Southwest Abstractions of Emil Bisttram
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Home > Collections & Exhibitions > Special Exhibitions > Southwest Abstractions of Emil Bisttram

Southwest Abstractions of Emil Bisttram

Sept 21,2021-March 19, 2022

Harrington Changing Gallery

The WTAMU Art Program and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum jointly present Southwest Abstractions of Emil Bisttram, an exhibition of the artist’s late-career paintings from the Ladd Collection.

Emil Bisttram (1895-1976) was one of the leading painters in the Southwest during the twentieth century. Bisttram’s artistic talents were evident at an early age, and he studied at the National Academy of Art and Design and Cooper Union during the period when New York was emerging as the center of the art world and modernism was reaching its ascendency; however, he moved to Taos permanently in 1931. With Raymond Jonson, an abstract painter living and working in Albuquerque, Bisttram founded the Transcendental Painting Group in 1938. Bisttram, Jonson, Agnes Pelton and fellow members believed that color and abstract forms had a universal essence that they explored in their work.

Although Bisttram periodically continued to produce figurative paintings until his death in 1975, the majority of his works after World War II were non-objective abstractions inspired by his spiritual practices of meditation, Theosophy, and the hope of reaching higher planes of existence. Bisttram was so respected for his lifetime of work that his birthday in 1975 was declared a state holiday in New Mexico.

This exhibition will be drawn exclusively from an extensive collection of Bisttram paintings from the Ladd Family of Amarillo. This is the first time this group of works has been exhibited together in a museum or public setting.

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