Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group

Los Angeles
January 31, 2023
Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group The Transcendental Painting Group (TPG) was formed in New Mexico and active between 1938 - 1942. The Transcendental painters were striving to communicate a vision of eternal truths, “to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world,” as their manifesto put it, “through new concepts of space, color, light and design, to imaginative worlds that are idealistic and spiritual.”
Original members included Emil Bisttram, Edward Garman, Robert Gribbroek, Lawren Harris, Raymond Jonson, William Lumpkins, Florence Miller, Horace Towner Pierce, Dane Rudhyar and Stuart Walker.
There are over 75 paintings in the exhibition and includes rare works by all of the members.
Curated by the Los Angeles-based curator Michael Duncan, this exhibition is the first major museum show dedicated to this important group of painters since the 1982 exhibition at The Albuquerque Museum. This show has been in the works for twenty years and it is worth the wait!
The Covid Pandemic threatened to upend the whole enterprise, and unfortunately knocked out the New York venue - The Grey Art Gallery at New York University - thus denying the group its first exhibition in New York since the 1940 exhibition at the Museum of Non-Objective Art (the precursor to the current Guggenheim Museum), which featured several of its members. When the show came back online, it added a venue 
in the Baker Museum, Naples, and switched the venue at LACMA from first to last. Sometimes, it's good to be last. Like, the last man standing. 
The exhibition is now on view through mid-April  in the Resnick Pavilion. The Resnick and Broad buildings are the newest at LACMA and the only two open while the museum undergoes a massive, years long expansion and transformation. 
The LA show is arranged by artist, as was the curator's vision when the show was conceived. It is powerful to see all of the works by Raymond Jonson or Stuart Walker on one wall and get a sense of the artist's range - to compare variations in composition, scale and color palette. Some artists 
really benefit from having a group of their works hung together. Lawren Harris (the highest selling Canadian artist of record) is one. The only exception, for me, was Agnes Pelton. I can't enjoy more than a couple of her paintings at once. Too rich.
One of my favorites is the film by Horace Towner Pierce, conceived by the artist and finally produced for the exhibition, playing in one of the rooms and dominating a huge wall above the gouache artworks from which it was inspired.
The day I went to the show it was very crowded with people of all ages. People seemed to really respond to the dynamic color and energy of the works. Some of the paintings require deeper contemplation like the more spiritual works by Pelton. Some have a more brazen energy. Overall, the exhibition has a very fresh feel. It's easy to forget sometimes these works were all made 80 years ago.
Over the years, I have owned and sold many of the works in the current exhibition. And while I appreciated them all when I had them, they have never looked so good as when they are all displayed together.
I recommend going more than once. I look forward to going again when I am in LA for Frieze in a couple of weeks. Each time, I find another painting to focus on. It's the Transcendental Painting Group. Not the Epiphany Painting Group. Transcendence is a gradual process, I think. 
So, I'll look forward to spending more time with them.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is my hometown museum. My earliest memories of looking  at art are firmly planted on those grounds. You could say I had many transcendent experiences in those buildings. In fact, those buildings and I grew up together. They opened in 1961 and I opened a few years later. I'm still opening. Not fully in bloom, yet.
LACMA is also next to my hands down favorite place in LA to visit...the La Brea Tar Pits. Visits to the museum and tar pits, then brunch at the Egg & Eye Restaurant are part of vintage LA. The restaurant is now gone and the Craft Contemporary museum occupies the entire building.
If you are from a certain place at a certain time, you will describe that place as it used to be to someone from the same era. It situates you both in time and mutual experience. It creates the conversation beneath the dialogue. Someone will ask you where something is and you'll say, 
"Remember that restaurant that used to be across from LACMA, around the corner from that clothing store that's not there anymore? It's like a block or two west of that." 
Like the song says... "If you don't know, now you know..."

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Aaron Payne

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