Landscapes on Paper

For the last two months, Horgan Gallery has been home to the new media installation Dorian’s Gray, but now that we have deinstalled that work and returned it to artist Margaret Noble, the space has resumed its normal role as a showcase area for our works on paper. As anyone who follows this blog should know by now, I'm especially fond of our paper collection, so these shows are among my favorites to put together. This time around, however, I've decided to highlight drawings rather than prints in a new exhibit called Painted, Sketched, Drawn: Landscapes on Paper.

Visitors who are familiar with the RMAC collection will know that we have a substantial number of landscapes within our holdings, and many artists have argued that the desert Southwest is the ideal setting for modern painting, as its seemingly sparse landscape already seems to embody abstract ideals and distillations. Take a walk through any of our galleries and you’re bound to find at least a few landscapes, but paintings are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the RMAC’s landscape holdings, as I try to suggest in Painted, Sketched, Drawn.

 Let's take a look at some of these works:

Peter Moran, Pack Train, Distant View, early 1880s, pencil and Chinese white on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Peter Moran (1841-1914) came from an artistic family, with some of his famous siblings including his brothers Thomas and Edward, and sister-in-law Mary Nimmo Moran. Peter was renowned during his lifetime for his paintings and etchings of sheep, cattle, and other domesticated animals, though he also studied landscape in order to create appropriate settings for his subjects. Moran was professionally based in Philadelphia, but he made several trips to New Mexico and Arizona during the early 1880s, before the region became a popular tourist destination. During his travels, Moran made drawings such as this one to use as study materials for prints and paintings. 

(as an aside, for those of you wondering what Chinese white is, it's another name for zinc white, a white paint developed in England the early 19th century as a substitute for the popular but toxic lead white. Scholars think the name came from the blue-and-white Chinese porcelain that was popular in England at the time.)

Andrew Dasburg, Building with Trees, 1961, ink on rice paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979) is considered one of New Mexico’s most avant-garde artists of the early twentieth century. An experimenter in abstract art, particularly Cubism, Dasburg exhibited his work in the seminal Armory Show of New York in 1913, which featured an eclectic, often controversial range of art. He first came to New Mexico in 1918, and settled here permanently in 1921. Throughout his career, he continued to incorporate Cubist influences in his work.

Louise Ganthiers, Untitled (Mountain Landscape Study), ca. 1975-1980, pastel on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

After working as an administrator in the textile business, Louise Ganthiers (1907-1982) moved from California to Taos in the 1950s to become an artist, where she developed a body of work recognized for its bright colors and powerful abstraction. Mountain Landscape Study is more representational than most of Ganthiers’s work, but its bright palette and soft, blurred textures are reminiscent of her abstract paintings.

Raymond Jonson, Cerrillos Rocks, 1927, lithographic crayon on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Raymond Jonson (1891-1982) relocated to New Mexico from Chicago in the 1920s. While Jonson’s name would become synonymous with abstract and nonobjective art, many of his early New Mexico works are grounded in landscape, though his use of color and line anticipates his nonobjective work. Cerrillos Rocks is likely a study, and its lines and shapes are reminiscent of the Earth Rhythms paintings, which were among the first works that Jonson painted in New Mexico.

Robert C. Ellis, Volcanoes #24, 1976, oil pastel on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

This intense drawing is one of several abstract works that Robert C. Ellis (1923-1979) created based on volcanoes. These works feature circular forms in different arrangements, often floating against bright colors. With its velvety texture and intense saturation, this drawing underscores the distinct visual qualities of oil pastel as a medium.

Aside from wanting to pull out great some works on paper,  I've wanted to do a show that highlights what I consider to be one of the most accessible of mediums, drawing. I’ve put together several print-based shows in Horgan and Graphics galleries, but printmaking is a complex undertaking. Drawing, by contrast, is a more universal artistic process. Chances are, at some point in your life you’ve drawn a picture, whether it’s scribbling a map to accompany some directions, or making lines in the soil with a stick or even your own finger. You may not consider yourself an artist for it, but it’s an experience you’ve had, and it’s an act that connects you to the practices of the artists at the RMAC. As a curator, I’m constantly looking for the interests and experiences that connect our visitors with the collection.