Elaine de Kooning on New Mexico
A copy of a typewritten letter by abstract expressionist Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989) about New Mexico's art community recently floated into the gallery. De Kooning had a teaching stint at the University of New Mexico in 1959. The write-up is sharp and witty, as well as very poetic.
'Earth Colors' in New Mexico are intense pinks and reds. Color and space are actors. changing role from hour to hour. constantly in flux. Light... brings the surfaces of the mountains aggressively close or thrusts them off in legendary distances. The sunsets here would have reduced a Barbizon painter to ashes.
It might be said that the sun chased the modern artists indoors. The most inspired artists often seem to respond to their surroundings in reverse. Drenched in color, the... painters generally work with palettes that are subdued, dense, introverted. Space-rich, they do not need to escape into big canvases as New Yorkers seem to and their forms are compressed and immediate.
Having certain attitudes towards their surroundings in common, these artists do not form a 'school' as is usual in art colonies. Indeed, 'art colony', with its connotations of Bohemianism, exhibitionism and conformism, seems an inappropriate term for this group of individualists...