Miguel Covarrubias: Drawing a Cosmopolitan Line
September 27, 2014 - January 18, 2015
Miguel Covarrubias: Drawing a Cosmopolitan Line presents artwork that links Covarrubias' commercial art, scholarly publications, and studio practice, to demonstrate the cosmopolitan modernism of his life and work, which were deeply influenced by his life-long practice of moving between modern cities and sites remote from New York or Mexico City. It reveals his influential role as part of a global network of modernists, including Georgia O'Keeffe.
The friendship between Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957) and Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) began in 1929 when both were guests at the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan in Taos, among a gathering of modernist artists and writers. Though O’Keeffe was a generation older than Covarrubias, they shared many professional as well as social experiences. Both O’Keeffe and Covarrubias were part of an international, intergenerational cluster of artists in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s, a group that formed the cornerstone of the emergent modernist aesthetic. Thus, their relationship is an enormously productive place to analyze the significance of the avant-garde circles of modernism, where their careers flourished as well as their friendship.
Although Covarrubias is best known for his lively caricatures of famous figures, which will be included in this exhibition, the primary purpose of Miguel Covarrubias: Drawing a Cosmopolitan Line is to define the breadth and significance of Covarrubias’ contribution to the history of modern art. The exhibition brings together a selection of this prolific artist’s modernist drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, and illustrations from his own scholarly publications. He distilled the diversity of his experiences through the artistic force of his line-drawings, which in-turn express his modern individuality as an artist.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Covarrubias focused his passion on traveling to research several publications supported by Guggenheim Fellowships; The Island of Bali (1937), Mexico South: The Isthmus of Tehuantepec (1946), and The Eagle, the Jaguar and the Serpent. Indian Art of the Americas: North America, Alaska, Canada and the United States (1954). Covarrubias’ distinctive abstract and interpretative line-drawings brought his modernist aesthetic to each book he researched and wrote.
Covarrubias was widely recognized as an energizing force who shared new ideas everywhere he traveled. In New York during the 1940s, Covarrubias worked with Alfred Barr and Rene d’Harnoncourt at MoMA, to create a series of ground-breaking exhibitions of the arts of the Americas: Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art (1940) and American Indian Art of the United States (1941), the latter of which was shown in Mexico in 1945. Returning to Mexico City, he introduced MOMA’s modern installation and lighting techniques as curator for exhibitions at the National Museum of Anthropology. His curatorial efforts in New York and Mexico City brought indigenous arts into the global discourse of modernism by presenting them as objects worthy of aesthetic comparison with modern art.
A catalogue accompanies the exhibition with an introductory essay by exhibition curator Carolyn Kastner. Janet C. Berlo ’s essay analyzes Covarrubias’ substantial scholarship on the indigenous art of North America. An essay by Khristaan D. Villela describes Covarrubias’ contribution to Pre-Columbian studies, with special reference to how his research was assimilated by other Modernists and influenced modern art exhibitions. Alicia Guzman’s essay discusses how the 1939 mural maps, painted by Covarrubias for the San Francisco World's Fair, are modern hybrids of abstracted geographic features populated with a diversity of caricatures: human, animal, cultural and economic.
This exhibition and related programming were made possible in part by generous grants from The Burnett Foundation and The Hearst Foundations. Additional support was provided by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque, Linda Marcus, New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Santa Fe Arts Commission and the 1% Lodgers' Tax.
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Georgia O’Keeffe: Ghost Ranch Views
October 30, 2014 - March 22, 2015
The exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe: Ghost Ranch Views brings together brilliant paintings of the harsh geography and spectacular color at the Ghost Ranch, the site of O’Keeffe’s most famous landscape paintings. It includes paintings of the landscape, bones, and landscapes with bones and flowers, her most iconic contribution to American modernism, such as Red Hills and White Flower (1937), Untitled (Red and Yellow Cliffs) (1940), and Pedernal (1945). In 1934, on O’Keeffe’s first visited to the ranch, she was inspired to create four paintings. She returned the next year to paint more of the eroded hills and rocky mesas and in 1940 she made it her home, when she bought a hacienda style house. Each summer afterwards, the remote site fifty miles north of Santa Fe, became the center of her creative life.
O’Keeffe’s traditional adobe house framed a patio which opened to a magnificent view of a massive flat-topped mountain known as the Cerro Pedernal (Flint Hill). It was twelve miles from her home, but it became an intimate view as she painted it repeatedly. She referred to it lovingly as “my mountain.” The paintings included in the exhibition date from the 1930s and 40s when she experimented with simplified abstractions and complex compositions in which bones and flowers float above the horizon of the distinctive mountain.
On the opposite side of her house, O’Keeffe claimed a small corner room for sleeping next to her studio; both rooms offered her immediate access to the nearby red hills, great cliffs, and dry arroyos. “At the back door are the red hills and the cliffs and the sands—the badlands. I go out my back door and walk for 15 minutes and I am some place that I’ve never been before, where it seems that no one has ever been before me.” Oil paintings and pastels of the badlands outside her backdoor are also included in the exhibition.
The expansive panorama inspired her artwork as well as long walks through the uninhabited rocky terrain, where she collected countless bones. As she brought them back to her house, she stacked them on her patio, arranged them in her studio, and hung them on her walls. In addition to making them the subject of her paintings, the artist employed bones to explore the spatial relationships of near and far. After a decade of depicting bones as the focus of her work, O’Keeffe began to employ bones as a lens to frame a view, a conceptual move that prompted two of the paintings in the exhibition: Pelvis IV (1944) and Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow (1945).
Long after O’Keeffe had painted her last landscape, the house and the vast landscape served as a sanctuary where she continued to walk late in her life.