Contemporary New Mexico

Santa Fe Breaks Free Of The Bronze Broncs With Two New Museum Galleries.

By Margaret Regan

IT'S HARD TO miss the visual art spilling out of gallery windows and doorways all around the chock-a-block central plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or along the crowd-choked precincts of Canyon Road. Some of the art is contemporary--and very good--but let's face it, much of it is of the bronze bronco variety.

The fine Museum of New Mexico has always offered a worthy alternative to the more commercial art digs, and in recent years another art museum and a contemporary art center have added to the mix. The much-ballyhooed Georgia O'Keeffe Museum opened its doors a year ago this month in a beautifully renovated adobe on Johnson Street, near the plaza. The building is a former church, and its architecture embodies the museum's reverential spirit.

Review Light years away in attitude is SITE Santa Fe, a three-year-old, cutting-edge space that presides off the beaten track on Paseo de Peralta. Its architecture? Warehouse renovation '90s style: Its brewery storage space has been given over to installations, performance art and the like.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is already on its second show. The institution owns about 100 works by O'Keeffe, the Wisconsin-born artist who died in her beloved New Mexico in 1986 at the age of 98. Each exhibition will feature a different mix of her work, though. The new show, which opened in April, exhibits 111 works, 16 of them new acquisitions or long-term loans. The works offer a quick synopsis of the painter's long career, starting with early abstractions, continuing with New York cityscapes, and moving on to the familiar paintings inspired by the New Mexico panoramas around Abiquiu.

"Purple Hills II, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico," a 1934 oil on canvas, for instance, depicts the insistent cliffs rising above the curves of the earth. "Abstraction, White" is a 1927 oil on canvas painted during O'Keeffe's New York years. The artist intended its sleek white forms, broadly slashed by blue, to help to repudiate the sexualized interpretations of her work that she found so annoying, according to curator Barbara Buhler Lynes.

But most interesting of all is a roomful of rare early watercolors, which will attract even those grown weary of O'Keeffe's sometimes clichéd shtick. O'Keeffe did these vivid, liquid watercolors while she was living in Canyon, Texas, from 1916 to 1918, and they record the beginning of her lifelong captivation with the wide open spaces of the West. They're beautiful. "Evening Star VII," 1917, splits the world in two--luscious red sky above, deep blue earth below--both sections set ablaze by the star.

An Expanding Collection continues through March 30, 1999, at The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson St., Santa Fe. Museum hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. On Friday, hours are extended until 8 p.m. Admission is $5. You can buy a four-day pass for $10, which also includes admission to all branches of the Museum of New Mexico. For more information, call 1-505-995-0785.

SPUNKY SITE SANTA Fe had a major coup last year that linked up with the Tucson art scene. Tucson painter Robert Colescott was the American pick for the Venice Biennale art fair, and SITE Santa Fe pushed itself on the international stage by acting as the sponsoring institution for his show. The center presents art with an edge: Closing Sunday, August 2, for instance, is Juan Muñoz's Streetwise, a gigantic transformation of the gallery space into a faux street, complete with three-dimensional human figures. Come Halloween, Alan Rath will people the 18,000-foot gallery with Robotics, his moving sculptural figures.

The center shuts down for two weeks after Sunday--it'll take awhile to dismantle the Muñoz exhibit--and reopens Sunday, August 16, with two new shows, Unland/Doris Salcedo, put together in conjunction with The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York; and Agnes Martin and Richard Tuttle, organized by the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art.

Salcedo is a Colombian sculptor who makes big sculptural installations often out of found objects. According to curator Dan Cameron, Salcedo "evokes a poignant, haunting sense of the aftermath of violence...Her work is a kind of visual magic realism, in which tables and chairs, old shoes and starched white shirts may suggest the almost ghostly passage from real space and time into the landscape of memory." One piece, "Orphan's Tunic," consists of a length of white silk draped onto a wooden table. Salcedo has carefully stitched the fabric to the wood with human hair. The artist will give a gallery talk at 3 p.m. Sunday, August 16.

The Martin/Tuttle show pairs two artists who've been friends for 35 years, each of them exhibiting about a dozen works that demonstrate their influence on each other. Both work mostly abstractly, concentrating on delicate lines, soft color and spatial relationships. Martin, 85 years old, is known for her graphite grid patterns on paper, and large bands of pale acrylic on canvas. Tuttle first saw Martin's work back in the early '60s, and while he goes into the sculptural third dimension--"Six" is a wood and canvas assemblage that bears a distant relation to the laundry bag--his sure sense of line mimics Martin's. Curator Michael Auping will speak at 3 p.m. Sunday, August 16.

All three artists will attend the gala opening from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, August 16; and Marcia Tucker, director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, will give a talk. Tickets for the event are $45.

SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo de Peralta, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $2.50 for adults, $1 for students and seniors. Sundays and Mondays are free for everybody. For more information, call 505-989-1199. TW

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