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"West By Southwest" from the Collections of the Museum of the Southwest
January 20 - March 17, 2002
West By Southwest brings to the Muskegon Museum of Art paintings, prints, and bronze sculpture from the Collections of the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas.
This exhibition is a broad-brushed survey of western life that embraces sunlit mountain landscapes, Native American subjects, and still-life objects, which embody some of the more conventional views of the American west. West by Southwest opens with canvases by nineteenth century artists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hill, who captured the natural wonders and the monumental vastness of the West. (left: William Victor Higgins (1884-1949), Kit Carson Street, early 20th century, oil on linen; Gift of Fred T. & Novadean Hogan, The Museum of the Southwest)
An overall focus of the exhibition centers on artists of the earlier twentieth century associated with the art colony in Taos, New Mexico. The colony had its roots in the summer of 1898, when two artists, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, suffered a broken wagon axle in the mountains of New Mexico. They found a blacksmith in the little town of Taos, some 20 miles away. Stirred by the superb beauty and serenity of the area, Blumenschein and Phillips felt they were seeing nature for the first time. By 1915, Taos had attracted many artists and in this year a number of them formed the Taos Society of Artists, an organization that would last until 1926. As with many art groups, the Society's primary purpose was to generate greater exposure for their members, not only in New Mexico, but also throughout the United States.
Artists in the Taos Society were not native westerners, but men who had been born and trained in the eastern United States, studying art there as well as in Europe. They discovered in Taos not only sublime landscape, but also Native American and Hispanic cultures and rural cowboy life. The older artists in the Taos Society, such as Ernest Blumenschein, tended to be more conservative in their creative outlook. Many of the artists were trained in art academies that stressed a detailed realism, while others were commercial illustrators. Regardless, all wanted to render accurate and romantic depictions of New Mexico scenery and its cultures. Younger artists, such as Victor Higgins, brought a modernist aesthetic to interpretations of the land and its people, one that stressed form and composition.
Other artists in the exhibition, perhaps the most widely known being Gene Kloss and Peter Hurd, worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As at Taos, the Santa Fe artists took a variety of approaches in their expression of historic as well as contemporary themes.
The paintings and sculpture donated by Fred T. and Novadean Hogan of Midland, Texas, form the heart of this collection. Soon after their marriage on September 6, 1937, the Hogans started an oil company and began a love affair with art that continued more than 56 years. The Hogans collected what they liked and the collection shows their interests -- their focus upon quality and beauty.
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