Ira Wright: “Take Two Tylenol”
A survey of 50 years of paintings and “constructions”
December 2-January 14, 2024
In the course of a long and prolific career, Ira Wright has touched on subjects that are difficult, terrifying, ribald, sexy, and downright mysterious. This exhibition of paintings from five decades shows him exploring familiar tropes—his alter ego Mickey Mouse, for example—and tackling the appetites of the flesh, He Said It Was His Last Dream, completed just a few weeks ago. His works are full of allusions to art-historical giants like Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Picasso, as well as imbued with a private, hermetic language, sometimes made more explicit in text scrawled across the canvas.
But the real revelation of “Take Two Tylenol” (a reference to the visits to doctors that have occupied him in the last couple of years) is the trove of witty, wildly inventive cars—which he calls “constructions”—made from found scraps of metal and bits and pieces of plastic and clay. Some of these come equipped with internal lights and detailed interiors, and many are driven with reckless gusto by the kinds of drivers you’d go out of your way to avoid in real life. But this is not real life—it’s a parallel universe of zany automobiles that unleashes the inner child of both artist and viewers.
It’s not unusual these days to find artists who explore many different mediums–painting, sculpture, photography, video, drawing, performance–never settling into one recognizable “signature” style. You might say that Bruce Nauman is the granddaddy of this bent toward restless invention, but Madelin Coit has been a tireless seeker of visual richness in an explosive vocabulary for five decades. She moves easily from the lyrical sublime to the archly political to the surreally humorous and back again. And her mediums range from found objects to neon to paint to drawing. Shown here are installation shots from the show that runs through November 19. Come join us!
“Portraits d’usage in Conversation”
September 1 – 27, 2023
Parisian-based artist Isabelle Plat is attempting no less than a new definition of portraiture using novel materials like human hair collected from styling salons and clothing donated by friends. She has created “inhabitable figures,” many of which the viewer can physically enter. “I associate the human body with the bubble that everyone creates for themselves in the real world,” the artist says. “If Cubist painting subjectively deconstructed people and objects and showed us their hidden sides, I reveal the inner workings through my sculptures and installations.”
“The Art of Encaustic”
Ellen Koment and Paula Roland
April 22-May 28, 2023
The art of encaustic has been around for centuries: it was used in the Fayum mummy portraits in Egypt, made between 100 and 300 AD, by Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, and most famously in recent art by Jasper Johns in his “Flags” and “Targets” series of the 1960s. At its simplest, encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax to which pigments are added. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface, most often wood or canvas. But it is an endlessly versatile medium that invites experimentation and has attracted the talents not just of painters and printmakers, but of sculptors and photographers as well.
Our two artists in the main galleries at the Wright through April 28, Ellen Koment and Paula Roland, are both virtuosos of encaustic who migrated to Santa Fe within five years of each other.
Roland has worked almost exclusively in encaustic for the last 20 years, exploring a wide range of abstract imagery, most recently making small-and large-scale monotypes and paintings that resemble imaginary maps. “My work changes as my interests change and as the world evolves,” she says. “It always relates to the natural world, ecology, and a spiritual connection. These images navigate interior territories—a medley of memory, images, hopes, and topography of self, carrying my childhood landscape forward in my mind.”
Originally from New York, Koment taught in the Bay Area for 25 years before moving to Santa Fe in 1994. In the last decade or so, she has perfected a technique for pouring liquid encaustic in layers, attaining a jewel-like brilliance that puts her in the tradition of Color Field painters such as Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. “Pouring on paper as a technique, for me, requires me to be present to the process and aware of all that is happening on the paper,” Koment says. “One must act in reaction to the way that the first color has fallen, it exists in the area between control and chaos. An accident can open doors, create new impulses, change the direction of your work, but ultimately, the work must come from a place or intention.
Ideal & Martinelli
March 4-April 9, 2023
Phillis Ideal and Tom Martinelli
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
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
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.
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
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
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.