Ideal & Martinelli
March 4-April 9, 2023
Phillis Ideal and Tom Martinelli

Phillis Ideal, Blue Slant
(2020) mixed media, 30 by 40 inches

A mini-retrospective of works by Santa Fe abstract painters Phillis Ideal and Tom Martinelli. Each has traveled a lot of ground in their separate careers, spanning four or five decades, and both have affinities in remaining committed to purely nonobjective vocabularies. This is a chance for curators, artists, and the public to examine the kind of changes that occur over a professional lifetime. It should be an interesting journey.

January 20-February 25, 2023
Opening Friday, December 20, 2023. 5 to 7 pm

Madison Cawein, Michelle Cooke, Ward Estes, Carol Farmer, Sandra Filippucci, Sheila Miles, Robbie Steinbach

Michelle Cooke, New Mexico Archive Folio II

Right after the holidays, as the reality of January sets in, we grit our teeth for the forthcoming cold hard winter months. And so this seems the perfect time to offer up a show called “Botanicals,” originally slated to be an exhibition entirely of flowers until we realized how many artists focused on other interesting aspects of the plant world—like shoots and leaves and even imaginary blooms dedicated to the children of Ukraine.

Two photographers, Robbie Steinbach and Carol Farmer, revel in the sensual particulars of exotic plants, proving that the erotic potential pioneered by Georgia O’Keeffe lives on in contemporary interpretations. Confronted with the lushness of summer, Sheila Miles takes a childlike delight in nature’s plenitude, while Ward Estes brings a Matissean touch to simplified shapes and primary colors. Madison Cawein, the lone photorealist in the group, zeroes in on grasses touched with frost in early spring, and Michelle Cooke presents an archive of plant materials from New Mexico embossed on sheets of foil and gampi paper. Inspired by the Soviet invasion a year ago, Sandra Filippucci produced a series of explosive canvases called “Flowers for Ukraine,” two of which occupy the main galleries at the Wright.

Photography in B&W
December 2, 2022-January 15, 2023

Kathleen Brennan, Gus Foster, Arthur Gottschalk, Eugene Gray, Desirée Manville, Barbara Rothman , Geraint Smith, and Zoe Zimmerman

Cerro Shadows, Geraint Smith

Photography has gone through profound changes since Alfred Stieglitz first made the case for the medium as a fine art early in the last century. Far from simply becoming a passing fad, as some predicted, photography has often taken pride of place on the walls of our most prominent museums.

But even as photographs have gotten bigger and bigger—with gigantic C-prints now commanding the galleries—something has been lost. Namely, a certain intimacy and mystery that infused the works of the “old masters” of 20th-century photography, like Edward Weston and Henri Cartier-Bresson. So the curators of “Photography in B&W,” Michelle Cooke and Ann Landi, are pleased to report that even as cell phones make everyone a photographer, a generous handful in northern New Mexico still pursue the medium’s potential to seduce the viewer through more modest means.

October 1 – November 23, 2022

Mokha Laget, Annell Lvingston, TJ Mabrey, Paul O’Connor, Matt Thomas, and Robert Parker.

Mokha Laget, This Point Forward (2020), acrylic on canvas, 50 by 70 inches

It’s hard to say when and where and how artists first turned to the language of geometry, using rigorously nonobjective imagery to make a statement in two or three dimensions. But for sure by the third decade of the 20th century—with the innovations of Malevich, Mondrian, and the Cubists in wide circulation—geometry caught on like wildfire among artists looking for ways to depict the modern world without making references to nature or the human figure.

The appeal of geometric art has endured for more than a century. With a number of artists in northern New Mexico engaged with the allure of basic shapes, it seemed time to survey the differences and similarities among them.

From Mabrey’s cunningly folded paper constructions to Parker’s lively pedestal sculptures, the artists of “New Geometries” show the potential for moving beyond what Cézanne identified as the fundamentals of all art: “the cone, the sphere, and the cylinder.”

August 12 – September 25, 2022

Larry Bell, Marc Baseman, Michelle Cooke, Gendron Jensen, Annell Livingston, Christine Taylor Patten

Larry Bell at The Wright Contemporary in Taos

The late, great, often cantankerous art critic Robert Hughes more than once bemoaned the apparent decline in standards for draftsmanship. “In the 45 years that I’ve been writing criticism there has been a tragic depreciation in the traditional skills of painting and drawing, the nuts and bolts of the profession,” he told members of London’s Royal Academy of Art in 2004. He added, almost paradoxically, that “drawing never dies, it holds on by the skin of its teeth, because the hunger it satisfies—the desire for an active, investigative, manually vivid relation with the things we see and yearn to know about—is apparently immortal…”

If Hughes had visited Taos he might have changed his mind about the vigor and variety of contemporary drawings that originate within just a few square miles.

Artists are pursuing this age-old medium and redefining the rules, often using the most time-honored mediums: charcoal, pen and ink, chalk, and graphite. And the subjects are all over the map: from the late Gendron Jensen’s meditations on animal bones to Christine Taylor Patten’s miniature evocations of the cosmos to Marc Baseman’s unforgettably dysfunctional tableaux to Michelle Cooke’s breathtaking renderings of imaginary horizons. “Taos Draws!” affords a glimpse into the richness of the draftsmen (and women!) working here today.

IMAGE: Larry Bell

“EXPLOSIVE ABSTRACTION” Inaugural Opening Summer 2022
June 24 to August 7, 2022

Greta Young - Says Who, gesso, oil, oil stick. 77x55 inches

Greta Young – Says Who, gesso, oil, oil stick. 77×55 inches

Abstraction in painting has been around since the early 20th century, when artists as diverse as Georgia O’Keeffe, Wassily Kandinsky, and Robert Delaunay explored subject matter with few objective references to the real world. Since the heyday of Abstract Expressionism in the United States, in the mid-1940s to mid-1950s, gestural abstraction has proved especially enduring among contemporary artists, who have inherited and expanded upon techniques explored decades ago—staining, automatism, spontaneous brushwork, and mixed media.

The five artists featured in this show—Timothy Nero, Marcia Oliver, Greta Young, Brian Shields, and Paul Behnke—have all forged a language that follows in the footsteps of the mid-century AbEx pioneers, like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell.

Sometimes the references in the work are obvious, as in Brian Shields’s lyrical explorations of the northern New Mexico landscape, or Greta Young’s hapless bits and pieces of struggling humanity. Other painters in the show, like Marcia Oliver and Paul Behnke, have established a nonobjective vocabulary relying for emotional impact on pure form and color. All the artists have developed highly individual approaches, proving that even within the narrow 75-mile corridor between Santa Fe and Taos, NM, a diversity of voices is thrillingly possible.

In tandem with the show, Gwen Chanzit, curator of the groundbreaking exhibition “Women of Abstract Expressionism” at the Denver Art Museum (2016), will give an illustrated lecture on the origins of abstraction.