The Otherworldly Work of the Transcendental Painting Group Opens at the Crocker Art Museum

For New Mexico’s Transcendental Painting Group (TPG), making art was a commitment and responsibility that ran far deeper than aesthetics. Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group at the Crocker Art Museum explores the work of this often-overlooked group of 20th-century abstract artists who pursued enlightenment and spiritual illumination amid the dramatic natural surroundings of the American Southwest.

Founded by Raymond Johnson and Emil Bisttram, the artists of the TPG attempted to actively connect and communicate with viewers, inducing a feeling of transcendence in those who viewed their art. They did so through carefully arranged combinations of highly charged — and primarily nonobjective — forms and colors that they believed had mystical resonance.

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According to TPG spokesperson Dane Rudhyar, compared to their fellow abstract painters, the group’s accomplishments came down to several basic differences: “decorative versus psychological, … geometrical abstractions versus living inner experience, [and] mathematical precision versus warmth and radiation of feeling.” Put more simply, it was a matter of “mind versus soul.”

This sense of purpose sets TPG work apart from other nonobjective painting of the time and — along with the otherworldly beauty and quality of the artwork itself — makes members of the group individually and collectively significant.

Another World, which features approximately 90 works from 11 artists, is the first exhibition outside of New Mexico to fully survey the TPG and their accomplishments. It aims to provide a broad perspective on the group’s work and importance, including their role as crucial contributors to modern art history.

Organized by the Crocker Art Museum and independent curator Michael Duncan, Another World is on view in Sacramento, California through November 20, 2022.

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