When Modern was Contemporary
Albuquerque Museum of Art

art review ABQ, 2017, Vol. 2, p. 11

When Modern was Contemporary showcases a beautiful and diverse cross section of the Roy R. Neuberger Collection. Albuquerque has received such a treat in being able to view this show that is one of the most important collections of modern art in the U.S. The works showcased are of various mediums by some of the greats of the modern art world, such as Alexander Calder, Jackson Polluck, Richard Diebenkorn and Georgia O’Keeffe. From one end of the large gallery space to the far end the works are captivating and the dimly lit, quiet room provides the perfect ambience for the spot lit works on the side walls as well at the walls down the center of the room.

The show has 50 works of sculpture and paintings by just as many artists. The size of this modern collection is so diverse and showcases the variety of modern art that was created throughout the 20th century by masters of their craft. The Albuquerque Museum has set the show up in a very sensory pleasing way to view these works that have remained significant throughout the past century. The quiet dark space creates an atmosphere that is most welcoming to the visitor that wants to have a personal experience with these works of art.

One work in particular provides a unique experience. The Red Ear by Alexander Calder is an amazingly shown sculpture of painted metal and wire. Alexander Calder is credited as the inventor of the mobile. This piece is shown in the perfect way that we have come to know mobiles. This sculpture is a free hanging from the roof of the gallery. It is suspended roughly twelve feet off the ground requiring the viewer to tilt their head upwards to view the piece. The color of the piece is significant in that only primary colors along with minimal black and white are being used. This serves to heighten the feeling of youth and nostalgia. It creates this child like feeling of looking at a mobile hung above the crib. The work slowly moves too and fro with the small shifts in the air. This piece is more of a display of shadows than anything else. It creates shadows that look organic and botanical while the piece itself is a very man made almost industrial showcase of painted metal and wire work of shapes. The contrast of these two feelings creates and tension with the viewer that is always changing as the piece moves and changes the shadows cast on the wall. The piece seems to be meant to be therapeutic and nostalgic all at the same time for the quiet viewer. The sculpture has a life to it that is very reminiscent of all mobiles.

Another work that caught my eye is, Girl on a Terrace, by Richard Diebenkorn created in 1956. Diebenkorn has the ability to use such simplicity to elicit great emotion space and aesthetic pleasure with oil paints. Girl on a Terrace shows a female figure in a landscape standing beside a table with a beverage on the table. In the back ground of greens and blues we see ambiguous shapes of yellow and greys. The painting is done in a very painterly way with visible brush strokes that create many textures within the piece. It seems like Diebenkorn is seeking to display the beauty of this figure in the landscape with minimalism and a small variety of brush stokes and detail. The figure is in a contemplative state and the whole work is very still with the figure back lit by the sun. Maybe Diebenkorn is depicting a partner of his in a stoic moment on the terrace when things seem to be perfect for the two. The focus of this piece is not to show a masterly naturalistic view of this figure but to capture the essence of this unique moment. The piece only captures what is most important to the composition. Diebenkorn creates a beautiful memory in this painting and draws the viewer in by creating a moment that everyone can relate to and input their own memories in to.

The works as a whole showcase such a variety in styles that no two works seem the same. The variety of artists working in the first half of the 20th century is truly something to witness. The show is more than worth the $3 admission into the museum which includes many other shows that are going on at the same time in other galleries. The Albuquerque Museum has showcased itself as a player in having exhibitions with really well known artists from crucial moments in Art History, in the Southwest and throughout the world. When Modern was Contemporary is a must see for anyone in the Albuquerque metro area.

The show is located at the Albuquerque Museum located at 2000 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104. This show will be up for viewing through December 31st, 2017. At $3 for admission the museum offers quite the bang for your buck with shows like this available for viewing.

Corey Smith