Having gone through all you wrote I am uniquely qualified to say that with this project you have managed to make a silk purse from a sow's ear.- Richard Tobin, Ph.D
Poetic Justice at the Harwood Pops the Balloon
The rise of the bourgeois in Europe produced a malaise of social conventions that both stimulated an audience for art and then suppressed expression as social conventions betrayed the bestial energy that threatened comfortable views of life. That which was new became old, staid, and conventional. Hence, each new generation converted energy into the art that tweaked turned up noses. Today’s “art world” is largely driven by the commodification, pro and anti-: some collectors and patrons retreat to the safer confines of yesterday while others see the avant-garde as a way to call attention to how “hip” the ego is. See the grotesque synthesis of capital and art featuring Jeff Koons in the latest issue of the NYRB.
But it’s JUXTAPOZ, the Harwood media sponsor that captures the idiosyncratic artists of today, artists who continue creating objects in their private shops, back rooms, or outside in the outhouses of Northern New Mexico. Resistance and rebellion have historically and presently transformed the way viewers look at or think about or experience art. Race and class, once suppressed mainstays of the museum and art world culture, have burst their chains and never more so than now, however late in the game, at the Harwood Museum of Art. It took Bob Ellis (RIP) to turn a quiet library into a celebratory of creative endeavor. If he’s not a little nervous, he’s winking at Jina Brenneman today.
If the fantastic Gus Foster Collection, recently closed, focused on the last forty years of the “third wave,” the art and artisans of execution and imagination in Taos, then “Orale” signals the fourth wave. Orale, opening this week, displays unconcealed expressions of energy, whether stimulated by Freudian work and the libido, or psychic obsessive-compulsive disorders bordering on autism and a“fascination with imagination” the likes of which—you can’t imagine. This unhinged culture of Dionysian expression signals the arrival of Las Marginalistas and the Los Urbanistos of the Southwest and West at Lucy’s shop on Ledoux St.
Influenced by girlie mags and calendars in auto shops, comic strips and strippers, or the low-riders of Chicanismo culture, the stuff of tattoos and complex designs, juxtaposed to amalgamated plastique next to posters from the San Francisco acid era, Orale reminds viewers of how a generation began by loosening bra straps and dropping trousers just to say, hey look there, look here, look everywhere.
And they looked and found gold in abandoned adobe gas stations and deserted desert cantinas, where as Ramon Hernandez used to sing, “You can be a louse to your spouse in Taos, New Mexico. (I put that in for Ruthie Moya, the world’s greatest cocktail waitress of La Cocina yore, who just turned 80, and whose grandson is in Orale. Orale Ruthie!)
If I were teaching art to school kids I would hire a bus and take them down to the Harwood exhibit, introduce all the children left behind by corporate America to the white-haired and bald-headed artists, who never grew up but kept knocking out pop art since they were kids in the sixties. Too, Orale features a generation of teeners and twenty-somethings, neatly “Juxtapozd,” the neophytes next to the masters of disaster.
Maybe you were always afraid the sacred would be reborn as the profane, and, sure it’s happened, even as appearances have been saved and expressed. We know how the LA guys like Cooper and Davis investigated body-shop fiberglass and resin, surfboard construction and the sandpaper beaches in the sunshine of Pacific Time. Now we see the results of the liberated libido giving the finger to the establishment and uttering an “art be damned attitude” while surrendering to the Gestalt of contemporary expression.
And so the poetry of imagination justifies itself in this expression of energy caught in pen and ink, pencil and graphite, slick colors and sensual skin, the visceral response to popular movies, rock ‘n roll, and the dynamic cross-cultural subversion of class and race in celebration of freedom. The bold and grotesque canvases of Conrad Cooper seem as at home as Douglas Johnson refined figures not far from El Moises’s provocative imagery depicting the new saints.
Call Orale outsider, outlaw, flawed and flayed but you won’t call it boring. Ennui has been banished, La Malaise exiled, and everyone’s invited to the show.
Editor’s Note: I first read that curator Jina Brenneman was leaving the Harwood after this, her last show, in Juxtapoz magazine and, I hasten to add, I know nothing about the local “politics of art.”
But we shall all miss Jina because she delved deeply during her six years into the art, artists, and La Gente of the Taos community. While introducing Harwood Museum of Art visitors to the historic moderns and contemporary post-moderns, she was a “Woman for All Seasons” and all cultures. She rehabilitated the forgotten moderns and illustrated the contributions of the marginalized or indigenous contributors who round out the Taos art community.
Jina filled in the historic gaps: the exhibition of Burt Harwood’s photos and paintings, Oli Sihvonen’s rarely seen work, while recognizing the powerful contribution of collectors and donors in the local art world, like the Healys, or focused on the muse of Black Mountain College, gallerist Rena Rosequist. Sure she didn’t forget the major figures—Agnes Martin, Larry Bell, and Ken Price or Taos moderns like John DuPuy, Cliff and Barbara Harmon.
Just as Agnes has her room and Patricino Barela his “Death Cart,” so Jina depicted on her wall work by the publicity shy Peter Parks and eccentric Marsha Oliver. She featured a reluctant ceramicist, Hank Saxe, and reminded us that R.C. Gorman was more than a publicist.
I loved seeing the long-locked away Taos Municipal Schools Collection. Then there was all the new stuff in New Mexorado, Curiosity: From the Faraway Nearby, and the kitsch and camp in Suspension of Disbelief.
During the last decade or so interest in the Taos art scene has declined but Jina and her colleagues have preserved a shrine for the faithful at the reinvigorated Harwood Museum of Art on Ledoux St. The current show, Orale, is a fine example of synthesizing and recognizing the reciprocal influence of pop, art, and life.
Orale Jina, Orale, Jita.
"Jina Brenneman is an original, in the best sense of the word. She has remarkable vision, a vibrant imagination and an uncanny ability to turn unusual ideas into brilliant finished products. During her tenure as visual curator at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, the exhibitions that she has overseen have never failed to amaze, mesmerize and succeed on all levels."
The Pueblo Chieftain
"For the past few years, the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center has been synonymous with beautiful, thought-provoking and surprising exhibits. But 'Southern Colorado's Beautiful Mind,' three stories of eye- and-mind-boggling exhibits opening today, sets a new standard for Pueblo's arts center."— Mark Arnest/The Gazette/2005-02/11
"Here's a lead I've written about five times before: 'The new shows at Pueblo's Sangre de Christo Arts Center are amazing and wonderful and not to be missed.' Might as well write the same opener here, because, once again, curator Jina Brenneman and her staff have achieved miracles."— John Hazlehurst/csindy/2004-11
"Thanks to the indefatigable Jina Brenneman, the museums fine arts curator, we've come to expect that any contemporary art show at the Sangre will be not just good, but superb. Over the last couple of years, the feisty arts center has hosted exhibitions better than anything in the Rocky Mountain region- better than Santa Fe, better than Colorado Springs, better than Denver."-John Hazlehurst/csindy/2004-06
"Brenneman has a genius for imaginative programming that challenges audiences without ever losing sight of the center's public mission."-Mark Arnest/Gazette
"Jina has an exemplary resume and importantly she is an individual who is reputed to be imaginative and have remarkable vision and bravado in developing exhibitions." Mary Puller, Director of Exhibtions, Durango Arts Center
"With curator Jina Brenneman leading the way, the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center has assembled several exhibitions in the past couple of years that have been ambitious and imaginative enough to lure visitors from as far away as Denver"— Kyle MacMillan/Denver Post/2003-5-30
" Sangre de Cristo Arts Center brings a masterpiece to Pueblo with a stroke of curatorial genius. This latest show at the SDC is also another fine example of how Jina Brenneman has reinvented the art of how to be a world-class small-museum curator"— Noel Black/csindy/2003-01-16
"This tour de force show, created by the center's visual-arts curator, JinaBrenneman, with help from numerous collectors, is sure to be the talk of Pueblo this summer."—Susan Froyd/ WestwordIssues/2005-06-09
"I'm delighted to report on must-see-art— this time the visual kind, at the Sangre de CristoArtCenter in Pueblo where Jina Brenneman and her fearless forces have assembled five new exhibitions."—David Sckolnik Artspeak-5-25-02
Experience / Professional
Production - documentary
Before the Grid
Harwood Museum of Art
University of New Mexico
238 Ledoux Street
Santa Fe, NM
Bonhams & Butterfield
Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern Colorado
Curator of Visual Arts
Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, Pueblo, Colorado
Director of Fine Arts
Colorado State Fair
Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts
Ceramics instructor/English as a Second Language Instructor
Colorado Mountain College
Glenwood Springs/Basalt Colorado
DISTINGUISHED ARTIST AWARD JUROR, 2014 F.A.F.
Four Corners Commision Jury, 2014
SMU/UNM lecture series, 2013
Legacy Preservation, 2012
A Conversation with Tony Magar,2011
Lecture Laura Rathe Fine Art, HoustonTx, 2011
Colorado Council on the Arts
Art in Public Places Panel, 2007
Denver Art Dealers Association
Denver Art Dealers Association
Emerging Arts Leaders
State of Chihuahua, Mexico
Artist exchange, 2005
St. Mary Corwin Hospital
Colorado State University Art Department
ArtDepartment Program Review, 2004
Pueblo School for Arts and Sciences,
Downtown Art Project
Board Member, 2000–2005
Palmer Lake Art Group
Program Director, 1998–1999
Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts
Board Member, 1996–1998
Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts
Artist volunteer, 1993–1996
Bachelor of Arts, English, 1986 Fresno Pacific University. Minor in Spanish
Secondary Education Certification, ESL certification 1986, Fresno Pacific University
Universitat de Barcelona, Art History and Spanish Literature, 1984,Barcelona, Spain
Universitat Autonoma, Art History and Spanish Literature, 1984, Barcelona, Spain
Saltillo Language Institute, Spanish, 1983, Saltillo , Mexico
Urban Life Center, Museum studies internship/ESL internship, 1982
Jury Distinguished Artist Awards, 2014
Four Corners Jury/Lecture, 2014
SMU/UNM lecture series, 2013
After Dark, National Call for entries, 2012
Adams State College, Durango CO, 2012
Colorado State Fair , 2011
Sacred Places – Taos Center for the Arts, 2010
M.F.A. no J.O.B – National invitational, 2010
Denver Art Dealers Association
Southeastern Watercolor Society, 2007
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2006
University of Laramie, Laramie WY, 2005
Pikes Peak Watercolor Society Gallery Walk, 2005
Pueblo Community College, 2005
Southern Colorado Watercolor Society, 2005
Fremont Center for the Arts Annual Open, 2005
Arkansas Valley Art Center 21st Annual Open, 2005
The Cutting Edge-Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts, 2004
Celebrating the Goddess, Joan Hanley Gallery, 2004
Body Packing, 2003
Southern Colorado Watercolor Society, 2003
Artreach International Competition, 2003
Pueblo Community College Student Show, 2003
Downtown Art Project, 2000-2002
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2002
Governor's Choice School District #60, 2002
Business of Art Center, 2000
Lewis Palmer School District, 1997-1999
Agnes Martin: Before the Grid, 2011-2012
Mandelman-Ribak, 2010- received the highest award in its category,
Book Design. The book documents the "Mandelman and Ribak in Taos" exhibit
and the collection of 136 artworks recently donated to the museum by the
Dennis Hopper: From LA to Taos, 2009
America’s Greatest Undiscovered Photographer: John Suhay 2011
Rebecca Salsbury James: A Love Story 2010
The New Neighbor: Dennis Hopper in Taos 2010
Documentary “ Beck”, 2012
Southwest Art History Conference, 2012
Agnes Martin: Before the Grid
Endorsements and Essays
Gene Kloss: Catalog Raisonne
Howard Cook: Catalog Raisonne
Related Work Experience
Ceramic Art Instructor and Curatorial Assistant
Colorado Mountain College, Glenwood Springs, CO, 1997
Ceramic Arts Instructor, Glenwood Springs , CO, 1991–1996
English as a Second Language Instructor
Colorado Mountain College, 1991–1996
English Literature, English as a Second Language
Urban Life Center, Chicago, Ill. 1984