One of the great things about the Marsden Hartley show opening today at the El Paso Museum of Art is the way it shows an involved, concerned artist picking his way through the melee of ideas and concepts swirling around international art centers in the early part of the 20th century trying to find his own place.
Highly influenced by Cezanne, as well as fauvist painters, he was promoted by Steiglitz, and was highly attuned to the various avant garde ideas of the time. He made his way to Europe, befriending Gertrude Stein in Paris and making his way to Berlin. Many of his paintings might seem at first glance to be imitations of those who influenced him such as Cezanne and Matisse, but this would be a complete misunderstanding. Hartley was taking elements and playing with them, incorporating them into his own vision. That vision of the artist and what the artist was supposed to be portraying went through huge changes, from emotional abstraction, to cool formalism to regionalism then back to the personal and something of a synthesis.
This excellent show is from the Frederick Weisman museum in Minneapolis and if you are reading this today before 2 pm you can go and listen to a free lecture on the show by Pstricia McDonell who curated the show and wrote the catalogue. This show will cost $5.00 during the week, but is free today and Thursday evening and is definitely worth seeing and exploring.-David Sokolec