity of Abstract Expressionism.

“It was an irreverent group who didn’t follow the rules,” Statzer said. “It was a counterculture movement inspired by the Beats of the late ’50s-’60s.

Scratches, brush hairs and even costume jewelry emerge from foothills of paint in Conner’s “Untitled,” circa 1957-1961.

“Variations on a Rhythm — T,” 1933, Raymond Jonson (American, 1891-1982), oil on canvas, 38 x 33 inches. (Courtesy of University of New Mexico Art Museuam)

As for the New Mexico modernists, Pelton was a visionary symbolist who depicted the spiritual reality she experienced in moments of meditative stillness. Now on view in her first retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, Pelton first came to visit Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Taos home in 1919. The UNM exhibition features Pelton’s “The Voice” from 1930.

“We are lucky enough to have three or four” (of her paintings) in our collection, Statzer said. “They came from the Raymond Jonson Collection.”

“O’Keeffe’s “White Flowers,” 1926, came from her estate.

“The UNM Art Museum exhibited her work in the 1960s,” Statzer said. “It was the first major exhibition of her work in New Mexico.”

The virtual show will stream indefinitely, Statzer explained.

“There are gems in every section of this show,” she said. “We’re hoping to open fully in the fall, COVID permitting.”

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