ALBUQUERQUE — Eighty years after its short-lived movement, the Transcendental Painting Group (known as TPG) continues to influence artists in New Mexico.

Currently on view at Richard Levy Gallery in Albuquerque is Another World, curated by gallery director Viviette Hunt, which mostly features work by New Mexico-based artists, as well as a couple of out-of-state artists — all contemporaries working in the transcendent realms of abstraction and visual experiences. The title mirrors the traveling exhibition Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group: 1938-1945, organized by the Crocker Art Museum and curated by Michael Duncan, the first show outside New Mexico to fully survey the art of the TPG, a movement which remains widely unknown. 

Raymond Jonson and Emil Bisttram founded the TGP in 1938 in Santa Fe and Taos with artist members Robert Gribbroek, Lawren Harris, William Lumpkins, Florence Miller Pierce, Agnes Pelton, Horace Towner Pierce, and Stuart Walker. The group of self-identified idealists, active until 1942, created nonrepresentational paintings of and from the creative imagination, proposing that “our spiritual self is just as definite a fact as our physical self.” Though active during World War II, the work did not concern itself with “political, economic, or other social problems” but rather aimed to transcend the objective. Their works followed in the tradition of artists Hilma af Klint, Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian, among others. 

The artists whose works are on view at Richard Levy Gallery borrow from and expand transcendentalism, with six of the local artists showing at the gallery for the first time, signaling an increased interest in contemporary transcendent realms. And by focusing on all women artists, Another World offers a look beyond what the TPG proposed.

Jenna Kuiper, “Green Lady” (2021), oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches (image courtesy Richard Levy Gallery)

For example, Jenna Kuiper takes cues from the TPG’s penchant for symbols, prompting visceral responses to nature’s potential for poisoned and pleasured experiences. Light glints off the smooth, elegant emerald skin of a slithering snake in “Green Lady” (2021) and distorts the fuzzy halos, jagged edges, and flamelike sunbeams in “Dandelions” (2020). Lomahaftewa incorporates symbols and motifs of Hopi and Choctaw cultures, some of which is coded knowledge not available to people outside of Hopi traditions, and some of which speaks to a collective consciousness, shared or universal experiences, and elements of natural landscapes.

Lomahaftewa, “Pandemic Yellow IV” (2020), monotype on white Rives BFK 250 gram paper, 29 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches (image courtesy Richard Levy Gallery)

Raychael Stine pushes representation to the brink of abstraction and vice versa with her “vision” paintings, featuring portals, edges, and thresholds of blended, saturated color gradients amid emotive characters such as flowers and dogs. She talks about her paintings in terms of the human capacity for love, “thinking about the energies of life …. and what it means to exalt an image of something.” Thais Mather also engages visions by harnessing the phenomenal power of light through her use of holograms, pointing to her experiences with such while giving birth.

Chelsea Wrightson’s work is most formally aligned with the TPG; she uses pastels, graphite, watercolor, and sculptural painting to engage symbol and form. Citing Hilma af Klint and Agnes Pelton as major influences, Wrightson tells me, “I am fascinated by the places my attention goes in stillness, with eyes closed, and senses dimmed. There are hallways of the subconscious made of light, color, space, and shape. Why do we often exclude these senses in our understanding of the universe?” 

Grounding itself in a long art historical lineage, Another World presents artists in New Mexico today who are joining a continuum of exploring what it means to transcend expectations.

Raychael Stine, “vision 25 (midnight lights and cosmos)” (2021), oil on canvas, 17 x 13 inches (image courtesy Richard Levy Gallery)

Another World continues at Richard Levy Gallery (514 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque) through February 25.

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Nancy Zastudil

Nancy Zastudil is an independent editor, writer, and curator working toward equitable representation in the arts. She regularly edits artist books and exhibition catalogs, and writes about visual art for...