SELECTIONS FROM THE PERMANENT COLLECTION
POOLS, OCEANS, SHORES
For a land-locked institution, it’s surprising how many of the works in the NMSU University Art Gallery permanent collection take watery themes and images as their subject matter. From the simple blue forms of Marietta Patricia Leis’ Breathing Lessons to the happy smile of the little boy playing at the beach with his mother in a vintage poster advertising Bermuda vacations, many of the works in this opening area of the exhibition invite you to imagine yourself near the water, basking in the sunshine. Perhaps your mind’s ear will hear the roar of the ocean implied in Paul Caponigro’s small black and white photograph Surf, or the coral forms in Iris Bodemer’s delicate, colorful Neck Piece. Maybe, while looking at Carolyn DeMeritt’s Caitlin/Bubble, you will recall living in your swimsuit when you were a child, playing the summer days away. Whatever your memories and thoughts, may they be warm and sweet as summer itself.
LANDSCAPES, FLOWERS, AND IMAGES OF THE AMERICAN WEST
This section of the exhibition is loosely organized around the many landscapes and floral still lives housed in the NMSU University Art Gallery collection. While this theme might imply a uniformity, however, one glance makes it clear that these broad categories contain a wide variety of imagery and artistic approaches. There is a view of our nearby Organ Mountains, painted in watercolor by Vincent Harley Hallett, as well as photographs and paintings of such far away locales as California, Florida and the Grand Canyon. Some images are so abstracted that they could be perceived as simply color and form, if their titles did not clue us into the true nature of what they expose. Eliot Porter’s 1960 photograph of Landscape, New Mexico is a case in point: one could easily mistake it for a view of a small patch of moss or earth, but the title encourages us instead to consider the way that the epic forms of New Mexico’s mesas, deserts and valleys are implied by this microcosmic view.
The photographs to the left of this label, featuring images of the American West, may be of special interest to you. Photographer Mark Klett seems to capture all of the mythos and drama of this area in his 1982 photograph of a Bullet Riddled Saguaro Near Fountain Hills, Arizona, while photographers Laura Gilpin and Meridel Rubenstein focus their attention and their camera on the people and customs that make our region diversely rich and beautiful.
Enjoy your exploration!
DREAMERS, STORY TELLERS, MYTHMAKERS
The art on display in this area of the exhibition encourages the viewer to use their imagination, or to make up stories. The use of maps, doors, windows and books automatically require us to think of what we will find when we open them up to see what is inside, or beyond. Will we find familiar characters, such as the Native American trouble maker, Coyote, featured in one of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s iconic prints? Or perhaps we will recognize the famous super hero, subject of a not-so-super current block buster film, who flies through Richard Shaw and John Montgomery’s mixed media experiment, Take a Chance? Summer is a time to let the birds sprout from our heads, to daydream and float and explore our own colorful imaginations. I hope the artists on display here inspire new ideas and beautiful thoughts in your head.
THE NMSU UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY PRINT COLLECTION
Our print collection represents not only a real strength of the collection, but also an area of artistic production that has inspired passionate following by artists across the centuries. Usually, artwork is considered most valuable if it is singular in nature. However, with prints the fact that each image is reproduced several times does not take away from their worth. The fact is that, even in multiple, such tours de force, in terms of scale (like in John Buck’s huge 1987 woodblock print Between the Wars or Sue Coe’s 1994 lithograph The Unspeakable Pursuing the Uneatable), simplicity (the reduced palette and minimal lines of Brice Marden’s 1979 Title #1) or color (the intensity of built up layers of blue in Richard Bosman’s 1992 etching Night Lace, or the raw red, yellow and green in Pop master Roy Lichtenstein’s 1969 WPA Tondo silkscreen) remain impressive.
Using a variety of methods, the printmakers displayed here show that a work of art need not be singular in order to be singularly attractive and important.
THE NMSU UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION
As a photo historian, I am most excited about the excellent collection of photographic work in the NMSU University Art Gallery collection. The growth of photography as a field of study, coupled with the creativity inspired by the practice of “drawing with light,” make this one of the most interesting areas of modern and contemporary art viewing. Since the revelation of the Daguerreotype process in Paris in 1839, scientists and artists have advanced our ability to capture and fix images of the world around us first on metal, paper and glass plates, and more recently in the pixels that make up the digital files and images that surround us.
The photographs exhibited here range from an 1887 motion study by Eadward Muybridge that predicted the coming of moving pictures to the single, stopped moment of a motorcyclist’s speedy ride over the Ohio River snapped by Danny Lyon in 1966, and beyond. The works to the right of this label are by two of the most important figures of the 20th century: the photographer and curator Edward Steichen, and the Pop artist Andy Warhol. Despite the difference in style, both of these artists are interested in picturing fame. For Greta Garbo, it was her silver screen beauty that caused her to be one of the most talked about women in the world in the first half of the 20th century, and led her to famously proclaim that she wanted to “be alone.” The unknown people in Warhol’s images act as examples of one of his most famous maxims: that, “. . .in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”