I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one’s deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive.
(Mabel Dodge Luhan)
Vivian Horan Fine Art is pleased to present “Taos: 1960’s – Present,” opening April 27 through June 22. The exhibition includes a selection of work by artists who have continued the creative legacy of Taos from its early beginnings as an artist’s colony to the thriving artists’ community of today. “Taos: 1960’s – Present,” includes works by the late luminaries Agnes Martin, Ken Price, and Dennis Hopper, and 1960’s Southern Californian artists – Larry Bell, Price, and Ronald Davis – who brought the concerns of the mid-century Los Angeles art scene to Taos, and became pivotal influences for generations of artists working there. The contemporary artists in Taos give material form to their natural surroundings, and to their experiences living in an artists’ colony where art and life are inextricably intertwined. This life-as-art approach is exemplified by J. Matthew Thomas’s multi-hyphenate output, Ron Cooper’s mezcal making, and Paul O’Connor’s earthship.
The Taos Pueblo, nestled within the southernmost stretches of the Rocky Mountains, below the cerulean sky of the New Mexican high desert, is believed to be the longest continually inhabited community within the United States. The allure of the Taos Pueblo has captured American artists since the days of Westward expansion, with the first group of modernist painters deciding to stay there in 1898 after a broken wagon wheel forced them to spend time in the area. An official Taos Society of Artists was established in 1915, and the 1917 arrival of banking heiress, arts patron, and salonista Mabel Dodge Luhan all but guaranteed the area’s establishment as a center of art in the twentieth century.
Since the 1960s, Bell has continued his investigations into light and space in Taos. On view, Bell’s early serigraph works Pink Ladies 1V, 1974 and Pink Ladies 4V, 1974 are juxtaposed alongside his later clear and gray glass paneled CUBE 27, 2008. These works have likely offered inspiration to fellow Taos artists primarily concerned with light itself including, Debbie Long, Cooper, and Sasha Raphael vom Dorp, whose works transform light and sound into otherworldly photographs that both greatly reduce and expand one’s sense of place in the universe. For Davis, issues of illusionism and opticality have remained central to his practice up until today. On view, Davis’ #110 Frame, 1968–69, is a radical early piece from his period of experimentation with the application of pigmented resin in a fiberglass mold.
Lynda Benglis’ abstract ceramic forms, including Atepua, proved influential to contemporary clay artist Hank Saxe, who worked alongside both Benglis and Price. The aesthetic rapport between Saxe’s geologically inspired ceramics, the result of ongoing investigations into clay, color, and the organic shapes of the earth, and Price’s iconic bulbous sculpture Fats, 1999, exemplifies the natural exchange that occurs in Taos’ tight-knit community where artists work in close proximity. The sculptures of Kevin Cannon—who along with Long spent time assisting Price in his studio— also carry a formal resonance with Price’s ceramics. At times employing glazing techniques he learned from Price, Cannon’s pristine surfaces simultaneously subvert the historical limits of leather as artistic medium while proposing new paths forward for the material.
The output of the Taos artists is both a mark in time and a winding labyrinth of visual and incorporeal explorations. For a group whose practices are so diverse in media and process, there is a shared tenacious approach to material, as well as a certain enigmatic sensibility—owing perhaps to the extreme and humbling beauty of their surroundings.