Listen to the voices behind the Santa Fe Community Gallery's Cumulous Skies: The Enduring Modernist Aesthetic in New Mexico, and preconceived notions of cowboy art and desert landscapes quickly shatter.

Opening night for the exhibit, which explores and embraces the role of New Mexico within the legacy of modernism, was flooded with gallery-goers, moving in a slow and constant swirl as they float between the pieces on display.

"Grouping and flow are carefully considered," Lawrence Fodor,  the exhibit's curator, says. A product of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, together with matching funds from the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission, Cumulous Skies challenged Fodor with the task of curating an inspiring, educational spread of art. He did so by relying on his instincts and an eye for detail. For example, he utilized a set of engine hoists to move a single sculpture for two hours before settling on its final location. "I'm very grateful to everyone involved for indulging my OCD," he says.

When selecting the artwork, Fodor explains he sought visual references in classic modernist standouts and their relation to contemporary works, a concept exemplified by the pairing of Willard Ayer Nash’s “Landscape (Santa Fe)” from 1930 and Tony Abeyta’s “Chamisa Rains” from 2013.

The sky in Rains stretches down and showers the landscape in large staves of white and azure; the foreground rests and anticipates its approach.

“For me, it’s all about how I can pose—the rhythm...the marriage of earth and sky. You should be able to smell the chamisa,” Abeyta says. Indeed, if not already a hellish allergy season, the chamisa would ruffle noses to sneezing.

Intimately familiar with the modernist timeline, Abeyta—one of more than 30 artists contributing to the exhibition—remarks on the adoption of modernism as an American aesthetic movement.

“We can draw a line. This is the same day in the spectrum of modernist thinking,” he says.

With its warmth and careful attention to composition, the core of Abeyta’s work is quintessentially New Mexican, bridging pictorialism and abstraction to paint what Abeyta deems “emotional landscapes.”

“(Modernism) is a continual language—a language we now speak. We all have that voice,” Abeyta says.

The exhibition also exemplifies, Fodor says, the unique nature of the gallery itself by allowing artists who might otherwise be competing for space to present their work collectively.

“Other than a museum, there is not another venue in town where this show can happen,” he says.

Cumulous Skies
Through June 7
City of Santa Fe Arts Commission's Community Gallery
201 W Marcy St., 955-6705

Brandon Ghigliotty and Michelle Rutt produced this piece as part of a Journalistic Collaborations course at SFUAD—a coordinate project with SFR. The photography and writing course is team-taught by Photography faculty member Anthony O’Brien and Creative Writing contributing faculty member Julia Goldberg, a former editor of SFR.