April 11, 2021 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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Saturday, October 7, 2017 - Sunday, January 14, 2018

Divergent/Works: Landschaft/Paisaje

Gallery: George E. Foster, Jr. Gallery of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs


As we move beyond the American century, landscape art has achieved a curious symmetry with its Romantic legacy: a parity of matter and antimatter. Nature is no longer the locus of divine presence. No philosophy of nature commands our imagination with theories of the sublime, the picturesque, and the beautiful. No school of painting is grouped around an aesthetic of its transcendence or its immediacy.

Artists, like all of us, find themselves on the far side of modern life’s alienation from nature, whose mythic forces, once sustained by faith, were supplanted by the end of the nineteenth century with science’s rational account of its laws. In the twentieth, urban sprawl and climate change have denuded nature of its rich legacy of image and symbol. Europe—once Europa, matrix of the Western tradition of Gaia, Mother Earth—is again a mere landmass, one that could easily pass through the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

Landscape painting reflects as well its pre-Romantic position in Western art’s hierarchy, kept company now by the very Academy which once ranked landscape in its order of noble subjects as far below history painting, beneath genre and portraiture, on the lowest rung along with still life.

By 1900 Cezanne’s vision of landscape had diverted the course of mainstream art from the hills of Provence to the banks of the Seine, to be carried forward into the twentieth century by the Cubist construction of nature and the powerful currents of early abstraction and expressionism. Ye in an irony of art history, landscape, once a major road to modern art, has become a country path, rarely taken by travelers in this century.

Landscape today is widely viewed as a domain of academic art and a preserve for the Sunday painter. Yet landscape art can offer a more telling portrait of modern life than current trends in contemporary art, so often absorbed with their own agenda. In the nineteenth century, faith had at last yielded to reason. By the start of twentieth, reason had failed. Art was ceded the enormous task of replacing religion’s reassuring rites and rich symbols with a world of imagery sufficient to heal the widening rift between man and nature. Landscape has now become what modernism had been from the start, an art of alienation and desire.

The art of landscape today reflects the wide-ranging aesthetics and styles of the Western tradition. Whatever edge that sentiment or scenery might hold in initially engaging a viewer, landscape must acknowledge the same criteria as the more abstract and conceptual modes of mainstream art.

An exhibition of landscape art serves more than the memory of its rich past or a measure of its present vigor. The crisis of modern life is its tragic schism between man and matter, a poverty of the human spirit that isolates it from the sentient, sensible world that sustains it. The ancient gods who once roamed the woods and held dominion over the seas are long gone. Nature is ours now. Landscape’s prescient eye alerts us to irreparable loss by recasting the timeless lament for a vanished world: Et in Arcadia ego: “I too was in paradise once.”

Landschaft/Paisaje –as all the shows in the Divergent Works exhibition— features artists pursuing very different styles—lofty and humble—while subscribing to the unique Taos narrative of the Sublime, grouped around an aesthetic of transcendence and immediacy.

The Harwood summer exhibition Portraits in a Landscape (2017) explored the Taos high desert aesthetic in its impact on the portrait: “A portrait, then, is not simply a likeness. It is a figure in space. A portrait unfolds in a landscape. It is a narrative. And the narrative import of landscape … is especially telling for Taos and northern New Mexico.”

This compelling sense of place is at the root of the Taos arts, the locus of its deep-seated appeal to émigré and native artist alike: “a landscape of vast imaginative force—sublime, humbling, and transformative—straddling its enduring local cultures: Pueblo, Hispano, and Anglo. This unique melding of place and peoples profoundly affected their art, beliefs, and aspirations.”  Its aesthetic sustains the artistic styles and cultural currents that have evolved in Taos and northern New Mexico, providing the continuity of the widely divergent range of works in the Harwood collections.

Divergent Works:  Landschaft/Paisaje explores the Taos aesthetic of place from a central vantage: the genre of landscape itself. The exhibition’s diverse works are a function of a reciprocal exchange between mainstream currents and the region’s abiding aesthetic, marking more than a century of Taos art represented in the Harwood’s collections. It has produced regional work with a national import. This fusion of sublime and humble, of high and low styles, of mainstream and local, is the paradox of Taos as place— as locus, or landscape.

In his insightful study of landscape, art historian Max J. Friedlander observed that “The land is the earth’s surface… [while] landscape is the physiognomy of the land, land in its effect on us… Land is the ‘thing-in-itself’, [while] landscape is the phenomenon.”  And just as the portrait probes the physiognomy—countenance and character—of the sitter/subject, a landscape interprets the environment: “…the great blue wall of the Sangre de Cristo… as near and as far as it had in the morning. … In the blue evening smoke of the two villages, Taos Pueblo and Taos looked hopelessly small and forgotten.” (Frederick Remington, 1902).
Dr. Richard Tobin

Artworks in Landschaft/Paisaje include:

Constantine Aiello   
Green Brew, n.d.   
Courtesy of Taos Municipal School Collection

Robert M. Ellis
Taos Mountain, 1988   
Anonymous Gift

Robert M. Ellis   
Valdez Valley #3, 1988   
Collection of the Harwood Museum of Art

Gene Kloss   
Desert Peaks, 1937
Drypoint etching   
Anonymous Gift

Gene Kloss   
Desert Drama, c. 1950   
Anonymous Gift

Gene Kloss
Riders at Sundown, 1953
Drypoint etching and aquatint on paper   
Gift of the Harwood Museum Alliance in honor of David Witt

E. Martin Hennings   
The Hunters, c. 1940   
Gift of Van Deren and Joan Coke in memory of Caroline Lee

E. Martin Hennings   
Beneath the Cottonwoods, c. 1924
Gift of J.B. McEntire, Jr.
E. Martin Hennings
Watching the Ceremony, c. 1924     Etching
Gift of David B. Winton & the Estate of Helen Hennings Winton

Howard Cook
Taos Pueblo-Smokes, 1927
Gift of C. William and Eleanor Reiquam

Clare Leighton   
Lambing (Second State), 1933   
Wood engraving
Gift of C. William and
Eleanor Reiquam

Oscar E. Berninghaus   
Wood Haulers, 1945   
Pen and ink   
Courtesy of the Taos Municipal School Historic Collection

Oscar E. Berninghaus
Street Scene Taos, c. 1930
Gift of Van Deren and Joan Coke in memory of Caroline Lee

Lynda Benglis  [inside fireplace]
Daca’ Bimo, 1993
Gift of Lynda Benglis, Hank Saxe and Cynthia Patterson

Emil Bisttram
Church of San Francisco de Asis, n.d.
Watercolor on paper   
Courtesy of the Taos Municipal School Historic Collection

Keith Crown
Taos Embraced by Taos Mountain, 1956   
Gift of the Artist

Victor Higgins
Canyon Landscapes, c. 1932   
Gift of Lucy Case Harwood

Paul Strisik
Passing Shadows, Valdez Valley, NM 1983
Gift of Nancy Strisik

John Marin   
Taos Canyon, 1930   
Museum Purchase

Eric Gibberd
Untitled (landscape), 1959   
Watercolor and ink
Gift of John and Louise Wheir   

Roland Detre   
Untitled (landscape), n.d.   
Collection of the Harwood Museum of Art

Cliff Franklin Harmon
Earth Forms #140, 1973   
Watercolor, gouache and acrylic
Gift of Ted and Kit Egri

Sarah Bienvenu
Shallow Water, 2000
Gift of Jack and Rebecca Parsons

Eli Levin   
Near Dixon, c. 1990
Gift of Robert Bell and Stirling Puck

Roland Detre
New Mexico Village, n.d.
Collection of the Harwood Museum of Art

Tom Noble
Parajos Mexicanos, 1992
Gift of Natalie Goldberg

Robert D. Ray   
Untitled (Taos Mountain), c. 1976
Oil on Masonite
Gift of the Otto Mears Pitcher Collection