AMONG THE TAOS MODERNS:
Thomas Benrimo (1887-1958) arrived in Taos from New York in 1939. His work evolved from Cubism through Surrealism, and he created paintings in both non-objective and figural categories, many with allegorical classical references.
Emil Bisttram (1895-1976) moved to Taos in the 1930s with a background of New York avant-garde theory and Eastern mysticism. His postwar paintings, in varied media and styles, emanated from that world of ideas and from his own diverse imagination.
Lawrence Calcagno (1913-1993) was an Abstract Expressionist, but he brought to that philosophical space an affection for landscape and the organic essentials of all form. Calcagno studied in San Francisco with Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko after World War II, then worked in Europe until his first New York show in 1955. During the 1970s and 80s he also maintained a home and studio in Taos.
Edward Corbett (1919-1971) worked in San Francisco after World War II. His paintings of those years often experimented with diffused organic shapes, color blocks, and line. In Taos in the 1950s Corbett created drawings that he said presented to the viewer the mystery of what might be about to happen rather than the experience of the event itself. The 1952 Museum of Modern Art exhibition Fifteen Americans secured Edward Corbett’s place in modern painting. Corbett was in the vanguard of Abstract Expressionism and prefigured Minimalism and Color Field painting. Corbett’s second wife, the late Rosamond Tirana, was a frequent visitor to Taos, and her paintings share his feeling for the austere landscape of the Southwest.
Keith Crown (b. 1918) first lived in New Mexico in 1956 while on sabbatical from the University of Southern California. His connection to Taos has continued to the present.
Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979) experimented with many of the concepts of Cubism but was not bound by them. His paintings always were notable for their precise drawing and careful structure. He exhibited in the New York Armory Show of 1913 and moved to Taos in 1919. After World War II, and recovery from a severe illness, Dasburg focused on the austere, spare images that characterized his final years.
John DePuy (b. 1927) moved to Taos in 1952, bringing with him influences of both San Francisco, where he worked with Clyfford Still, and New York, where he studied with Hans Hofmann and at the Art Students League with Vaclav Vytlacil. DePuy has traveled and shown widely–at the early Taos Modern shows at Galeria Escondida, and with Group 7 in Taos, and with the CoBrA Group at Atelier 17 in Paris.
Wolcott Ely (b 1924), a Kansas native like Ward Lockwood, discovered Taos after World War II, as Lockwood had after the first world war. Of different generations, both artists were influenced by European abstract painting. Ely studied with Emerson Woelffer and painted in France before arriving in Taos in 1954. His work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art and in significant regional exhibitions.
Lilly Fenichel studied with Hassel Smith at the California School of Fine Arts, subsequently painting in New York, then working in Taos in the late 1950s with Clay Spohn, whom she had met in San Francisco.
Louise Ganthiers (1907-1982), a student of Rufino Tamayo, and of Vaclav Vytlacil at the Art Students League, arrived in Taos in 1950. She had strong ties to San Francisco, and was among those painters who carried the currents of West Coast Abstract Expressionism to New Mexico.
Leo Garel (1917-1999) traveled to Taos in the 1940s after study with George Grosz and Vaclav Vytlacil at the Art Students League in New York. He remained in New Mexico until 1952, when he returned to New York, where he showed paintings at Mortimer Levitt Gallery and Zabriskie Gallery.
J Ward Lockwood (1894-1963) exhibited in San Francisco with the West Coast Abstract Expressionists although his work was unlike that of the younger painters. In 1962 he returned to Taos, where his career had begun in the 1920s, his work still conveying the inherently abstract qualities of the New Mexico landscape.
Agnes Martin (b. 1912) arrived in Taos in 1947, the same year as Earl Stroh, who was a classmate in the University of New Mexico summer program. Her Taos work from the 1950s was dominated by biomorphic figures suspended in calligraphy, but over succeeding years her pictures evolved to a more cerebral and minimal plane.
Haynes Ownby (1929-2001), who had been a student of the influential Hans Hofmann, worked in Taos 1958-61, where he met the painter Oli Sihvonen, striking a friendship that continued in Cape Cod and New York. A substantial grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation came during the last year of Ownby’s life. In the catalogue of a retrospective exhibition honoring Ownby at the Cape Cod Museum of Fine Arts, Hofmann’s biographer wrote that Ownby “embraced and explored chaos with clean, sharp lines….as if to make visual the wind passing through trees, the ebb and flow of tides.”
Burton Phillips (1912-1996), a polymath with degrees in languages and law, began painting after his move to Taos in 1958. He discovered an inherent internal color sense, and his paintings evolved into mosaic-like studies in color relationships. The pictures are tautly controlled and mathematically complex yet project a lyrical sensuality.
Hyde Solomon (1911-1982). His paintings of the 1940s and 1950s, exhibited in key Abstract Expressionist shows at Jane Street Gallery, Poindexter, and the Stable Gallery in New York, hinted at an organic structure of nature and a theoretical foundation that Solomon would continue to express in New Mexico in the 1970s.
Clay Spohn (1898-1977), an exponent of Surrealism and Dadaism in the 1930s, and a friend of artists as diverse as Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, and Arshile Gorky, taught at the California School of Fine Arts in the 1940s. He was deeply involved in the genesis of Abstract Expressionism. Spohn moved to Taos in 1951, the same year as Edward Corbett, also a teacher at CSFA. In Taos, Spohn met Oli Sihvonen, who eventually lived in the same loft building in New York where Spohn spent his last years in poverty and ill health.
Earl Stroh (b. 1924) arrived in Taos in 1947 at age 23. His work was immediately recognized as exceptional, and today his abstract canvases are considered key monuments in the history of Modernism in Taos.
Cady Wells (1904-1954), from a prominent Boston family, discovered Taos in 1932. He studied with Andrew Dasburg and was later friends with Thomas Benrimo and Earl Stroh. His early work was luminous, light and optimistic. After returning from World War II, Wells created more somber paintings, dominated by grids and dark contrasts.