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Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group

Coming to Albuquerque Museum June 2021. Centered in New Mexico, the Transcendental Painting Group artists transformed the dramatic natural surroundings of the Southwest into luminous reflections of the human spirit.

The Transcendental Painting Group (New Mexico, 1938): Bess Harris, R. S. Horton, Bisttram´s mother, Lawren Harris, Marion Bisttram, Robert Gribbroek, Emil Bisttram, Isabel McLaughlin, and Raymond Johnson

The Transcendental Painting Group (New Mexico, 1938): Bess Harris, R. S. Horton, Bisttram´s mother, Lawren Harris, Marion Bisttram, Robert Gribbroek, Emil Bisttram, Isabel McLaughlin, and Raymond Johnson

On View
June 26–September 26, 2021

Agnes Pelton, The Awakening, 1943, oil on canvas, New Mexico Museum of Art

Agnes Pelton, The Awakening, 1943, oil on canvas, New Mexico Museum of Art

 

Stuart Walker (1904 Paint Lick, Kentucky - 1940 Albuquerque, New Mexico), Untitled Abstraction,ca. 1938, oil on canvas, Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, made possible by the Earl W. Stroh bequest, PC2009.28.1

Stuart Walker (1904 Paint Lick, Kentucky - 1940 Albuquerque, New Mexico), Untitled Abstraction,ca. 1938, oil on canvas, Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, made possible by the Earl W. Stroh bequest, PC2009.28.1

 

The exhibition catalog features essays by Michael Duncan, Scott Shields, and MaLin Wilson Powell.

Exhibition organizer: Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; curated by Michael Duncan.

 

Details subject to change.

 

Towards the end of the Great Depression, a loose configuration of artists organized to discuss and perpetuate an alternative to the social realism and homespun Americana that had been promoted by Regionalism and the Ash Can school. Initiated in Taos in 1938, the Transcendental Painting Group formed to explore a heightened vision of the American landscape, employing free-wheeling surrealist imagery to depict a transfigured, spiritually alive America. Drawing as well on the non-objective experimentation of Kandinsky and Klee, these artists sought to evoke sensuous, synesthetic experiences of nature, often using references to music and esoteric philosophies. Artists affiliated with Transcendental Painting Group were Raymond Jonson, Emil Bisttram, Agnes Pelton, Lawren Harris, Florence Miller Pierce, Horace Pierce, Robert Gribbroek, William Lumpkins, Dane Rudhyar, Stuart Walker, and Ed Garman. While the emergence of Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s drew attention away from the efforts of the group, their paintings provide a fascinating heritage for works by a range of contemporary artists including Frederick Wight, Sharon Ellis, Fred Tomaselli, Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Laib, Anish Kapoor, and Sandeep Mukarjee.

Centered in New Mexico, the Transcendental Painting Group artists transformed the dramatic natural surroundings of the Southwest into luminous reflections of the human spirit. Under the guidance of New Mexico painters Raymond Jonson and Emil Bisttram, the Transcendental Painting Group issued a manifesto stating that their purpose was "to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new concepts of space, color, light and design, to imaginative realms that are idealistic and spiritual." The manifesto went on to assert that "the work does not concern itself with political, economic, or other social problems." Formally experimental, the Transcendental Painting Group painters often used geometric compositions similar to those of Constructivism and the Bauhaus. But their subtly toned depictions of form enjoy musical rhythms and auratic light missing from those earlier paintings.

Like Kandinsky, Mondrian, Kupka, and Malevich before them, the Transcendental Painting Group painters sought to create works that embodied a higher spiritual reality following ideas gleaned from theosophical writings and concepts. Although swept under the carpet by later twentieth century thought, theosophy was a crucial influence on the century's early artists and writers. The Transcendental Painting Group was particularly inspired by the writings and works of Kandinsky as well as the mystical philosophy and paintings of Russian emigré Nicolas Roerich.