Albuquerque Now is to our art scene what a telescope is to the moon: By focusing in on an exceptional fragment, we are better able to understand the beauty of the whole. The show, up now at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, displays dozens of locally crafted works in a stunning representation of our creative community, its diversity and its talent.
The 61 artists involved differ in development and training, in achievement and aspiration, in style and expression. They have roots across the globe; some were born in Japan, others in Indiana and many here in New Mexico. Their artistic influences are divergent; several were witness to the abstract expressionism of the ’40s, while others came of age amid the postmodernism of the ’80s. Their skills are the products of varied educations, from MFA programs to family knowledge passed down three generations.
These artists are painters, printmakers, sculptors, filmmakers, architects, silversmiths, woodcarvers and leatherworkers—to name a few of their manifold classifications, and not to neglect many artists’ utilizations of multi- and mixed-media in their work.
From any point in the gallery, then, viewers are offered a perspective that is surprisingly broad in its visual scope and artistic inclusion. In one line of sight are master artisan Peter White’s “Copy of 1737 Guarneri del Gesu Violin,” a perfect working replica; renowned folk artist Santiago Perez’ “The Fantastical House: Cycle of Life,” a vibrantly painted metal structure that you can crawl inside; and emerging digital printer Kyle Webb’s “Overgrown 01,” the surreal photo-image of a forested factory.
The Albuquerque Museum’s Curator of Art Andrew Connors suggests that such unique and varied perspectives are crucial to audience engagement in an exhibition like Albuquerque Now. The discordance of media in a single sight line, he says, “forces the viewer to constantly switch gears instead of becoming complacent by looking at work on the wall, work on the wall, work on the wall, which can become monotonous.”
The art in this exhibition radiates and, overall, the show’s coherence is breathtaking.
Group shows are often wholly disparate; the works can appear disconnected and the relationships between them may feel inorganic. In this disunity, the art disappears. Albuquerque Now could have easily suffered that fate; the sheer number of participants lends itself to chaos and confusion. But the art in this exhibition radiates and, overall, the show’s coherence is breathtaking.
Connors and his design-installation partner, Curator of Exhibitions Tom Antreasian, share an aesthetic ethic. While they hope to achieve a “cohesive environment,” their ultimate aim is to “ensure that each object speaks on its own and is given a greater authority than a mere illustration on the story line of the show.” Indeed, the design and installation exceed this aim, for every work is afforded a prominent platform.
Interestingly, in the case of three very isolated areas, this prominence is at the distinct expense of environmental cohesion. For example, Julianne Harvey’s “Bite Me,” a three-dimensional scene of sharks hunting one of their own (symbolically, in the confines of an aquarium) hangs alongside a modernist Acrylite box and Mary Sweet’s “Empty House, Gilman,” a more traditionalist watercolor ink woodblock print on paper. Elsewhere in the show, the juxtaposition of styles is extremely successful. Yet the coupling of Harvey and Sweet is so aesthetically disjointed, you wonder if their placement was determined—solely—by the major rear-gallery wall on which they hang; as if cohesion was sacrificed here in favor of location.
In form, Deana McGuffin’s “Cowgirl Boots” of ostrich and kangaroo hides, leather and wood pegs are connected to Joyce Neimanas’ “Choreographed Footage,” a video narrated by dancing feet, changes of shoes and descriptive shifts of music. In function, McGuffin’s “Boots” are related to Chris M. Sandoval’s “Little Christopher’s Story Chest,” a carved trunk of sugar pine that possesses as much practical utility as it does beauty. Such relationships can be found throughout and among the objects, even those in entirely different areas of the gallery.
It is the quality of craftsmanship, however, that is the most recognizable and constant connection between the works. Every artist is an established master of his or her form, or a noteworthy newcomer perfecting a take on a trade. Every piece is constructed with impeccable care and consideration. As Connors states, “artists in Albuquerque work hard to make their pieces the right way. It’s something they have in common: They do their work well. It’s not just a great idea—it’s a great idea executed beautifully.” Apparently, the same can be said for curatorial pairs in Albuquerque. Or at the very least, for Connors and Antreasian.
No matter your involvement in or awareness of the Albuquerque arts, please make it a point to see Albuquerque Now (whether through Jan. 3 in this fall installation or, if you must wait, after Jan. 24 in the winter installation—though why not both?). If you’re a stranger, it will introduce you. If you’re entrenched, it will alter and improve your frame of reference. Either way, it illuminates the creative life of our city. And, most significantly, it magnifies Albuquerque's unfolding legacy of artists.
Albuquerque Now: Fall
Oct. 11 through Jan. 3
Albuquerque Now: Winter
Jan. 24 through April 18
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History
2000 Mountain Road NW, 243-7255
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
Closed Mondays and city holidays
Admission: $4 adults ($3 adult New Mexico residents with I.D.), $2 seniors 65+, $1 children ages 4 to 12. Admission is free on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all day on the first Wednesday of the month.
Wednesdays, Nov. 4 and Dec. 2, 11 a.m.
Curator of Art Andrew Connors discusses select works in Albuquerque Now: Fall .