The Harwood Museum of Art of The University of New Mexico Summer Exhibitions Feature Highlights from the Gus Foster Collection - Opening May 17 through September 7, 2014

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In 2013 collector, connoisseur and longtime Harwood Museum of Art supporter Gus Foster donated a remarkable collection of 391 works of contemporary art by 83 artists to the Museum. This summer the Harwood Museum of Art will celebrate that extraordinary gift by exhibiting 121 works from the collection and publishing a 96-page full-color catalog featuring an essay by Evan M. Maurer, Director Emeritus of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The Gus Foster Collection, distinguished by its quality, focus, and depth, is unsurpassed in the number of iconic works created by contemporary artists working in the acclaimed art colony of Taos, New Mexico. The many prominent East and West Coast artists represented in this gift - including Larry Bell, Lynda Benglis, Vija Celmins, Ron Cooper, Ron Davis and Ken Price - speak to the strong connection that Taos has long had with the national and international art worlds. In particular, the collection explores in depth the Taos-Los Angeles contemporary art connection. Artists Ken Price and Larry Bell moved permanently from Los Angeles to Taos in the 1970s, followed by Ron Cooper, Gus Foster and - later - Ron Davis. Other artists such as Lee Mullican spent part of each year in Taos.

The collection also demonstrates Foster’s commitment to artists who are less well known, with this summer’s exhibition featuring work by artists including Angie Coleman, Tom Dixon, Cody Riddle, and Suzanne Wiggin.

Taking over three of the Museum’s galleries, Highlights from the Gus Foster Collection will demonstrate the wide range of media in which contemporary artists create by presenting work ranging from oil and acrylic paintings, to ceramic sculptures, to objects created with aluminum-coated mylar. Works on paper will be exhibited in the George E. Foster, Jr. Gallery of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, named in honor of Gus Foster’s father. In order to share more work from this extraordinary collection, the initial installation of 33 works on paper will rotate in July so that an additional 31 works on paper may be exhibited.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Harwood Museum of Art’s entire permanent collection, including the Gus Foster Collection, may be viewed on our website beginning in March 2015 at

Professionally trained docents will lead tours of Highlights from the Gus Foster Collection at 1 p.m. every Sunday while the exhibition is on view. Group tours may be scheduled by contacting the Harwood Museum of Art at education(at)harwoodmuseum(dot)org.

With the perspective of a former museum curator, a collector, and an artist, Foster is an extraordinary connoisseur whose collecting over the past 40 years is culminating with this gift. The gift also speaks to Foster’s lifelong engagement with the arts. As he recalls, “My father was an architect and my mother was an interior designer, and aesthetics was part of the daily conversation when I was young.” Foster is committed to bringing art into the lives of Northern New Mexico’s youth, stating that “Providing ways for children and youth to expand their creativity is critical. Many people are unaccustomed to art, but if you enter a museum when art is just another part of your daily life, if you see it as a child, it is not so strange. If you begin that process early, then by the time you are an adult, it becomes easier.”

In addition to its historical significance, the collection has another important dimension. “Of the more than three hundred pieces, only three or four were done by people that I didn’t know personally,” Foster said. “I have seen and followed their careers as friends and neighbors for over four decades, and that gives you some insight into their creative process. Though my work isn’t part of this gift, all of these works have informed my own vision. “

Foster is well known for his spectacular 360 degree photographs that have been exhibited throughout the world, and that often show thousands of square miles of landscape. A selection of those photographs will highlight an exhibition entitled Panorama: Gus Foster, Carlos Silva, Roberto Vignoli on view April 25-June 2 at 333 Montezuma Arts gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. An opening reception for that exhibition will take place 5-7 p.m. on Friday, April 25, at the gallery, located at 333 Montezuma Avenue. Prior to embarking on his photographic career, Foster earned a degree at Yale University in art history and spent over a decade as a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Reflecting on the importance of this gift, Gus Foster states that “The lifeblood of a museum is the support it gets by gifts and bequests. “ His gift expands the Harwood’s collection by about ten percent, and is the biggest single gift of art work since Burt and Lucy Harwood provided their founding collection in 1923.

The Highlights from the Gus Foster Collection exhibition and catalog are made possible through the generosity of Richard and Lois Abraham, Barney and Ursula Berkowitz, George and Janara Bornstein, Carl and Dora Dillistone, Ray and Barbara Graham through The FUNd at the Albuquerque Community Foundation, Lucile Leigh Grieder, Anne Kaplan, Susan Longhenry and Jeremy McDonnell, Johnny and Pam MacArthur, Jack and Phyllis Nottingham, The Price Family, Sherman and Joyce Scott, Graham and Michael Sudbury, University of New Mexico Foundation, Marcia Winter, and other supporters.

Also on view:
Peter and Madeleine Martin Gallery

A Brief History of The Harwood Museum 1916-1922

In the early part of the 20th Century, many artists were drawn to the Taos area to pursue a new, truly American art devoid of industrial influence, inspired instead by New Mexico's landscape and light and the traditional Native American and Hispanic cultures of the region.

The Harwood Museum collection brings to the public a unique record of this artistic convergence from its beginnings to the present day. The embracing spirit of the Harwood was established by artists Burt and Elizabeth Harwood. In 1916, the Harwoods left their residence in France to move to Taos. They immediately purchased the Ledoux Street property which contained several small adobe buildings. By 1918, significant development had taken place under Burt Harwood's direction. He remodeled the buildings using many local traditional construction techniques. The Harwood complex, then called El Pueblito, was on the forefront of the Pueblo/Spanish Revival and restoration movement in New Mexico.

The Early Harwood Foundation 1923-1935

From the beginning, the Harwoods' home was the town's only library. When the Harwoods discovered Taos had no library, they opened their extensive private collection of books to the public. By 1926, the Harwood Library was established and the community generously supported the growth of its collections. Mabel Dodge Luhan donated books from her private collection, contributed funds, and inspired other major support.

From 1924 on, much of the Harwood was given over to exhibitions. Even into the 1970s, clay pots, Native American artifacts, Hispanic textiles, Patrociño Barela's wood sculptures, 19th Century retablos, and a cannonball said to have come from the 1847 bombardment of Taos Pueblo adorned the Library, offices and hallways.

The University of New Mexico 1935-1945

In 1935, the Harwood Foundation was given to the University of New Mexico (UNM). As part of UNM, the Harwood received core support from the University and functioned as a base for University programs in Taos County. The Harwood's potential as an educational institution had interested the University as early as 1929 when it opened its Field School of Art at the Harwood, a program which continued for twenty-six years.

In 1937, UNM and the Works Projects Administration (WPA), working in cooperation to create an enhanced facility, embarked on a major expansion and renovation project of the Harwood complex. Designed by John Gaw Meem, one of the best known architects of the Southwest, the Harwood addition became one of the tallest adobe structures in northern New Mexico, and included an auditorium, stage, exhibition space, and a library facility.

The Harwood 1945-Present

After World War II, Taos and the Harwood entered a new phase to embrace new trends in American Art. The Harwood strives to fulfill its educational mission by presenting special lectures, offering docent tours, and working with local schools and community groups with a variety of special programs. We continue to expand our vision as a cultural center that presents the art of our region while also serving as an important educational asset to northern New Mexico.

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