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September 28 -
December 2, 2018
December 16 - January 31, 2017
Earl Stroh

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Earl Stroh is considered one of the great Taos Modernists. His work encapsulates much of what attracted artists to the extraordinary landscape of the Taos environs. Our current exhibition includes a number of Stroh’s iconic Taos works, including “Quiet Scherzo” and “Taos Makimono Suite.”

In Taos, the vast expanses of sky and land suggested a basis for much of Stroh’s Painting. From 1960 on, outside of some figure drawing, he only occasionally referenced subject matter. Where he did so, he used the design elements of natural forms more to give structure to a composition than to depict a particular place. This is most evident in a series of lithographs and silverpoint drawings based directly on the Taos landscape. “Quiet Scherzo” illustrates a sense of the timeless with a dramatic view west of Taos: the rise and arroyos of the Taos Valley, the deep gouge in the earth where the Rio Grande runs, and the uplift on the far side. This landscape merges with cloud sheets in such a way as to obscure just which of these forms are clouds and which are mountains … This scene is an abstraction but also a highly realistic depiction of how, through vast distance, the components of space and time, or timelessness, may become more elusive than definite. …

David L. Witt, Modernists in Taos from Dasburg to Martin (2002)

A renowned perfectionist, Stroh honed his technique to create impossibly atmospheric works on paper with subtly sophisticated compositions the likes of which may be compared ancient Taoist paintings, as well as modernist masters of the 20th century.

 Earl Stroh was born in Buffalo, New York, and studied at the Art Institute of Buffalo beginning when he was just thirteen years old. He went on to study at the Art Students League of New York, notably with Edwin Dickinson. At the University of New Mexico, he studied with Randall Davey, Lez Haas, Kenneth Adams, and Raymond Jonson. Through the University’s summer program at Taos, Stroh found his mentor in Andrew Dasburg, who encouraged the younger artist’s development toward abstraction. Helene Wurlitzer was so taken with Stroh’s work that she acted as his patron. 

The seeds for the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, established in 1956, were planted with Wurlitzer’s sponsorship of Earl Stroh. She began buying Stroh’s work in 1948, the year she provided him with a residence on her property, the first artist’s residency offered by Wurlitzer. Over the next several years Stroh regularly occupied one of the casitas on Wurlitzer’s property known as House #5; she later had a studio added to House #5 for her protege. Additionally, she gave Stroh a stipend to cover his housing expenses while he studied art in New York and Paris in the early 1950s.

 Stroh’s exposure to European masterworks of modern art further enhanced his grasp of the potential of abstraction. In Paris he studied printmaking with Johnnie Friedlander, and produced a series of etchings in which he moved toward the poetic yet powerful visual expression for which he became known.

… Quickly gaining technical proficiency, Stroh pushed himself to meet the most difficult technical challenges. … Stroh developed concepts of internal structure that would remain a part of his subsequent work. He learned to use a dynamic but often subtle line to strong effect in his compositions. … [creating] in a larger sense an environment of movement and light within space.

David L. Witt, Modernists in Taos from Dasburg to Martin (2002)

Later, Stroh was chosen several times as a guest artist at the University of New Mexico’s Tamarind Institute, where he produced a number of superb lithographic works.