Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Exhibits ‘Moments in Modernism: Paul Strand, Southwest’

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35 photographs by Paul Strand (1890-1972), one of America’s pioneers of modernist photography. Each of its photographs was completed in the summers of 1930 through 1932, when Strand was living and working in New Mexico.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum ( will host “Moments in Modernism: Paul Strand, Southwest,” Friday, September 22, 2006 through Sunday, January 14, 2007. In this exhibition, curator Anthony Montoya brings together 35 photographs by Paul Strand (1890-1972), one of America’s pioneers of modernist photography. Each of its photographs was completed in the summers of 1930 through 1932, when Strand was living and working in New Mexico.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Strand began studying photography in New York with Lewis Hine. In the 1910s and 1920s, he discovered and was greatly inspired by the ideas and work of photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and the two became close friends. Stieglitz not only encouraged Strand, but also exhibited his work at his famous gallery, 291, and reproduced it in his equally well-known periodical, Camera Work. Stieglitz continued to exhibit Strand’s work until 1932.

Strand was also friends with Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), who was also a great admirer of his work. Like O’Keeffe, Strand was fascinated with the unusual character of the indigenous architecture of New Mexico, as well as its striking terrain. Both made these the subjects of their work in the summer of 1930, when both spent the summer in and around Taos. O’Keeffe was also friends with Strand’s wife, Rebecca, and had traveled to New Mexico with her in 1929, the first year O’Keeffe began spending summers working there.

The photographs in the exhibition fall into three categories. The first consists of Southwestern landscapes that demonstrate Strand’s precise structuring of his subject. Another is a series of portraits of his wife, who had been one of the subjects of his work in the 1920s. The degree of realism in his photographs of New Mexico architectural forms — ghost towns and abandoned haciendas — which make up the third group, reveal Strand’s increasing interest in making images that function as records of objective truth.

“While in New Mexico, Strand photographed subjects through which he could further his experiments with synthesizing the real and the abstract,” says Montoya. “This period was also one of great difficulty for Strand personally, in that in 1932, both his marriage and his friendship with Stieglitz ended.”

Montoya is the director of the Paul Strand Archive at Aperture Foundation, Inc. He was raised in Albuquerque, studied photography at the University of New Mexico, and has long been engaged with the medium of photography. In 2004, Montoya began working on this exhibit, which has come to Santa Fe from the Cincinnati Art Museum and will be exhibited at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2007.

“Strand’s Southwest period produced works that are now recognized as important examples of modernist photography, and they also reveal the ways in which he responded to the same landscape and architectural forms that fascinated O’Keeffe,” says Barbara Buhler Lynes, curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and the Emily Fisher Landau director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center.

A 112-page, full-color book, “Paul Strand: Southwest,” by Rebecca Busselle and Trudy Wilner Stack, will be available at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Shop for $50.

Aperture, a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts, has organized this traveling exhibition and produced the accompanying publications.


Friday, September 22, 5-8 p.m.

Free Public Opening of “Moments in Modernism: Paul Strand, Southwest” with live music and cash bar.

Sunday, September 24, 4:30 p.m.

Lecture: “Paul Strand Southwest: The Frame of Reference” by Trudy Wilner Stack

Trudy Wilner Stack is the co-author of the 2004 book Paul Strand: Southwest with Rebecca Busselle. The book presents Strand’s early-1930s photographs of the Taos region, both the iconic and the little known, by reconstructing a rich personal, cultural, and historical context through new research and original source materials. In this talk, Wilner Stack will summon the times and temperament of Strand and his influential circle to bring fresh layers of understanding to the genesis and character of this body of work.

St. Francis Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, 107 West Palace Avenue.

$5, Members free. Reservations recommended: 505.946.1039.


Saturday, September 30, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Black and White and Gray: Value Composition Painting

“I believe I’ve been looking at things and seeing them as though you might photograph them,” wrote Georgia O’Keeffe to Paul Strand in a 1917 letter. O’Keeffe’s early black-on-white charcoal abstractions and Paul Strand’s black-and-white photographs share similar aesthetics. Through the use of black, white, and gray, we will create value composition paintings.

Saturday, October 14, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Posed and Unposed Portraits, or Are You Ready for Your Close-Up?

Photographer Paul Strand was able to capture the essences of both posed and unposed subjects. From everyday people on the streets of New York to more formal images in New Mexico of his wife, Rebecca, we will study and create both styles of portrait photography.

Saturday, November 18, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Land, Sky, and Architecture.

Many of the photographs taken by Paul Strand in New Mexico from 1930 to 1932 incorporate and eloquently assemble land, sky, and architecture. The play of the softness of the sky, the organic curves of the landscape, and the geometric lines of architecture will be the three elements we will work with to create our drawings.

Thursday, December 28, 1-4 p.m.

Holiday Family Program: World Family Celebration

This year’s Holiday Family Program will focus on celebrating family diversity. How are we the same and how are we different from a family in India, China, or around the block? Through art-making, writing, and dance, we will explore the question of who our neighbors are, here and worldwide.

These family programs are free and start at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico. For further information: 505.946.1007.

Thursday, September 21, 9-10 a.m.

Press Preview. RSVP: Yvonne Montoya , 505.946.1034.

Sunday, September 24, 6-8 p.m.

Members-Only Reception. Call 505.946.1036 to join.


Images are available by e-mail. To request images, call 505.946.1060.

“I believe I’ve been looking at things and seeing them as though you might photograph them.” — from a 1917 letter to Paul Strand from Georgia O’Keeffe


Jennifer Marshall, Director of Marketing & Public Relations

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum


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