Phoenix Art Museum Presents Agnes Pelton

The show sheds light on Pelton’s artistic contribution to American modernism

Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is the first exhibition on American painter in more than 24 years. Born to American parents in Stuttgart, Germany, Agnes Pelton (1881-1961) and her family briefly lived in Basel, Switzerland, before returning to the United States in 1888.

Agnes Pelton, Sand Storm, 1932. Oil on canvas. Crystal Bridges Museum of
American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas PHOTO BY EDWARD C. ROBISON III

A graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, she began experimenting with abstraction in the early 1900s in New York, eventually exhibiting in the Armory Show of 1913 at the invitation of Walt Kuhn.

Intentionally moving away from the “mainstream” arts community, Pelton eventually settled in Cathedral City, California. She painted conventional desert landscapes to make a living, but it was her abstract studies of earth and light, biomorphic compositions of delicate veils, shimmering stars and atmospheric horizon lines, that distinguished her work.

A believer in numerology, astrology and faith healing, Pelton’s abstract compositions propelled her into an esoteric world epitomized by the Transcendental Painting Group (1938-1942), a short-lived group that promoted abstract, non-objective art.

Although Pelton received some attention during her lifetime, she has been relatively unknown within the field of American Art.

Approximately 40–45 works will comprise this exhibition shedding light on Pelton’s artistic contribution to American modernism, while examining her practice against a broader, international framework of spiritual and esoteric abstraction.


Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist

Through Sept. 8

Phoenix Art Museum, Steele Gallery, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

For more information, visit phxart.org.

 

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