The University of New Mexico Art Museum (UNMAM) newest exhibition Pelton & Jonson: The Transcendent 1930s showcases works from the museum’s collection to illustrate the aesthetic achievements and personal connections between American painters Agnes Pelton (1881-1961) and Raymond Jonson (1891-1982). Curated by Mary Statzer, UNMAM Curator of Prints & Photographs, the exhibition is now open in UNMAM’s Raymond Jonson Gallery.

Pelton & Jonson builds on the growing attention surrounding these artists. In recent years, Pelton and Jonson have been featured in notable exhibitions such as Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, the first major exhibition of Pelton’s work, and Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938-45, the first comprehensive traveling museum exhibition dedicated to the group. While it was an honor to loan artworks for these exhibitions, the University of New Mexico Art Museum is thrilled to now exhibit them alongside further selections from the museum’s collection.

The Voice
The Voice

Highlights of the exhibition include Agnes Pelton’s White Fire, 1930, making its first appearance at the museum since undergoing conservation work in 2019, and The Voice, 1930, which will be on view in July after traveling to five cities as part of Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938-45. Selected works by Jonson showcase his transition towards increasingly abstract and nonobjective compositions, exemplified by pieces like Variations on a Rhythm T, 1933, and Cosmic Theme #1, 1936. The archival elements of Pelton & Jonson bring their friendship to life through personal photographs, ephemera, and correspondences.

Cosmic Theme 1
Cosmic Theme #1

Pelton & Jonson provides a unique opportunity to explore the lives and friendship of these artists through paintings, drawings, and archival materials from the museum’s collection. Introduced by composer and astrologist Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985), Pelton and Jonson’s friendship flourished in the 1930s based on their commitment to abstraction. During this decade, both artists made significant paintings and exhibited their work widely, together and separately.

Following their introduction in 1933, Jonson organized an exhibition at the Museum of Art in Santa Fe (now the New Mexico Museum of Art), which included 14 oil paintings by Pelton, 12 charcoal drawings by Jonson, and 11 watercolors by Cady Wells (1904-1954). Many of these works are presented again in Pelton & Jonson, including Pelton’s Wells of Jade, 1931, and Jonson’s Ascending Circle, 1933.

In 1938, Jonson co-founded the Transcendental Painting Group with Emil Bisttram. Pelton became an honored member of the Transcendental Painting Group, serving as an inspirational figure with well-formed ideas about painting and an established career. After Pelton’s death in 1961, Jonson remained a champion of her work through preserving artworks along with the archival materials presented in this exhibition. Pelton & Jonson continues this early work to celebrate the connection and legacies of these artists.

The UNM Art Museum is open Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m., and open late for shows in Popejoy Hall. The UNAM is closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and major holidays.  Admission is free.