Published: May 1, 2012
“It’s About Time: 14,000 Years of Art in New Mexico” celebrates the centennial of statehood by presenting a social history of the art in the Southwest. This exhibition opens May 11 at the New Mexico Museum of Art and runs through January 2014 and is an official New Mexico Centennial project.
New Mexicans have always made art †aestheticized objects that reflect its citizens’ world views. From beautifully made, 14,000-year-old Paleo Indian tools to contemporary imagery, New Mexico art has reflected changing technologies, embodied ways of making a living and personified spirituality.
And where else but New Mexico has art reflected everything from the creators of stone tools to the invention of the atomic bomb?
Curated by Joseph Traugott, PhD, the museum’s curator of Twentieth Century art, the exhibition begins with the earliest yet-discovered art †Clovis points †and proceeds in an unbroken continuum to the present.
The exhibition displays 120 works of art that include Native American, Hispanic American and European American works as a single, holistic tradition, not three separate traditions that never interact. Most of the objects in the exhibition were made to be art, others became art by metamorphosis when objects were understood in new cultural contexts. The works range from representational images to abstractions like Raymond Jonson’s paintings “N” and “M,” an obvious reference to New Mexico. The two paintings are part of his series of 26 works based on the letters of the alphabet.
As markers of the past and present, the works of art in the exhibition spur aesthetic responses and a deeper understanding of the region’s diverse cultures †how the art of the early santeros evolved from the more baroque originally imported from Mexico to a more simplified expression to accommodate indigenous artmaking materials and beliefs. Yet, innovation by Native artists was discouraged by early anthropologists who placed a premium on the artistic styles of the past which they considered to be more “authentic” and culturally pure; fortunately Maria and Julian Martinez did not hear this message, influencing generations of artists who followed.
T.C. Cannon, Gerald Cassidy, Judy Chicago, E. Irving Couse, Robert Henri, Marsden Hartey, Luis Jimenez, Raymond Jonson, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Florence Miller Pierce, Diego Romero and Luis Tapia are some of the well-known artists in the exhibition.
The New Mexico Museum of Art is at Santa Fe’s Plaza at 107 West Palace Avenue. For information, 505-476-5072 or www.nmartmuseum.org .
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