Harwood Museum of Art 2013 Summer Exhibitions: What Becomes a Legend Most?
"'For my next trick, says Joseph Cornell, or Vladimir Nabokov, or Wes Anderson, 'I have put the world into a box.' And when he opens the box, you see something dark and glittering, an orderly mess of shards, refuse, bits of junk and feather and butterfly wing, tokens and totems of memory, maps of exile, documentation of loss. And you say, leaning in, 'The world'!”
- Michael Chabon
Regionalism has always been important, but it has never been in vogue. It is now. It's not just global access to the internet, that almost seems dated. It is, instead, the techniques that have been developed as a result. Regionalism has become global. One can remain safely anonymous in his or her personal life, yet significantly linked to the world. Dave Hickey can quietly and contentedly drop quarters into a Las Vegas slot machine without having to worry about Peter Schjeldahl looking over his shoulder. You can rub shoulders with Larry Bell at a Taos, New Mexico market and bid him good luck at his opening in Amsterdam.
Our world is so complicated and big. Just as we wonder at an event in one part of our world, another more surprising little miracle or tragedy occurs in the other. Regionalism offers a solace to the influx of sometimes unmanageable access to the heartbreak and the wonder in our broader borders. As Michael Chabon writes in reference to the microcosm in a Joseph Cornell box, or the miniature version of Nabokov’s homeland, regionalism “allows us a handful of salvaged bits—the bittersweet harvest of observation and experience—is to build a little world of our own.”
Taos, New Mexico, is an exciting place to investigate the miniature epic, or scale model. Chabon states, “A child holding a globe has a more direct, more intuitive grasp of the earth’s scope and variety, of its local vastness and its cosmic tininess, than a man who spends a year in circumnavigation." Roberta Smith coined the term "Cosmopolitan Regionalism" in a November 2011 New York Times article written in response to Pacific Standard Time. That Southern California series of exhibitions arguably put regionalism back on the ‘hip’ list. “Pacific Standard Time is a great argument for museums concentrating first and foremost on local history, for a kind of cosmopolitan regionalism, if you will," noted Smith. "It sets an example that other curators in other cities should follow, beginning in my mind with Chicago and San Francisco. If America has more than one art capital, it probably has more than two”.
The four exhibitions on view at the Harwood Museum of Art May 18-September 8, 2013 exalt in the tremendous and flamboyant group of artists in Taos who followed on the heels of the Taos Moderns. As Taos critic Stephen Parks notes, "The story of Taos in the last 100 years is the story of its artists. First on the scene were the Taos Founders who arrived soon after the turn of the last century. The best of the early Taos paintings have soared to the blue chip stratosphere. Then came the Taos Moderns, led by the estimable Andrew Dasburg, who from the late 1920s through the mid-1960s pursued the more abstract modes that held sway in East and West Coast avant garde circles. What’s next? In a decade or so, when critics and collectors look back at the last third of the 20th century, they’ll see the third chapter, a distinctive period in the continuum of art history in this, arguably the most important small art town in the U.S. The third chapter is characterized by two distinct but tightly related elements. First, a great wave of young, relatively unknown artists of all stripes arrived in town, drawn by the powerful Taos ‘art magnate,’ a force generated by a combination of history, tradition, landscape, and a sense of freedom that is irresistible to artists. Second, and just as significant, a score of smart, dedicated art dealers set up shop to represent these exciting new Taos artists. The combination created a powerful aesthetic and commercial vitality that was new to Taos and unique in the country.”
Taos became the mid-west/west art center upon the arrival of Robert Dean Stockwell, Dennis Hopper, Larry Bell, Ken Price, Melissa Zink, Harold Joe Waldrum, Ronald Davis and Lee Mullican - not to mention the arrival of Bruce Naumann, Francesco Clemente, Susan Rothenberg, Lynda Benglis and Judy Chicago to Northern New Mexico. This list could go on for pages. Also importantly present were extraordinary artists already living in Taos; as Stephan Parks notes, “A coterie of young, well-trained, representational painters, Bill Acheff, David Lefell, Sherry McGraw, Ron Barsano, Rod Goebel, Walt Gonske, Bob Daughters, Julian Robles and Ray Vinella among them. Then there were the rebels, the young, iconoclastic artists who, in the spirit of the ‘60s, moved to Taos and pushed the limits – aesthetically and socially – among them Bill Gersh, Tom Noble, Bill Davis, and the most important surviving art figure of those years, Jim Wagner."
The art dealers and collectors from the third chapter have proven to be not only as vital, but also as legendary as the artists themselves. Stephen Parks, Robert Parsons, Ray Trotter, Maggie Kress, Tally Richards, Gorman of course, Howard and Mara Taylor, The Shriver Gallery, Return Gallery, and Total Arts not only helped these artists survive, but also contributed to the Harwood Museum of Art's permanent collection and other important collections. They threw parties, printed invitations, and brought in collectors from around the world. They were a huge economic force in Taos. Perhaps most important was the innovative and intelligent publication ARTlines published by Stephen Parks. The publication serves to this day as the most important chronicle of the most creative voices of its time.
- Jina Brenneman, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions
Go to these links for more information about the four exhibitions exploring "The Third Chapter":