* SUNDAY AUGUST 18, 1996
Fifth 'New Art of the West' show is Eiteljorg's best
New Art of the West 5
Artists: 20 American artists
Location: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, 500 W. Washington St.
When: Through October 6
Five's a charm.
New Art of the West, the Eiteljorg Museum's fifth annual survey of contemporary Western-theme art, is the best of the series.
The museum's four previous New Art,...had their moments of Artistic merit and thematic whimsey, but were bedeviled by unequal quality and often awkward installations. The
wheat was there, but you had to sift through a lot of chaff to find it.
That was then, and this is now. Curator/juror Jennifer Complo and co-jurors Bently Spang and Craig McDaniel must be congratulated for bring this year's show to a level that is demonstrably above earlier incarnations in every respect.
Most obviously, that means the quality of the individual pieces. The show features 60 works, three each by 20 artists. Although it is perhaps tempting in such group situations to mix and match the works around the gallery here the exhibitions designers have wisely chosen to install the of each artist in reasonable proximity, thus allowing the cook the works to reinforce each other.
Another smart move: The show opens with some of the finest contemporary art works the museum has ever shown in any context.
|Kate Hunt's three abstract sculptures set a tone and clearly announce the show's ambitions for quality. The feature various combinations of twine, newspaper and steel and offer all the conceptional and technical sophistication one might expect from a graduate of two of the country's finest art schools the Kansas City Art Institute and the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
In fact, 17 of the artists list college-level art training on their resumes. This means little by itself. Yet it is possible to suggest that these artists come well-equipped with a knowledge of contemporary mainstream art. As such, their works should be understood in that context as much as they might be interpreted in the more specific context of Western art.
Indeed, Hunt's work does not readily offer the viewer a Western interpretation. Described simplistically, each of her works resembles, two push-broom heads merging the bristle.
That does not, however, begin to suggest the vast range of emotional and cultural connotations
|Hunt squeezes into these. Are they ritual apparel? Dry cascades of transmogrified landscape? Elaborate japanese packaging? Ecological comments? Sexual metaphors?
All of the above -- all of which would make them welcome in nearly and contemporary exhibition, regardless of theme.
Similarly, Shelley Hoyt's quietly poetic paintings would fit will in any exhibition of contemporary landscapes -- and easily pass as the efforts of an East Coast artist schooled in the traditions of Fairfield Porter or Neil Weiliver. Through her eyes, San Francisco Bay measures as calm as Porter's Penobscot Bay.
Like bottled landscapes
Add to this list Emmy White horse, Clar ice Dryer, Penny Curling, Russe ll Chatham and Marion Martinez __ and even Anthony Jojoba, whose beautiful glass baskets constitute a category into themselves but feel like bottled landscapes.
Each of these artists produces works of considerable beauty and finiess that do not immediately invite a specifically Western interpretation.
| Yet perhaps such a reading is valid on another level. Each of these artists embraces a kind of naturalistic imagery, and to that extend the exhibition sees to tell us that the West remains the home of Nature as subject, as poetry and as inspiration.
The thought continues, artist apprehend Nature best in the West, where it remains unencumbered by overwrought allegory or other civilizing concerns.
Here, as Chatham and Whitehorse especially remind us, Nature is simply beautiful -- and not just a postcard picture sent from vacationers back to the city.
To its credit, the exhibition manages to incorporate a wholly different and definitely Western range of subjects without missing a beat, mostly because the general level of quality any gap of sensibilities.
Lahib Jaddo's three paintings provide nearly hallucinated visions of maternity perceived with such a composed calm that is rises almost to the state of bliss -- and thus touches the realm of religiosity.
| That same spirit infuses John Glarrizzo Jr.'s mysteriously evocative images of car mechanics working around fragments of Renaissance shape in the background reveals itself as a saint's robe.
And James Johnson's will wrought psycho-sexual dream scapes perfectly embody the artist's canny reading of his own inspiration; the dead-flat emptiness of the Texas terrain. As he writes with tongue-in-cheek folksiness in the catalog, "There's just no tellin' what might be seen when there's nothing' to get in the way."
On a more social level, the exhibition offers Anthony Ortega's boldly colored renderings of Hispanic life. Anita Rodrigue' faux-folk tableau of mestizo life in small-town New Mexico and Charles Ringer's delightfully playful steel sculptures as rocking buckaroos.
For sheer painterly gusto, mothing competes with Chicagoan Bernard Willians' large-scale African-Indian Connections.
To these artists and the Eiteljorg one may only add; Please keep up the good work.