American Fine Art Magazine Features Modern West Fine Art


“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."


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."


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!"


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.

photo courtesy University New Mexico Foundation

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Select Bibliography

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

Celebrating Women Left out of the History Books by Pat Mitchell


We all know that history is written by the victors. Nobody is sure which white man first said that, but it really doesn’t matter as the patriarchy has made sure its heroes have been prominently memorialized in the pages of newspapers and history books, and the walls of museums.

In the early 1990s, along with my VU Production partners, I was trying to convince TV network executives to produce a series on women’s contributions to the 20th century. We were turned down by all three — and there were only three networks at that time. Then someone suggested that I take the proposal to an unlikely television executive — Ted Turner. He had launched CNN, transformed the cable business and was married to Jane Fonda, but was not the first man I thought of for the project. But he asked exactly the right question: “Is this history in the history books?"

"Not much of it," I replied — and that, regrettably, is still true.

That’s all it took to convince Ted to green light the six-hour series, A Century of Women — women’s history from 1900-1992. We produced the series which was broadcast on TBS in 1994 and in many countries around the world. It became the first television series to be selected for the Schlesinger Library of Women's History video archive where it is easily accessed for research purposes by Harvard and Radcliffe students. But a lot has happened since 1994, and we are already nearly 20 years into the 21st century!

Throughout my media career, finding ways to engage the power of media to raise awareness of women's stories, accomplishments and challenges has been a central theme of my work, believing, as I do, that "we can’t be what we can’t see" and we can’t remember what was never recorded. 

This truth was revealed earlier this month when The New York Times published its “Overlooked” project. The idea was hatched after Amisha Padnani was hired as a digital editor at the obit desk and quickly realized in the course of her work that the obituary pages had long been dominated by men, especially white ones, since the paper’s inception in 1851.

Even in the 21st century, that dominance hasn’t abated. In the past two years, the ratio of obituaries about men and women was still 5 to 1. So, Padnani and Jessica Bennet, the Times first gender editor, spearheaded a project to write obituaries for women who had "left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked."

Among the 15 remarkable women in the inaugural collection are Ida B. Wells, Charlotte Bronte, Henrietta Lacks, Sylvia Plath and Marsha P. Johnson. Many were shocked that the deaths of the authors of enduring works like Jane Eyre and The Bell Jar passed unremarked by the editors of the Times.

The oversight is multiplied when you consider that there is no museum dedicated to the history of women in this country in our nation's capital. We have museums chronicling the history of everything from stamps to space to spies, but not one focused on the contributions of women to the making of America. 

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Last year, I was appointed by Leader Nancy Pelosi to a bi-partisan congressional commission to study the feasibility of building a national museum of women’s history and, after 18 months of exploration and research, we presented our findings and recommendations to Congress that an American Women’s History Museum is indeed feasible and necessary. 

Progress, yes, and last week, the Smithsonian announced a new women's initiative that charts a path forward to showcasing women in all the Smithsonian museums with special exhibits and women’s curators, and the goal, hopefully, of building a physical museum in Washington, DC, adding women's stories to the historically important museums documenting the history of Native Americans and African Americans. The women's initiative will officially launch in 2020 with exhibits celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment.

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During this year’s Women’s History Month, I also wanted to share a personal story of another historical oversight with current relevance: artist Jann Haworth, who was erased from history herself, and now is devoting her art to ensuring other women in history are not forgotten. Jann was one of the co-creators of the iconic Beatles’ album cover, "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band," which turned 50 last year, and her collaborator and husband at the time, pop artist Peter Blake, is the one more remembered and celebrated for the cover.

“Looking back, I’m horrified that of 71 famous faces, the Beatles chose no women,” Haworth told the London Express last year. “Peter and I added only 12 women and three of those were Shirley Temple. The rest were pin-ups, mannequins or blondes such as Mae West and Diana Dors. If we made the cover today we would never have allowed such inequality."

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Haworth, 75, now lives in Sundance, Utah, where we first met and I first saw her “Work in Progress” mural — a collaboration with her daughter, artist Liberty Blake, and photographer Lynn Blodgett — that presents in a series of panels, an artistic interpretation of more than 250 women who helped shape the world through contributions in the arts, sciences and social justice activism.

Haworth tells me that she was inspired to create the mural after doing a comic strip in 2009. "It was called 'Mannequin Defectors' and in the last panel the mannequins were marching past a piece of street art that was a mural of notable women. I needed about 25 to 30 heads. I wanted women from all areas, not just the arts, not just American, not just white, etc. etc. and — I had a moment! I realized I didn't know MY history. That's when I thought, 'This should be an interactive art project to engage other women and men in discovering women's stories.'"

Liberty Blake explains her process at TEDWomen 2017

Liberty Blake explains her process at TEDWomen 2017

Jann Haworth talks with a participant in the TEDWomen Workshop

Jann Haworth talks with a participant in the TEDWomen Workshop

The mural is collaborative art in that people are invited to attend workshops where they choose a woman in history and with stencils and art materials, they create portraits which Liberty later incorporates into the larger mural. After seeing the process at the Salt Lake Art Museum, I invited Jann and Liberty to TEDWomen in San Francisco in 2016, and there, TEDWomen attendees selected women from TED’s history and created a new panel for the mural. Again in New Orleans in 2017, TEDWomen attendees eagerly contributed to the mural with more portraits. Over the past two-plus years, the mural has grown to nine panels measuring 56 feet showcasing over 250 portraits made by 200+ community members. Two new panels that will be collaged and added in April.

The mural is always growing. As Haworth says, “Complete? Never! That’s one of the two reasons it’s called ‘Work in Progress.’ The other is that it’s about progress.” As Haworth and Blake take the work to different cities, they hold workshops in which local community members are encouraged to nominate women for inclusion or choose from a list and create their own stencils as part of the project.

When I asked Haworth which were her favorite representations, she reeled off a list. “Bessie Smith, because of the woman who cut her image. Mata Hari, I read everything I could find about her and was deeply saddened by her tragedy. Ruth Bader GinsburgMother JonesVictoria WoodhullAngelica DassEve Ensler... Actually, this list doesn't stop.”

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Haworth says the workshops have been wonderful engines for discovery, with “young women discovering things and older women realizing how much they didn’t know. The format of the workshops is like a sewing circle. We've learned a lot about how when you are engaged in art making and the creative process — the stories come out.”

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Since premiering in 2016 at Utah MOCA, the mural has traveled to nearly 20 venues, including Washington, DC (for the first Women’s March and on Capitol Hill for the as part of the Commission's report to Congress proposing an American Women's History Museum), and it's been seen in galleries in Vienna and Paris and, this month, New York City.  Appropriately, Jann’s mural with its selected women from the past, will be exhibited at XXHouse, a project of two young women who, like Jann (and other artists, writers, composers, scientists, engineers and activists), are committed to celebrating women’s history as well as making it.

"A person with no stories has no history nor future," was one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings, and I believe it. That’s why I’m committed to getting women’s stories front and center at every opportunity, to promoting and advocating for women’s stories on television, in film, on the TEDWomen stage, and ultimately for a national women’s museum. We can’t all write a movie or play or create art but we can share our own stories and tell the stories of other women so that no woman’s story gets unreported or her death go unrecorded or her accomplishments assigned to someone else.

I challenge us all to discover a woman’s story we did not know and to celebrate her story by sharing it with others.

— Pat


Photos: "Work in Progress" mural; AWHM Congressional Commission members, from left, Mary Boies, Marilyn Musgrave, Kathy Wills Wright, Maria Socorro Pesqueira, Emily Rafferty, Bridget Bush, Jane Abraham and Pat Mitchell (Photo by Vincent Ricardel); ( l-r) Artist Jann Haworth, Diane Stewart, Pat Mitchell and Susan Cofer at Diane's gallery in Salt Lake City to view an exhibit by Jann about the Women's March; a panel from "Work in Progress"; another panel from "Work in Progress"; a TEDWomen workshop participant starts work on her contribution.

Jann Haworth | POP! Art in a Changing Britain


Drawn from the Pallant House Gallery's significant collection of British Pop Art, this exhibition explores how artists in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s responded to rapid social change, as Pop Art emerged as a means of addressing the rise of mass media, the cult of celebrity, questions of identity and prevalent political concerns, issues that still resonate today.

A vivid exploration of how artists in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s responded to rapid social change, as Pop Art emerged as a means of addressing the rise of mass media, the cult of celebrity, questions of identity and prevalent political concerns, issues that still resonate today.

A generation of artists including MWFA represented artist Jann Haworth radically challenged thinking about art and mass media, democratizing art by questioning the traditional division between high and low art. They took their cue from advertising, comics, science fiction and contemporary music, embracing non-traditional materials and techniques.


The exhibition celebrates Pallant House Gallery’s significant collection of British Pop Art, including major paintings, sculpture and its extensive holding of Pop prints. It includes seminal works such as Peter Blake’s ‘The Beatles, 1962’ (1963-68), Richard Hamilton’s ‘Swingeing London’ (1968), Jann Haworth’s ‘Cowboy’ (1964) and an early example of Pop printmaking, Eduardo Paolozzi’s ‘As Is When’ (1965).


The exhibition celebrates Pallant House Gallery’s significant collection of British Pop Art, including major paintings, sculpture and its extensive holding of Pop prints. It includes seminal works such as Peter Blake’s ‘The Beatles, 1962’ (1963-68), Richard Hamilton’s ‘Swingeing London’ (1968), Jann Haworth’s ‘Cowboy’ (1964) and an early example of Pop printmaking, Eduardo Paolozzi’s ‘As Is When’ (1965).


Pallant House Gallery holds one of the largest public collections of British Pop Art internationally. This richly illustrated publication celebrates the extensive collection of painting, sculpture and print acquired by Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson in the decades that followed the Second World War. Written by Claudia Milburn (Senior Curator) and Louise Weller (Curator) the book features an overview of how the Pop collection at Pallant House Gallery developed, an introduction to British Pop Art, alongside an essay that explores the key themes of the movement.

The exhibition will be on display from February 24 - May 7 2018 at the Pallant House Gallery