“The American West has given rise to myths and legends. Warhol, with [his series] ‘Cowboys and Indians’ has deftly tapped in to that vast resevoir of powerful images that somehow relate to reality, but also mystify it.” ~ MoMa
Altamira Fine Art has unveiled an impressive and exciting assembly of recent aquisitions. The lion’s share of new works come from Altamira’s exceptional roster of Contemporary Western artists; a few are exquisite works by deceased masters. Artists with new work in the gallery are Rocky Hawkins, Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953), R. Tom Gilleon, Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Duke Beardsley, Bill Schenck, Jared Sanders, Dan Namingha (sublime), Harvey Thomas Dunn (1884-1952) and Ed Mell.
I’ll be writing about all these artists as the season progresses, but today I’ll tell you a bit about Warhol, Schenck and Namhinga.
A Pittsburgh native, Warhol built his fame in New York, and remains one of the world’s most influential artists. He’s considered by many to be the king of Pop Art; toward the end of his life he turned his attention to Western themes. I’ve often thought that his late-in-life interest in landscape, Western symbols and icons sprang from some unconscious knowledge that time was short. He’d also purchased land at the end of Long Island that was, in that era, remote. The natural setting affected the artist. Warhol’s “Plains Indian Shield” is pictured above, and is available at Altamira. Warhol’s Western themed work is relatively scarce, and for Western art collectors, very special.
A Pop artist of high reputation himself, Schenck is, in part, returning to one of his earlier styles. His flattened, pointillistic black and white images of a black-haired, almost unbuttoned, sunglassed cowgirl harkens back to Roy Lichtenstein’s cartoon-like “commentaries” on Pop. Interestingly, Lichtenstein was also interested in Western themes early on in his career. Schenck’s “True Romance State III” ( 60 x 50″, shown at left) is at once sexy, beckoning, and contains a touch of humor.
I’m reading Namingha’s history these days. It’s the stuff myth is made from. I can’t wait to see as much of his work as I can, when he opens his show (along with Theodore Waddell) at Altamira on June 6th. Namingha’s stature among Hopi artists is elevated enough that he’s the subject of Thomas Hoving’s “The Art of Dan Namingha.” Growing up, Namingha gazed at northeastern Arizona’s Hekytwi Mesa every day from his grandparents’ home. As he grew older, Namingha traversed, touched, smelled and took in the mesa’s every shadow, surface and scent. Its image is embedded in every Namhinga work, freeing and affirming.
When artists repeatedly create work about a core subject, it’s because that place or object feels like home~~it is home, and one wants to keep that good, connected emotion going.
Namingha descends from Hopi art royalty; his great-great grandmother was the innovative potter Nampeyo (1860-1942), wrote Hoving. Namingha’s work is stunning, graphic, contemporary and ever-changing.