Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Vincent van Gogh had a profound impact on the way art was produced during the 20th century, especially in Europe. However, modernism did make it to America in 1913, and the effects are still felt today. How did modernism impact artists in New Mexico?
New Mexico is widely known for its stunning scenery, desirable weather, and exquisite cuisine, facts that were no different at the turn of the 20th century than they are today. Modernist art made its American debut in 1913 at the Armory Show in New York City, and it did not take long for other artists to absorb its impact and discover the hidden secrets of the Southwestern state.

Jan Matulka, “New Mexico Landscape,” ca. 1923, watercolor on paper, 15 x 22 in. (c) Matthews Gallery 2015

Matthews Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is offering viewers a chance to learn more about modernism’s impact on the state and, in particular, how Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque art colonies embraced the new art style — and took it further. The exhibition’s story launches from a powerful telegram from Mabel Dodge Lujan in 1918 to Andrew Dasburg, which stated, “Wonderful place. You must come. Am sending ticket. Bring me a cook.” Lujan’s affinity for Taos resulted in her recruiting of modernist artists to migrate to the state. “Eventually,” the gallery writes, “their work would transform New Mexico into a major American outpost for bold aesthetic innovation.”

Andrew Dasburg, “April Snow,” 1967, pastel on paper, 16 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. (c) Matthews Gallery 2015

Gallery owner Lawrence Matthews suggests, “This exhibition offers an immersive voyage through 20th-century New Mexico art history. Visitors to the exhibition will get an opportunity to see work by European modernists as well as work by the New Mexico artists.”
A highlight of the show is “Abstract Figure” of 1973 by artist Dorothy Brett. Undeniably influenced by Picasso, the nude female subject — presented frontally and in half-length — is fragmented and reduced into powerful planes of primary color and lines. The multiple viewpoints of the face — seen in red profile as well — are quintessential in modernism and cubism.
“The Modernist Impulse: New Mexico’s 20th Century Avant-Garde” opened on September 1 and will be on view through October 31.
To learn more, visit Matthews Gallery.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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