Museum of New Mexico Media Center Press Release

An American Modernism

New Mexico Museum of Art

August 10, 2015


October 2, 2015 – February 21, 2016

An American Modernism opens Friday, October 2, 2015, from 5:30-7:30pm and runs through February 21, 2016. An American Modernism joins the exhibition O’Keeffe in Process, both at the New Mexico Museum of Art, in the “Fall of Modernism” cultural collaboration with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Drawn primarily from the museum’s rich collection of Modernist art, An American Modernism explores the quest by early twentieth-century artists to find a distinctive American voice and to define art for the modern age. The exhibition, organized into four subject themes – Industry, Nature, Urban, and Rural – illustrates artists’ struggle to identify which subjects best defined contemporary American life and art. A fifth section of the show focuses on the variety of stylistic approaches artists used in seeking a distinctive visual language of Modernism: Abstraction, Formalism, and Flattening.

Modernism began in Europe in the late 1800s as a response to the dramatic social changes brought by the Industrial Revolution. Initially quite controversial in its rejection of traditional artistic styles and subject matter, Modernism was embraced in the United States by a small, interconnected group of vanguard artists, primarily based in New York City and other urban centers. It wasn’t until after World War I that these artists, along with writers and other cultural figures, sought to distinguish their own brand of this artistic movement from its European roots and attempt to define a uniquely American approach to art.

“This was one of the most dynamic periods in American art,” said exhibition curator Katherine Ware. “The world was changing rapidly and many felt it was the dawning of a new age in which this country had an important leadership role. Artists took their contributions to that movement very seriously and the exhibition articulates some of their efforts to find new subjects and forge a new language for modern times.”

Photography plays a prominent role in the show as its discovery coincided with the rise of Modernism in the 1800s and because many artists seized upon the camera as the ideal machine-age instrument. Photographers Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Willard Van Dyke were particularly involved in establishing a Modernist approach to the medium. In addition to their contributions, the exhibition features four photographs by Alfred Stieglitz from his Equivalents series, in which he shifts away from photography’s role as a descriptive tool and moves toward abstraction.

Oil paintings continued to be important vehicles for expression, but in keeping with their interest in new horizons, many artists explored the possibilities of the less-dominant mediums of printmaking, photography, and watercolor. The exhibition includes Modernist watercolors, prints and drawings as well as the more traditional medium of oil colors.

“Most artists involved in defining American Modernism came to New Mexico or had direct contact with those who worked here,” said exhibition curator Katherine Ware. “Though many of them visited from other parts of the country, their time here was central to their efforts to forge a national vision and voice.” New Mexico’s key role in the development of American Modernism is showcased throughout the exhibition in works made by Dasburg, Davis, Hartley, Marin, O’Keeffe, and Wells.

A selection of nearly fifty paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs illustrate the conflicting themes and the range of artistic techniques these artists employed in articulating their vision of American Modernism. Among the artists in the exhibition are Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Raymond Jonson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Cady Wells, and Edward Weston.

The free public opening reception for An American Modernism is Friday, October 2, 2015, from 5:30-7:30pm.

Please consult the New Mexico Museum of Art website for scheduled programs. Other public programming will be announced.


The Fall of Modernism is a citywide collaboration that celebrates the Modernist art movement in America and runs from September of 2015 through January of 2016 anchored by the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The New Mexico Museum of Art will present two exhibitions, O’Keeffe in Process and An American Modernism. It is complemented by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s exhibition, From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism from the Vilcek Foundation Collection. Numerous art galleries in Santa Fe will showcase Modernist art with exhibitions, programming, and events. For information about the exhibitions, related public events, and a joint museum ticketing program, the public is invited to check the web site


Media Contacts:

Steve Cantrell, PR Manager, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

New Mexico Museum of Art



Audrey Nadia Rubinstein, JLH Media




Founded in 1917 as the Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Art has been presenting innovative arts programming in downtown Santa Fe for close to 100 years. At its founding the museum collected and exhibited artworks by noted artists from New Mexico and elsewhere. This tradition continues today with a wide array of exhibitions and a significant collection featuring work from the world’s leading artists. Today, as at its founding, the New Mexico Museum of Art strives to bring the art of New Mexico to the world and the art of the world to New Mexico.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Museum exhibitions and programs are supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director’s Leadership Fund, Exhibitions Development Fund, and Fund for Museum Education.

The Museum is located at 107 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico, just off the downtown Plaza. 24 Hr. Recorded Message: (505) 476-5072; Front desk: (505) 476-5041. November through April the museum is open Tuesdays - Sundays: 10 am-5 pm and open for free 5 to 8 pm on the first Friday of the month. May through October the museum is open 7 days a week 10 am-5 pm and is open for free every Friday night from 5 to 8 pm. The Museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Weather conditions may require the Museum to close; you can check with the Front Desk at 505-476-5041. Visit us on the web for the latest updates at





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