From the Collections

Peyton Wright Gallery is pleased to announce “From the Collections,” an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper drawn from the gallery’s extensive collections and estates. More than 50 artists will be showcased, including artists from the Washington Color School such as Tom Downing and Paul Reed, as well as Bay Area Abstract Expressionists including John Grillo and Edward Dugmore. The exhibition commences on Friday, October 14, 2016 and continues through November 16, 2016 in our main floor galleries. There is no opening reception.

The Washington Color School was a movement of the late 1950s through the late 1960s. It was a form of abstract art that developed from color field painting. The name derives from the Washing Gallery of Modern Art, where this group of artists first exhibited. This exhibition features two of the school’s founding members, Tom Downing and Paul Reed. Both are known for their strong palettes and precise, hard-edged compositions. Leon Berkowitz is an artist associated with the movement who is also featured in the exhibition.

Bay Area Abstract Expressionism was a movement that centered on Clyfford Still, who taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). John Grillo and Edward Dugmore were two of his most prominent students. Dugmore produced large, imposing paintings that Los Angeles Times critic David Pagel called “translucent configurations … [that] seem to be lit from behind.” Grillo became known as one of the “purest” action painters and helped to define Bay Area Abstract Expressionism. Both Dugmore and Grillo went on to show at the renowned Stable Gallery in New York.

The exhibition features other significant works by prominent artists across the spectrum of post-war American art. These include Hans Hofmann, Roy Lichtenstein, Jochen Seidel, James Brooks, Art Brenner, Mary Abbott, Grace Hartigan, Herbert Bayer, and Ray Parker. The breadth and depth of Peyton Wright Gallery’s collection will be on full display in this exhibition.

View the exhibition catalogue

About the Artists
(1911 - 1987)
Leon Berkowitz (1911-1987)was born on 14 September 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents Yettie (née Pries) and Bernard Berkowitz, Hasidic immigrants from Hungary.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania, the Art Students League of New York, the Corcoran College of Art and Design (where he later taught), and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

During World War II between 1943 to 1945, Berkowitz served in the United States Army and was stationed in Virginia, where he served as an art therapist to psychiatric patients and became familiar with the psychological methodologies of Gestalt and Rorschach. In an interview with the Smithsonian Institute, Berkowitz recalled that “What I learned from the Rorschach was that it wasn’t the symbols that people saw, it was the abstract qualities that they saw, that were diagnostic, you know, a couple of colors, a concern with edges or the hole….all of these things supported the development of my own aesthetic.”

With his first wife, the poet Ida Fox Berkowitz, and artist Helmut Kern, Leon Berkowitz established the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts in 1945 (also known as the Workshop Art Center or Washington Workshop Center for the Arts). This Center became a cultural catalyst in the city, bringing together leaders in both the performing and visual arts, including painters such as Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Gene Davis, who would later become well-known founders of the Washington Color School group.

He was often associated with the Color School painters, though he adamantly denied this connection, publicly noting his commitment to the poetics of color and the influence of poetry, music, and physics in his work over the more formalistic concerns of the group.

The Workshop Center closed in 1956, and Berkowitz and his wife spent much of the next decade traveling and living abroad, using that time to further his artistic and spiritual explorations. He painted and exhibited in England, Spain, Greece, Wales, and Jerusalem.

Recalling his time in Spain, Berkowitz told the Smithsonian, "I think there is where I really found myself. ..There in Spain, I discovered my own isolation.... I’d absorbed a great deal. The great question in my mind was whether I had found my own voice. In Spain I came to realize that I had.”

Returning permanently to Washington in 1964, he joined the faculty of the Corcoran School of Art. He was promoted to head of the Painting Department in 1969.

By the end of 1966, he embarked on the Cathedrals series. As art critic Sarah E. Fensom writes,

"In these works he 'essentialized' the vertical, painting vertical bands of glowing color that seem to surge off the canvas.... In Cathedrals, the bands of color are painted on either side of a thin, cake-sliver-like white triangle. This slender wedge, wrote James F. Pilgrim,... acts as a symbolic light source. Pilgrim wrote, 'Light seems to move laterally from this core, creating changes in color intensity,' but he added parenthetically that 'the changes actually result from light reflecting through various densities of pigment.' Berkowitz’s real light source was the canvas itself."

“I try to explore it in all its possibilities, the vertical as a cause and result of the color, the shape of the canvas a cause and result of its ascent and inner verticality,” Berkowitz said.

Much of Berkowitz's work is a reaction to the work of the Abstract Expressionist School in New York. Berkowitz was never comfortable with the abstract expressionist painters' dependence on internal psychological states. Berkowitz felt he needed to take inspiration from some external authority, rather than an exclusively internal one. In Berkowitz's own words, "I wanted to work in direct response to nature".

Berkowitz's later paintings marry form and structure with color and light. As light penetrates through the layers of thinly applied paint, crystalline structures emerge. As

Fensom explains:

"In Berkowitz’s work, there is no spraying or seeping of pigment—and later, hardly any use of shape. Instead the artist developed a method in the late 1960s in which he used large brushes to sweep on a mixture of 10 percent oil paint and 90 percent turpentine. He allowed each layer to dry thoroughly—sometimes using rags or blow dryers—before applying another. He usually applied some 30 to 40 edgeless layers. In the 1970s Berkowitz said, 'I have continued to develop this method to a point where I can distribute the fragments of pigment both in extension and depth, resulting in an additive mixture of colored light. The color is therefore seen in space and changes with the solar spectrum as day moves into night.' This creates what he calls a “dynamic form”—something that doesn’t exist in Color School pictures."

Berkowitz restores to color a "depth of vision" in his best work, and in those depths the viewer discovers the natural forms in the universe - sea, sky, and earth.

In a statement for an exhibition of his work at The Phillips Collection in 1976 he said, “I am endeavoring to find that blush of light over light and the color within the light; the depths through which we see when we look into and not at color.”

Berkowitz's paintings are included in numerous private and public collections around the world, including the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; James Michener Collection, Houston, Texas; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Golda Meir Collection, Jerusalem.

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(1910 - 2008)
Margo Hoff was born into a large family in Tulsa in 1912. As a child she spent many hours playing out­side, finding patterns in nature, a practice she pursued throughout her life, rendering them as bright, textural paintings. Hoff graduated from Tulsa University in 1931. Three years later she moved to Chicago, enrolling in the National Academy of Art and later at SAIC. In 1939 she spent a few months in Europe traveling and looking at art, and during her lifetime she traveled and worked in over twenty-five countries, including Brazil, Ethiopia, and Lebanon.

Hoff showed in exhibitions at Art Institute Chicago (1945, 1946, 1950, and 1953), winning several prizes. In addition to her long-standing association with Fairweather-Hardin Gallery, which began in 1955 with her first one-person exhibition in Chicago, Hoff's work was frequently shown in New York, including Hadler-Rodriguez Galleries, Saidenberg Gallery, Babcock Gallery, Betty Parsons Gallery, and Banter Gallery; and in Paris at Wildenstein Gallery. Her work can be found in the collections of major museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and Art Institute of Chicago.


View the exhibition catalogue

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(1886 - 1969)
Paul Burlin (1886- 1969) was born in New York. Though he had some training at the National Academy of Design, he later dropped out to pursue his studies informally. He visited the Southwest for the first time in 1910, and paintings from this visit were received warmly in New York and shown in a 1911 exhibition. As a result of this early success, he was one of the youngest artists (at age twenty-six), along with Randall Davey, to participate in the 1913 Armory Show – the revolutionary exhibition of avant-garde European work that can be credited with introducing modern art to the United States and stimulating the development of modernism in America. There, Burlin’s work was exhibited alongside works by such artists as Picasso, Monet, Cézanne, and Duchamp.

His move to Santa Fe, subsequent his participation in the Armory Show, would herald a new era of modernism in New Mexico. The Armory Show, he later recalled, had little impact on his work and yet he was affected; simultaneously unsettled and yet galvanized by the event.

Returning to the Southwest to live, he drew inspiration from the culture and the landscape. Like many modernists of the day, Burlin was fascinated by so-called “primitive” art, particularly the designs and palette of the Native cultures he encountered in New Mexico. In 1917 he met and married Natalie Curtis, a highly regarded ethnomusicologist specializing in Native American music.

In 1921, Paul and Natalie Burlin moved to Paris as part of an exodus of expatriate artists responding to the provincialism of America after World War I, exemplified by the hostile reaction to his abstract work and other modern art. In Paris, Burlin found himself in the cultural center of modern art. He studied European abstract artists, working with the Cubist Albert Gleizes, and further developed some of the intellectual and symbolic elements that he had begun in the Southwest.

Later that year, Natalie was killed in an automobile accident. Burlin was devastated. He moved back to the Southwest, but found no solace there, and soon returned to Europe. He continued to live in Paris until 1932, when he moved back to the United States in the midst of the Great Depression to work for the WPA.

During this time, Burlin’s work tended toward social-realism, experimenting with political and urban themes. Throughout the war, Burlin employed themes of war and persecution, drawing much of his inspiration from Picasso’s war paintings. Later years would see him visited by visual difficulties, undergoing early cornea transplants in the mid 1960’s, and at times legally blind but,. . . still painting.

Endeavoring to calculate Burlin’s contributions to early modernism/expressionism in New Mexico one-hundred and ten years after the fact is challenging, but it can be said Burlin was not only the first Armory Show participant to arrive in New Mexico, but the earliest painter of Modernism in the region.

The exhibition and catalogue titled Transformation of Spirit to Pigment: Harmony in Chaos celebrates Paul Burlin’s mature works, ca. 1950 –1969; not only his most prolific and productive period but arguably his most poetic, with numerous canvases from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art exhibitions. The catalogue is the most extensive biographic chronology of Burlin to date, including his exhibition history, literature and publications.

We gratefully acknowledge the participation and support of the Paul Burlin Art Trust and the immediate and extended family of Paul Burlin.

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(1928 - 1985)
Thomas Downing was born in Suffolk, Virginia. He studied at Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Virginia, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. He then studied at the Pratt Institute, a well-known art school in Brooklyn, New York, until 1950. That year he received a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, enabling him to travel to Europe, where he studied briefly at the Académie Julian in Paris.

In 1951 he returned to the United States, and after serving in the U.S. Army, settled in Washington, D.C., where he began to teach, in 1953.
The following summer, he enrolled in a summer institute at Catholic University, studying under Kenneth Noland. He became a friend of Noland, who became a significant influence on Downing's art and who was one of the founders of the Washington Color Field Movement.

In the late 1950s, Downing shared a studio with Howard Mehring, another artist of the Washington Color School and Color Field painting. In 1964 Clement Greenberg included Noland, Mehring, Downing and others in his traveling museum exhibition called Post-painterly Abstraction.

From 1965 to 1968, Downing taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. There he taught several people who in their turn became artists influenced by Downing's ideas, including Sam Gilliam.
His paintings to a large extent consisted of circles arranged in precise patterns on the canvas, with colors often chosen according to ideas of symmetry. Downing's Spot Paintings are his best known works.

In the last ten years of his life, Downing lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He died in October 1985 in Provincetown, Massachusetts at the age of 57. In its obituary the Washington Times characterized his death as mysterious. The newspaper was referring to the then recent demise of Washington Color Field artist Gene Davis (1920–1985) and to the earlier death of Howard Mehring (1931–1978), as well.
Donald Roy Thompson was born in 1936, in Fowler, California. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Sacramento State University in 1960 and 1962, respectively. His most notable art instructor was Wayne Thiebaud. Among his classmates were Fritz Scholder and Merrill Mahaffey, both successful artists in Santa Fe.

From 1964-2000 Donald was an art instructor at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. Before he settled down to teach, Donald traveled and lived in Mexico City, where he was able to observe closely the murals of Diego Rivera.

Like so many color field painters of his generation, Thompson was influenced by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, as well as by Matisse and Mondrian.

During an impoverished time in his early art career he was unable to afford good quality paint, so instead he used layers of hand-dyed cheesecloth for a large installation at the Cabrillo College Gallery. It helped form the basis of the ideas of transparency that he later produced in his acrylic color field paintings of 1971-75.

In 1972 Donald began again to use opaque colors on various sizes of canvas, focusing on the illusion of transparency.

By 1974 he began to feel the need for greater physicality and began to employ the use of stretched canvases of a single color bolted together, from large to huge (7.5’ X 10’), now in the Oakland Museum.

In 2013 Thompson settled in Santa Fe. There he began his current series of work, rekindling an aesthetic from four decades previous.

He continues to refine his approach and vision.

“I am habitually focused on the relationship of colors!” he wrote in July of 2022. “I’ve tried, in my paintings during the recent past, to experiment with various forms of pictorial composition - both symmetrical and asymmetrical.

My current challenge is combining the geometric with curvilinear form in an effort to achieve an integrated synthesis of the two, as they are experienced in hard-edge color painting. “

Thompson has exhibited solo and group shows both nationally and internationally. These include solo shows at Larry Evans/Willis Gallery, Foster Goldstrom, and Galeria Carl Van der Voort in San Francisco, and Ibiza, Spain. He had solo shows at Frederick Spratt Gallery in San Jose, California, as well as Shasta College Gallery in Redding, California and Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. His group shows include Leila Taghinia-Milani, New York City, Basel Art Fair, Switzerland and the Second British International Print Biennale, Yorkshire, England.

Thompson’s paintings are found in major collections including The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.; Seattle First National Bank (Seafirst), Seattle, WA; Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA, Art Museum of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, CA.

Watch an interview with Donald Roy Thompson with art historian Kathryn Davis

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(1889 - 1981)
Canadian artist Rolph Scarlett had a remarkable career, as a painter, designer and creator of unique jewelry. He was born in Guelph, Ontario in 1889. When he moved to the United States in 1918, he had gained experience in the techniques of painting, execution of jewelry settings and designing for the stage. Each of these interests helped shape his career.

Scarlett's dedication to Modernism was expressed in his art and design work. Although Scarlett also created action paintings and surrealist works, he especially loved and was devoted to geometric abstract non-objective painting. Before the end of his nearly 75-year career, Scarlett had returned to geometric abstraction with a greatly brightened palette and a denser composition than used in his earlier work. His commitment to abstraction never wavered and he continued to explore it, until his death at age 94.

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Mokha Laget is a New Mexico-based painter known for her geometric abstractions that utilize shaped canvas to take hard-edge color field imagery into another dimension. Her work has been exhibited internationally over the past 30 years and has been written about in Art in America, The New Art Examiner, The Washington Post, Art Ltd., and many others. Her work is included in the collections of the Ulrich Museum, The Museum of Geometric and Madi Art, Art in Embassies, The Artery Collection, The National Institutes of Health as well as private and corporate collections around the world.

Born in North Africa, a region of radiant light and dramatic geographical contrasts, Mokha went on to study Fine Arts at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC. There she studied under several prominent members of the Washington Color School (WCS), an influential non-objective painting group whose principal members included Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring and Paul Reed. During her years in DC, she worked as a professional artist and studio assistant to WCS painter Gene Davis.

Mokha has enjoyed a diverse career characterized by travel, color, and curiosity. In addition to her painting practices, she has also worked as an independent curator, art restorer, arts writer and was Curatorial Assistant for the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts. In theatre, she was a set designer, scriptwriter, actor and director. With a degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, she has spent much of the past 25 years traveling parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia as a simultaneous French interpreter. She lives and works in an off-grid studio in the mountains of New Mexico.
(1890 - 1973)
Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) was one of America’s leading modernist painters and an early pioneer of abstract art. Born in Virginia and raised in southern California, he enrolled at the Art Students League in Los Angeles as a precocious thirteen-year-old. In 1907, while still a teenager, he married and then settled in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne and several art academies, including the Académie Colorossi and the École des Beaux Arts, and then privately with Percyval Hart-Tudor, who taught color theory in relation to music. Inspired chiefly by the works of Cézanne, Matisse, and the Cubists, Macdonald-Wright exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1910 and at the Salon des Indépendents in 1912. Together with fellow American expatriate Morgan Russell, Macdonald-Wright cofounded the avant-garde painting movement Synchromism, whose first exhibition was held in Munich in the summer of 1913 and the second in Paris during the fall of the same year. These were soon followed by shows in London, Milan, and Warsaw. And in early 1914 Synchromist paintings were exhibited for the first time in New York. Similar to its rival Parisian movement Orphism, Synchromism combined color with Cubism, producing luminous and rhythmic compositions of swirling and serpentine forms infused with a rich chromatic palette. As Macdonald-Wright later described it, “Synchromism simply means ‘with color’ as symphony means ‘with sound’, and our idea was to produce an art whose genesis lay, not in objectivity, but in form produced in color”.

At the outbreak of World War I, Macdonald-Wright moved to London with his older sibling, Willard Huntington Wright, who was an editor and author. Sharing quarters there for the next two years, the brothers collaborated on three art books, including Modern Painting, Its Tendency and Meaning (1915), that were subsequently published in New York. After repatriating himself to the United States in 1915, Macdonald-Wright took up residence in New York, where he participated in the Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters in 1916 and was given his first one-man show at Alfred Stieglitz’s “291” gallery the following year. His Synchromist paintings had a direct and marked influence on the work of Thomas Hart Benton, Andrew Dasburg, Jan Matulka, Stuart Davis, Arnold Friedman, and Alfred Maurer.

Although successful in New York, Macdonald-Wright became increasingly dissatisfied with what he saw as the “sterile artistic formulism” of modern art and the “academicism” of his own Synchromism. Consequently, he permanently resettled in Santa Monica in 1919 and withdrew from the commercial art scene for the following three decades. Instead, he became an active and energetic force in the southern Californian art world primarily as a teacher and administrator, all the while still continuing his artistic pursuits, which turned heavily toward Eastern representational models, especially Chinese painting. From 1922 to 1930 he served as Director of the Art Students League in Los Angeles, writing a student textbook entitled Treatise on Color (1924). During the late twenties and early thirties, he co-exhibited at several museums in California with Morgan Russell and had a one-man show at Stieglitz’s “An American Place” in New York in 1932. He then worked for the WPA Art Project as Director of Southern California and as Technical Advisor for seven western states from 1935 to 1942, during which time he personally completed several major civil art projects, including the murals at the Santa Monica City Hall. During World War II and up through 1952, Macdonald-Wright taught at UCLA, USC, Scripps College, and the University of Hawaii on the subjects of art history, Oriental aesthetics, and iconography. In 1952-53, he visited Japan as a Fulbright exchange professor and briefly lectured at Kyoiku Daigaku (Tokyo University of Education). Finally, in 1954, he retired from academia. After a hiatus of more than thirty years, Macdonald-Wright returned to nonobjective painting in the mid 1950s with renewed vigor and enthusiasm, producing some of his finest canvases. This new body of Neo-Synchromist work surpassed the artist’s earlier paintings by way of a heightened luminosity and augmented spatiality, creating as a result, in the opinion of the modern art champion, Alfred Barr, a deeper spirituality. As the artist himself described it, “At first I saw my new painting with a certain astonishment, for I had made the “great circle”, coming back after 35 years to an art that was, superficially, not unlike the canvases of my youth. However, at bottom there was a great difference: I had achieved an interior realism, what is called yugen by the Japanese. This is a sense of reality which cannot be seen but which is evident by feeling, and I am certain that this quality of hidden reality was what I felt to be lacking in my younger days.” From 1958 on, Macdonald-Wright spent five months each year at Kenninji, a Zen monastery in the center of Kyoto, Japan. One of the most fruitful outcomes of his exposure to Japanese poetry and art was the creation of the Haiga portfolio (1965-66), a suite of twenty Haiku illustrations in brilliant color that is a masterful synthesis of modernist art in the Synchromist style and the traditional technique of Japanese woodblock printing.

In 1967 the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collection of Fine Arts held a major retrospective exhibition on Macdonald-Wright, honoring his more than six decades of artistic achievement. During the remaining years of his life and up until his passing in 1973 at the age of 83, Macdonald-Wright continued to be productive and inventive, leaving as his legacy a large and diverse body of modernist painting, which has since taken its rightful place as being of premier importance in American twentieth-century art. ~ Andrew Diversey

Daviee, Jerry M. 1982. Stanton Macdonald-Wright: Watercolors and Drawings. San
Francisco: The Art Museum Association.
Figoten, Sheldon. 1985. Stanton Macdonald-Wright: Paintings 1953-1964. Redding, CA: Redding Museum and Art Center.
Scott, David W. and Stanton Macdonald-Wright. 1967. The Art of Stanton Macdonald-Wright. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Press.
South, Will. 2001. Color, Music, and Myth. Stanton Macdonald-Wright and
Synchromism. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Museum of Art.
Wight, Frederick. 1970. Stanton Macdonald-Wright: A Retrospective Exhibition 1911-1970. Los Angeles: The UCLA Art Galleries.

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(1935 - 2005)
Alvin Loving Jr. was an innovative African American artist whose diverse body of work included striking geometric paintings. Just a year after leaving his native Detroit for New York in 1969, Loving was given a solo show at the Whitney Museum. Of the exhibition, Loving later reflected: “My geometric abstractions of this time represented a post-graduate end to my education in western culture and art history. The Whitney show would force me to scramble to find my own non-eclectic position in art.” Throughout his career, Loving developed a recognizably bold style, organizing vivid color into arresting visual arrangements with precision and subtlety.