ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The arts of Albuquerque have rapidly grown and matured during the 21 years I’ve been covering the visual arts of New Mexico, and 2014 has been no exception in the city’s steady rise as an arts destination. In fact, 2014 was a heads-up, razzle-dazzle year for both institutional and independent art spaces.
The venerable Albuquerque Museum of Art and History installed several breathtaking shows this year with two notable blockbusters. In classic contemporary post-modernist style “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Tom Golden Collection” dropped the life’s work of two avant-garde international superstars into our midst.
But, never satisfied, the Albuquerque Museum decided to end its already banner year with a gob-smacking peddle-to-the-metal utterly retro “Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris.”
It’s a stunning 206-piece look back at 300-plus years of academic art training from the heart of European art traditions. It’s not too late to see that one.
Two other city-owned art venues stepped into the fray with the South Broadway Cultural Center’s unveiling of “Sanctuary: A Personal Journey” curated by Augustine Romero and Fernando Delgado. The beautiful show featured work by Patrick Nagatani, Holly Roberts, Joan Fenicle, Marie Maher and Delgado.
Romero, who also is the curator at the city-owned KiMo Theatre, installed “Enigmatic,” a jaw-dropping three-artist extravaganza featuring Russell Adams, Reg Loving and Hunter Shioshita.
The Harwood Art Center featured two exciting shows with works by Rachel Zollinger, Michael Hudock, Orlando Leyba and Kevin Tolman. Zollinger championed minimalism while the fellows revealed the vibrant life that still exists in abstract expressionism.
The recently revitalized New Mexico Art League Galleries hosted two wonderful exhibits, “The Art of the Flower” with 200 works by area artists, and “Two Artists, Two Visions” by J. Waid Griffin and Robert Kuester, who are both figurative and landscape artists.
Some people celebrate life by dancing in the moonlight or singing in the rain, Albuquerque painter Angus Macpherson truly showed his chops in his “Landscapes and Skies” show at Sumner and Dene. The Downtown gallery also exhibited “New Year New Work” featuring contemporary landscapes by Reg Loving.
Other great landscape shows ranged from “My Heart is in the Trees: Works on Paper by Denise Weaver Ross,” a colored-pencil knockout at the Tortuga Gallery; “Guiding Light: Photographs by Craig Varjabedian” at 1629 Casa Rondeña Winery; “Oil Paintings and Watercolor Landscapes” by Dr. Ralph C. Williams at the Jonathan Abrams M.D. Art Gallery; and “On the Road 2014” by perennially excellent landscape painter David Schwindt at Framing Concepts.
The cultural landscape and famous people played a role at the Mariposa Gallery in “And the Big Storm Began” by Greg Tucker and “In Good Company” by Jean Sloane, two shows that explored the impact of mental disorders on the creative mind.
The abstract energies in the living landscape were divined at the Page Coleman Gallery by sculptor Maria Ross in “Natural Process” featuring elegant woven wire works and “Abstraks,” mixed-media digital works by Anne Farrell.
Exhibit 208 featured “Lucy Maki: ARTSLANT 2014,” a major solo exhibition by one of the city’s most talented artists. On a sad note, Exhibit 208 co-founder, curator and participating landscape artist Russell Hamilton died this year. Hamilton was a good friend with an undaunted creative spirit who is being missed by everyone who knew him.
His work is featured at the gallery, which will continue operation under the direction of artist Kim Arthun.
The Freestyle Gallery featured works by award-winning graphics and film designer Roger Green that explored the palimpsest process with a series of abstract paintings offering luscious reworked surfaces and beautiful colors.
The Richard Levy Gallery hosted “Archi-Props” by Ed Ruscha and “National City” by John Baldessari, who are both internationally recognized contemporary artists. This gallery has been exhibiting high quality contemporary works for two decades and deserves mucho kudos.
Internationally renowned textile artists Nancy Kozikowski and Susan Klebanoff showed at DSG Fine Art with weavings, collage and drawings that crossed cultural boundaries within the universal language of visual art.
Matrix Fine Art and the New Grounds Print Gallery had a series of solid shows including my favorite “Focal Point” by Sarah Hartshorne and Susan Reid. Hartshorne began as a musician before painting botanicals while Reid fell under the spell of Australian Aboriginal art while visiting down under.
Architectonics were examined by Frederick Pichon at Palette Contemporary Art and Craft in his beautifully executed “Stretching Savoye” paintings show that reexamined the iconic “Villa Savoye” designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in 1928.
Finally we come to “Sway, Shift, Version 4.0” by Shola Cole, Debbie Hesse and Rashmi Talpade at SCA Contemporary. The multimedia installation was poignant, positive and masterfully done. Owner Sheri Crider is a pioneer gallerist who is building a brand-new gallery and studio space closer to Downtown that will open in 2015.
This coming year already promises to really put Albuquerque back on the art destination map with a multivenue series of exhibitions dedicated to the art and history of Albuquerque. While we reflect on our past and present, next year the world will be noticing how great a city Albuquerque has become.