PATRICK DEAN HUBBELL | EQUUS

EQUUS | A Series of Paintings that Honors the Significance of the Horse

“In this body of work the horse is explored in the most basic form, in the shape of the figure, to the special companionship shared and into the spiritual significance we respect within our Indigenous Nations. This body of work translates the equestrian role of the horse within Indigenous peoples' language, stories, songs, and philosophies, but also draws reference to the horse within the natural world. Through the use of line movement and line quality, the reference to the horse in the environment, a specific time of day, or in an atmospheric space of nature, is depicted.

Also, within the use of line taking shape to the figure of the horse, the connection to certain aspects of nature actually embodying the horse in the way the clouds, the air and the seasons change and move across our land through the layering of gestural line and the repetitive nature of the horse figure creating movement. This significance of the horses and how it is revered in the Native American belief is depicted in the connection to the stories, songs, and philosophies within different Native Nations. This body of work draws upon inspiration of the primitive use of line found as it relates to the animal in early prehistoric cave drawings and also the early Plains Native American style ledger drawings.”

-Patrick Dean Hubbell

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Tell us a little bit about yourself, your upbringing and how art became a primary focus for you?

My name is Patrick Dean Hubbell. I was born and raised in Arizona. I am Dine' (Navajo). I was raised on the Navajo Nation near the Window Rock, AZ / Navajo, NM area, located right on the AZ/ NM border. I grew up in a very small, rural town where family and close relatives are very important to the role of the foundation of community. We were raised close to our Navajo traditional, cultural beliefs and practices, the duties of maintaining ranch livestock with horses and cattle, and the simplicity of rural life. I first noticed advancement of basic drawing skills with eye-hand coordination and draftsmanship at a young age and began to develop this talent as my education progressed. Attending a very small privately funded school that lacked a lot of the standard resources found in public school, but nonetheless, I had a young passion for creating that never stopped and only grew. It wasn't until later that I realized the insufficiency in a lot of the materials we had for the Art programs, but it didn't stop me from trying and growing. From there I went on to attend Arizona State University, where I later obtained my BFA in Painting and Drawing. Within my years as an undergrad, I realized that I wanted to pursue the Arts as a full time professional career. Our Painting Professor used to pose the question for our class to get us thinking, "Less than 10 percent of all Art Students are able to be full time artists, what makes you and your art any different?". This question ignited a determination to create. I always believed that I had an important piece to add to the conversation of Contemporary Art and how my voice through Contemporary Native/ Indigenous Art could be heard.

A connection to the Earth is obviously important to you, can you explain how that connection impacts your work?

A strong connection to the Earth is essential to all Indigenous nations. It is the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection to a nation's land. We are centered and in balance with the natural environment through our stories, songs, philosophies, and ceremonies that are rooted in this way of thinking for our people. This is the foundation of where my work evolves from. This mindset is what drives many of my inspirations that revolve around the natural environment, nature's patterns of change and existence, and the physical elements of earth including plants, animals, and the human figure. It is a constant that is expressed through different bodies of work but in turn all comes back to the central idea of how our unique and individual relationship to this Earth exists.

Your current work is primarily abstract but references the natural world through pattern and symbol. Can you speak to that?

Pattern and Symbol is a universal language and crosses cultural boundaries. These patterns and symbols have ancient meaning and correlation to the art work of many Indigenous Nations found in textiles, basketry, pottery, carvings, beadwork, quillwork, etc. I have used the medium of painting to further the conversation of these symbols and patterns to make connection to the natural world in my work by presenting them in way that abstractly touches upon the use and meaning of these symbols. This allows the freedom to explore the possibilities of the realms this work can access. By having the meaning present, the 2 dimensional surface of the painting is able to depict many instances of how nature is presented through atmosphere, landscape, and entities within nature.

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EQUUS

Opening reception, Friday, October 19th, 6:00 - 9:00pm

The show will run October 19th through November 30th, 2018

John Berry | Solo Show of New Paintings

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Modern West Fine Art premiers John Berry's most recent paintings...

“Using color, pattern, line and texture my work strives to capture what it is to be human. To live with a dual nature of spirit and body. I use the interplay of line, pattern, shape and color to explore what it means to be human. By adding marks, covering or erasing marks, I hope to convey a sense of a life lived and the complexities of living and making our way in a human world.”   -  John Berry

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We chatted with John Berry about his most recent paintings

Can you describe this body of work and what inspired it?

"… I do not think of it as a "body" of work, there's not a starting or stopping point. It is just one stream of consciousness that has come from inside. As far as inspiration, I am not sure I have inspiration per se, rather, what is in my thoughts or what is currently happening in my life, that is the genesis of all my work..."

 

Could you talk a little about your process?

"… Routinely I try to change the way I work. Whether that is starting differently or using different materials or ways of application. I try to constantly mix it up, make myself uncomfortable with what I am doing. Even buying arbitrary colors... By doing this though, I hope to let each work become what it needs to be, if I am doing the same routine over and over, I feel it becomes stale. I think you can see this if you look at my work over the last few years."

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Do you listen to music while you paint, if so what have you been listening to recently and does it influence the work?

"Yes, I do. It always influences the work in one way or another... Music produces such an emotional response, whether it is the pace, sound, nostalgia etc.  So I usually select music that is in rhythm with my feelings for that day. But sometimes I do put something on that is the opposite of what I'm feeling, that is always interesting... It will range from Indie Rock to Reggae to Classical, to 80's music I grew up with, but more times than not it is what the kids call Alternative. Spoon and Metric are my favs."

 

What have you been reading?

“The Last River”, a nonfiction story about people trying to kayak a river near Nepal, that has never been run before. I like adventure stories, but if you wanted to get artsy, I did recently finish a biography of Matisse. Biographies of artists are a mainstay of my reading, go figure."

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Can you talk about how you come up with the titles of your pieces?

"Most of the time my titles come from songs or phrases I read or hear that resonate with the piece. Sometimes they are straightforward, sometimes I try not to reveal directly what I was thinking or feeling, just hint at it... I hope by doing that I let the viewer fill in the gaps, make the piece their own. Kind of like connecting the dots, that is the hope anyway."

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About John Berry:

A working artist for 25 years, Berry started his career as an illustrator before turning to painting. Initially he worked as a wildlife and landscape artist, exhibiting regularly. As he continued his career he turned his full attention to the landscape, painting Plein Air and then developing larger works back in the studio. Over time his work shifted to focus on the shapes and colors of a more abstracted landscape, eventually moving entirely to pure abstraction. Berry works intuitively, channeling feelings and emotions into the painting, the results of which are bold colorful works that exude a pure expression and passion for the act of painting.

Opening reception, Friday, September 21st, 7:00 - 9:00pm

The show will run September 21st through October 13th, 2018.

WEST - The Effect of Land and Space

Eleven Women Artists who Take Inspiration from the American West

The American West imbues distinct feelings. The emptiness, space and possibility for solitude are — if not unique characteristics — distinguishing factors that are impossible to ignore. The West — an expanse of land and sky, saturated with silence and stillness — provides an environment that demands attention and instills the desire to be present. Here are conditions that stir the senses and give space for creation to ignite.

 

KIKI GAFFNEY

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"I was first introduced to the western landscape around 2003, when my future husband brought me out to meet his family. They are all around the Salt Lake/Park City area, but his brother-in-law Kurt also built a place in Castle Valley, near Moab. As someone who grew up on the east coast, traveling only as far as the Jersey shore for family vacations, this new landscape was utterly breathtaking. We have since come back every year to Utah, often hiking the same trails as the year before, and I never ever tire of looking out at the sweeping views, and breathing in the majesty all around" 

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"The west for me represents expanse - externally for sure, but also internally, giving me 'permission' to let go, move freely, create space and think in new ways. It is a reminder of Mother Nature's artistic brilliance, power and beauty, and offers me an endless source of insight and inspiration for my own artistic endeavors" 
- Kiki Gaffney

 

LIBERTY BLAKE

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"I come from England, where the landscape is organized into fields and the horizon feels close. When I first came to Utah, I felt a deep affinity for the desert, its huge skies, distant skylines and particularly the sense of stillness and waiting that it imparts. I’m drawn to the quiet of wilderness, its gentle movement, wind moving plants and birds flight. It allows me to slow and calm my mind to match the pace of the surroundings.

I only ever work from memory as this enables me to create work that’s both a visual and emotional reaction to a place. A collage might be inspired by a fleeting glimpse that imprints itself in my mind, or from layered feelings and images built up over many visits. I make art to document experience, in the same way a person keeps a written journal. My intention is to draw attention to things unnoticed, overlooked or discarded and to encourage the appreciation and preservation of places that can’t speak for themselves" - Liberty Blake

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AL DENYER

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"Definitions of the West for me, are strongly tied to notions of landscape and ecology.  Holding both a dramatic and fragile visual impact, the landscape of the West directly influences the artwork that I create.

The landscape of the West is hard to ignore.  With vast spaces and layers of geological history, this landscape consistently inspires me to create and question.  The confusion of space in the landscapes of the West, where the vast could also be microscopic, directly influences my visual language.  It is this concept of visual space that becomes a starting point for my work" - Al Denyer

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JODY PLANT

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"Mystery, expanse, the sky when I was a child. An uncommon spaciousness informs my work. The West is an extreme landscape, a hunting ground. I hunt bits of nature and history to combine. The memory of the land resides within these assemblages. Hands touch and work the earth, eyes search the horizon. The land is vast and varied. A slant of light, a cloud, a bird sound, river water, dusk, dust devils, lightning storms. If the West is about anything, it’s about possibility obscured. The land where you are born keeps you, always. You are made of it." - Jody Plant

 

JANN HAWORTH

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"As myths go The West is a great one. It does not carry the weight of a raft of moral imperatives — it is more of an action painting type heroic story. What startles me is that it is somehow still living. There still are cowboys, ‘Indians’, and wild horses. My west is a long love-affair that is as fresh today as it was when I was a child — I love the shards of the west, my jeans, tooled leather belt and pearl stud shirt — I love the crassest motel with a wagon wheel and a giant arrow sticking in the ground.  When making art though, I want to avoid – kitsch – nostalgia – lying – cultural appropriation – postcolonial white mindsets. I can’t do ‘pretty’, say the horse, because it is too beautiful. Can’t do a drawing of a Native American, much as I want to, now that I have heard about Caucasians with ‘feathers in their hair’ and cultural appropriation. But what I want to capture is West NOW and for me, that is not looking at old movies, or arches, or modern versions of sexy things like cowboy hats — I am a sucker for them — but I want to catch something of modern cowgirls, and for me these are the roller derby jammers, or the mountain bike as a horse, the ‘hipster’ as a cowboy, or acknowledging that the 'pioneers' were homeless people. The west was settled by immigrants, that ‘occupied’ the land like squatters or ‘Occupy’ protesters.  They carved out a living, largely ignorant about how best to do that. Their story was mythologized almost before they lived it, first in dime store novels, then circuses and then by Hollywood. To catch the illusive fast moving contemporary 'West' I hope to fuse the old legend with new actors and new roles" - Jann Haworth

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SHALEE COOPER

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"The West symbolizes freedom, expression, openness and possibility. The balance, past/present, positive/negative and everything in between. The ability to explore and forge new ground, to make a mark, to exist. It personifies endless opportunity and reinforces the potential to be or do anything you want" Shalee Cooper

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BEATRICE MANDELMAN

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SUZANNE HILL

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"What does the West mean to me? It means a wide open landscape, a sky that has it’s own personality, colors that can be both serene and piercing, lyrical landforms. The western landscape has been a revelation and an inspiration to me. When I visit these landscapes, places like Bryce, Zion, Arches, Grand Staircase Escalante, my mind opens up. I am also inspired by the pottery of the traditional cultures of the West. What I try to do in my work is bring those things together, the traditional pottery forms of the West with the colors I see around me"

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PETECIA LE FAWNHAWK

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"The west is the last remnants of our wilderness.  A place we can truly experience freedom and the force of the unknown." - Petecia Le Fawnhawk

 

 

COURTNEY LEONARD

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American Fine Art Magazine Features Modern West Fine Art

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“Utah has a thriving market for contemporary art, fueled by a long heritage of established and emerging artists that have left their mark within the art world. This drives an interest within our community, creating new collectors that are passionate about engaging with the art, and existing collectors that are looking to push the boundaries of their own collections.  

We have established an astute group of collectors, and we love our connection to western and contemporary patrons. Our focus continues to evolve as we meet the demand of our market’s interest in collecting contemporary works that push the boundaries of western art. We are thrilled to have featured our first exhibition with Taos Modern artists Beatrice Mandelman and her husband Louis Ribak in partnership with Rosenberg & Co. in New York and University of New Mexico Foundation, who manage their estate. This important exhibition has opened a new chapter for the gallery, broadening the opportunity for our patrons to view and acquire historical collectible works.

We aim to create an environment that supports artists ability to experiment and continue to develop their work. We are always looking to diversify the mediums that we feature, hence expanding our photography presence and works on paper. Newly represented collage artist Liberty Blake has been well received by our local and national markets and is an artist to keep your eye on. Her works create tension and balance carefully considering color relationships, scale, texture and narrative. We are also very excited to be featuring works by Kiki Gaffney whose work juxtaposes animated shapes with design elements and Al Denyer whose work encompasses areas of drawing painting, printmaking and installation.

We are currently making it a priority to address parity and equal representation of men and women. Our upcoming show West – the Effect of Land and Space will feature works by 10 female artists inspired by the distinct feelings the American West imbues, July 20  – Aug 31, 2018. ”  - Diane Stewart 

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J. Vehar | Adrift

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Modern West Fine Art is excited to feature “Adrift” by J. Vehar.  This new body of work explores the complexity of contradictory elements that coexist within. Each piece begins with a traditional rendering of recognizable imagery, which is then painted over, partially obscured and abstracted. Emitting both a stillness and energetic movement, Vehar-Evenoff has created a bold new body of work. 

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We recently chatted with John Vehar about his new body of work 'Adrift' — His inspiration, process and what he's been listening to in the studio.

 Can you describe the imagery in this particular body of work and what inspired it?

"I was thinking about cosmic archetypes and symbols, I was thinking about the human animal as an ancient biological and spiritual being in a modern world. Bodies emerging from the sea or floating amongst the clouds. I was thinking about the symbols of fierceness and helplessness existing in the same person. The sea can be powerful, you can harness it, but you can also get lost in it. I was thinking about the male and female archetypes existing within each person. I was physically acting out chaos and order. I was contemplating unintended consequences by creating unintended consequences. I was thinking about birth and death being a circle. These were the mythologies for this show."

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Could you talk a little about your process of layering and obliterating the painted surface.

"I started each piece very traditionally. I began by rendering figures, flowers, what have you. Then after some dry time, I began to layer up paint at the same time I would remove it, loosely pushing it into shapes and lines over the surface of the figures. Drips become rain, figures emerge from water, and the surface of the sea is rendered. If I saw something in the abstract, I would go back and emphasize it using traditional brushwork and blend it in."

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Do you listen to music while you paint, if so what have you been listening to recently?

"Oh boy. Okay, you asked. When I started this project I was listening to 80s new wave music from my childhood, midway through, I went on another nostalgic trip and put 80s British metal on my playlists. By the end, it was all melodic post metal, and experimental electronic music for me. I’m really open with music in general though. I listen to, and work with many genres, from hip hop and jazz to traditional Bulgarian folk music."

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I’m interested in the connection between art making and the meditative state described as ‘being in the zone’ or ‘flow state’ how does this relate to your work?

"For me, being “in the zone” is knowing when to “get up and move.” I don’t know what my pieces are going to become in advance, so I don’t plan them without room to breathe. So I spend hours with the work, sometimes months before I touch them again. I think you have to make them sink into your subconscious. Stare at them, think about them aesthetically all day and all night, talk to yourself about them in the shower, do nothing until you get “that feeling” and then burst into action. The most intriguing parts of the work are the parts that were worked the least. Those parts took minutes, not hours. Or in this case, minutes on top of hours. So I guess in the end, my version of being in the zone would be having a constant conversation with yourself and your work, and then acting upon it when you are ready. Then repeat. Over and over again. This brings the work from the unconscious into reality, and back again, when something is finally there, flushed out on the canvas, you can stop. The message came out of you. Now you’ve cleared up a bit of the mystery for yourself, and deepened it for everyone else!"

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The tensions that arise between stillness and movement seem to factor in your work, could you speak to that?

"Yes. The movement you are seeing is placed on top of stillness. The movement is acting upon something still and sculptural (Say, a figure rendered with brushes). This is a good thing, because it’s not supposed to be that the two things exist at the same time, in the same space and equally important. Also, tools I use are very sculptural as well, so the marks they make “build up” on the surface. You may notice movement with this technique, but also you may notice built up lines that reinforce the stillness at the same time. These lines add a graphic, illustrative comic book feel here and there. It’s not over-the-top-hit-you-over-the-head, but it’s there."

 

About J. Vehar:

A self-taught artist, Vehar has been painting for more than 20 years, pushing genres, exploring mediums, and proving that the only constant is change.  The result is an expansive, informed portfolio that ranges from figurative to abstract. Born in the windy town of Rawlings, Wyoming, Vehar is a full-time artist residing in Salt Lake City, UT.  

The show will run June 15 through July 14, 2018.

The opening reception is on Friday, June 15th, 7:00 - 9:00pm, and the show runs through July 14, 2018.

Beatrice Mandelman and Louis Ribak

written by Nancy Stoaks

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Since opening its doors in 2014, Modern West Fine Art (MWFA) has supported established and emerging contemporary artists who, in compelling and varied ways, reframe our understanding of the West. Through thoughtful exhibitions, the gallery illuminates both new and historical bodies of work that are relevant and meaningful for today’s audiences. It is with this in mind that MWFA presents this momentous exhibition of work by Taos Modernists Beatrice Mandelman and Louis Ribak. Blending Modernism with a unique desert-infused sensibility of color, light, and space, Mandelman and Ribak serve as a bridge between Utah’s honored tradition of landscape painting and the work of today’s contemporary artists.

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photo courtesy University New Mexico Foundation

MWFA’s exhibition takes as its focus the commanding work of Beatrice Mandelman. Presenting her abstract collages and paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, it explores her distinct voice as an artist in Taos. Her compositions exude vibrancy, playfulness, restraint, and subtlety. Ribak’s work, placed in conversation with Mandelman’s, reveals the broader strength of Modernism’s particular idiom in Taos and illuminates a fascinating story of artistic synergy and aesthetic vision in an unexpected corner of the West.

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Beatrice Mandelman’s Red and Blue, a tight patchwork of interconnected shapes and colors, is intentionally dissonant. Typical of her paintings of the 1960s and 1970s, it signaled her adoption—and adaptation—of the early twentieth-century Modernist traditions to which she had been introduced decades prior. Here, Cubism, Constructivism, and Expressionism coalesced and took new form. The colors of Fernand Léger blended with the cut-outs of Henri Matisse. Yet Mandelman’s work was distinctly its own—the product of these diverse influences, combined with the indelible impact of Taos, New Mexico, where she had lived since 1944.

Seeking essence above realism, Mandelman exploited the expressive possibilities of elemental form and color in her work. Her compositions are vibrant and full of energy, often with a densely-packed network of overlapping geometric and organic shapes. While this style of abstraction can sometimes feel haphazard, Mandelman’s work displays thoughtful consideration of the interplay between adjoining forms and colors and between individual parts and the whole. There is playfulness in her approach, but also purpose and restraint. Returning to Red and Blue as an example of her meaningful gestures full of deliberate dissonance, geometric shapes abut the organic, clean edges abut inexact hand-drawn lines, and subtle hints of color activate the edges and interstices of this complex amalgam of forms.

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When compared to the work of Louis Ribak, Mandelman’s husband and fellow Taos Modernist, the enduring—and fascinating—creative conversation between the two artists comes into view. The relationship between Dark Noon and Blue Circle, or Sun Series B6 and Jugglers, illustrates their shared approach towards elemental form and color. There are, of course, also noteworthy differences—Mandelman’s use of collage created a textural element that is absent in Ribak’s work, and Ribak’s pared down approach to composition stands in contrast to Mandelman’s more densely-packed style. Still, their Modernist experiments were a shared pursuit, with ideas around form and color reverberating in a back and forth exchange.

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Mandelman and Ribak’s distinct palette included a wide use of primary colors frequently joined by pinks, peaches, and browns, all in tones that were particularly attuned to the natural world. (This dialogue with the landscape was furthered on occasion through the titles that each artist assigned to their works.) Even more striking, however, is their use of the color white. Creating an almost jarring sense of light and space, it served to draw attention to the indeterminate ground of some works, shifting between positive and negative space. White plays a dominant role in works like Number 7, but it also acts more subtly in Mandelman’s Yellow No. 2 and Ribak’s Blue and Peach Abstract. As in other works by Ribak, Blue and Peach Abstract demonstrates the particular attention—through form and color—that the artist brought to the edges of his compositions.

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Enlivened with visual drama and tension, Mandelman’s and Ribak’s works of the 1960s and 1970s are undeniably alluring. Mandelman particularly celebrated this dissonant, off-center quality: “Off center means to me that a person has to give my work thought, it has to be looked at, it has to be given energy.” Both Mandelman and Ribak, in their highly sophisticated play with form and color, created works that reward energy, offering subtle yet compelling details that emerge with time.

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Beatrice Mandelman, known to many as Bea, lived a life dedicated to art. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1912, the young artist began her studies at Newark’s School of Fine and Industrial Arts, yet it was her connections to Louis Lozowick and Willem de Kooning that were likely even more influential in her early development. In 1924, when Mandelman was only twelve, it was Lozowick’s vast knowledge of Constructivism (gained from a four-year sojourn abroad) that ignited Mandelman’s sustained interest in the European avant-garde. De Kooning was equally significant. After meeting the recent émigré in the late 1920s, Mandelman became a regular in the artist’s studio, listening with rapt attention to his lively discussions with Arshile Gorky and others within the burgeoning New York art scene.

While the influence of their Modernist aesthetics would be felt decades later, Mandelman’s early works embraced the social realism brought on by the Great Depression. In 1935, she became one of the thousands of artists employed by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project, serving in its mural and graphic arts divisions. Mandelman’s impressive serigraphs from this period gained considerable attention and were presented at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

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In 1942, Mandelman married fellow artist Louis Ribak, a highly-regarded social realist painter. Two years later, despite the great success that each was having in New York, they decided to leave the growing metropolis. Ribak’s health counted among the reasons, as did the FBI. Indeed, Mandelman and Ribak had substantial ties to leftist publications and associations, leading to unwanted scrutiny by the federal government. In 1944, during a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the two artists ventured further to Taos and it was in this small town that they embraced a new life.

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Taos, while rugged and remote, had distinguished itself as a destination for artists since the late nineteenth century. The Taos Society of Artists was founded in 1915, and included academic figurative artists drawn to the Puebloan culture. The awe-inspiring nature of the landscape (and the pull of wealthy arts patron Mabel Dodge Luhan) had also drawn visitors like Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe. Mandelman and Ribak, meanwhile, emerged as the nexus of a new generation of artists—one who created an unexpected center of Modernism in the deserts of New Mexico.

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Mandelman’s and Ribak’s evolution from social realism to abstraction was not immediate, but was underway by the late 1940s. This transition was spurred by Mandelman’s studies under Fernand Léger in Paris in 1948, as well as an influx of new ideas brought by the students attending Mandelman and Ribak’s Taos Valley Art School, which had opened in 1947. Their students, coming from the east and west coasts, shared the seminal developments of Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Josef Albers, and others. By the 1950s, Taos had become home to numerous Modernists, Agnes Martin among them, and the group as a whole became known as the Taos Moderns. Mandelman and Ribak were integral in starting artist cooperatives and galleries that would support this growing community.

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By the mid-1960s, many of the Taos Moderns had departed, but Mandelman and Ribak stayed. Their close ties to the landscape in Taos continued to subtly influence their particular inflection of Modernism, which strengthened and evolved over the following decades until Ribak’s death in 1979 and Mandelman’s in 1998. Their enduring legacy is one of dedication—to a place, to a visual language, and to one another.

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Select Bibliography

Hobbs, Robert. Beatrice Mandelman: Taos Modernist. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.