Published: August 26, 2015
Review And Photos By Laura Beach
SANTA FE, N.M. — Chicago heiress Florence Dibell Bartlett is famous for two things: her role in founding Santa Fe’s captivating Museum of International Folk Art and the utterance, “The art of the craftsman is a bond between the peoples of the world.” Grammar aside, the phrase offers a nutshell description of Santa Fe’s longstanding cultural delights: earthy but sophisticated, worldly beyond the city’s small size.
The most current interpretation of Santa Fe style may belong to Kim Martindale and John Morris, whose Objects of Art Santa Fe at the Museo Cultural de Santa Fe in the city’s hip Railyard District is inflected with a California-by-way-of-New Mexico vibe. Rich in textiles and sculptural works of art, the show mines history without being overly historical. The point, long time-promoter Martindale says of the broadly inclusive presentation, is to look across cultures and mediums for common excellence in visual expression.
Objects opened on Wednesday evening, August 12, with a gala preview benefiting New Mexico PBS. The four-day show continued through Saturday, August 15, and was followed in the same venue by the August 17–20 Antique American Indian Art Show, also produced by the Martindale Morris team and incorporating some of the same exhibitors, albeit with different stock. The Martindale Morris events are part of a week of shows, auctions and gallery openings devoted to historic art and design in the state’s capital. They precede the granddaddy of them all, the 93-year-old, juried Santa Fe Indian Market and the satellite events that Indian Market, the nation’s foremost gathering of contemporary Native American art, has inspired.
The show was set up in two colorful rooms, arraying fine and decorative arts and artifacts, ancient to contemporary, offered by more than 70 dealers from New York and Massachusetts to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and Tanzania.
Lee and Vichai Chinalai, now accompanied by their adult daughter, Dhani, curated the special exhibit “Deeply Yao.” Installed in the El Museo Gallery adjacent to the fair, the show featured the Shoreham, N.Y., dealers’ 40-year collection of textiles, headdresses, jewelry and spiritual and functional objects made by the minority Yao people of southern China, Laos and Cambodia. Dozens of works, unlikely survivors from a migratory people, were priced from the low four figures to about $22,000. Highlights included a man’s jacket and matching horsehair cap, a young woman’s elaborate silver headdress, ceremonial slippers and, notably, sets of exceedingly rare ceremonial paintings, one group dating to 1794. The paintings represent the pantheon of Taoist gods.
Elsewhere in the show, Chinalai featured selections from its line of contemporary fiber art, some of it the work of Thai craftsmen supported by the dealers in recent years. Lee Chinalai said that their new venture was inspired by their past participation in Santa Fe’s International Folk Art Market, held annually in July.
Gorgeous textiles are the specialty of Casey Waller of Caravanserai, Ltd, who covered his back wall with a bold, floral Ottoman suzani embroidery. From Austin, Texas, Waller said that Objects, while more beautiful than ever, had not resulted in hoped for sales. “We made a larger number of smaller sales but failed to find buyers for the more expensive carpets and wall hangings,” Waller noted.
Santa Fe dealer John Ruddy arrayed casual cotton yukata jackets in indigo and white on an outside wall. Well known for American textiles, Santa Fe dealers Rose Adams and Skip Holbrook dazzled with quilts and a charming needlepoint sampler, signed and dated. An exhibitor at New York’s Outsider Art Fair, Texas dealer Jean Compton paired rag dolls, quilts and other examples of traditional American folk art with edgy, Twentieth Century works on paper by self-taught artists.
No Santa Fe show is complete without Indian art. Barry Walsh, a dealer from Holden, Mass., who trades under the name Buffalo Barry, featured katsina and other Hopi artifacts, his chief love.
Chiefs’ blankets drew visitors to Medicine Man Gallery, where founder Mark Sublette signed copies of his latest art-world thriller, Between The White Lines.
Kip McKesson ornamented his back wall with colorful Dorze hats from Ethiopia. Based in Dar es Salaam, he parted with an important Sukama dance figure from Tanzania on opening night and followed with strong sales of tribal and decorative objects.
“The crowd was good, and, as always, the show was classy and beautiful,” said McKesson.
“I’ve had a busy week,” noted Taylor Dale, a Santa Fe dealer in tribal arts who hosted a reception in his gallery and participated in both Martindale Morris shows, swapping African and Pacific artifacts for Plains and Northwest Coast material as the week went on.
“I show Taos and Santa Fe colony painting, historic and what I call traditional contemporary,” said Taos dealer Robert Parsons, who flanked a canvas by contemporary artist John Moyers, elected to the Cowboy Artists of America in 1994, with historic works by Santa Fe painter Fremont Ellis, a member of Los Cinco Pintores, and Oscar Berninghaus, a founder of the Taos Society of Artists.
“I brought my most Southwestern material in the hopes of fitting in,” said California dealer Dennis Calabi, noting sales of three works to two dealers and one work to a local artist. “This was primarily an ethnographic event, not ideal for my kind of art.”
“I apprenticed in New Hope, Penn., with Jeffrey Greene,” explained craftsman Earl Nesbitt, whose furniture shows the influence of George Nakashima. Nesbitt, whose studio is in Edgewood, N.M., between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, called Objects an “interesting show.” It draws serious collectors and I always reconnect with clients.” Nesbitt sells primarily to collectors of varied professional backgrounds.
Albuquerque artist Victoria Roberts shared a large space with Kim Martindale and Phil Garaway. Composed of bits of found objects, Roberts’ shadow boxes and assemblages occupy the intersection of memory and imagination. The artist said that she recently sold a piece to New York dealer Howard Rehs for his personal collection and will be represented by Mark Sublette, who maintains large galleries in Tucson and Santa Fe.
Martindale, who began his career as a promoter 36 years ago working for Don Bennett, Santa Fe’s original show manager, doubles as a gallerist with space in Venice, Calif. Upcoming Martindale promotions include the Los Angeles Fine Art Show, Historic & Contemporary, January 15–18; the LA Art Show, Modern and Contemporary, January 28–31; and the 32nd Annual Art of the Americas Show in Marin County, north of San Francisco, February 18–21.
If you could catch him, it would be worth sitting John Morris down to hear about his presumably more raucous career as a producer of rock concerts, Woodstock and Fillmore East among them. In Santa Fe, Martindale and Morris teamed with local photographer and Rhode Island School of Design graduate Blake Hines to produce these two special shows, big on charm and unstinting in their imagination.
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