UNM's Harwood Museum of Art opens a new exhibition, "Nod Nod Wink Wink: Conceptual Art in New Mexico and Its Influences," Saturday, July 9-Monday, Sept. 5. Several years in development, the exhibition focuses on work from collections in New Mexico and includes pieces from conceptual artists including Richard Tuttle, Richard Feher, Bruce Nauman, Roxy Paine, Wade Guyton, Nate Lowman, Kiki Smith, Rachael Whiteread, Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Erwin Wurm and others.

"When you think about it, the purpose of art is to elicit a response in the viewer," said Jina Brenneman, curatorial manager of the Harwood, "and ‘Nod Nod Wink Wink' is the perfect show to initiate this process in new and exciting ways. The show is meant to get into the viewer's brain so they can think about things in a different way."

Brenneman also wants the viewer to come away with an appreciation of New Mexico's role in the Conceptual Art movement. "Conceptual art is rarely associated with a place, and it's a little known fact that New Mexico has been home to a lot of great conceptual artists."

Prominent conceptual art in New Mexico includes: "The Lightning Field," 1977, by Walter De Maria; Taos artist Larry Bell's experiments with vapor and his 1980s "Time Machine;" Bruce Nauman's nine-minute film of the artist playing one note on a violin while walking around in his studio; Richard Tuttle's 1988 series "New Mexico, New York;" and more recently, work by New Mexico artists Tony Feher, Peter Sarkisian, Spencer Finch and Kay Rosen, several of which will be included in this exhibit.

Beginning in the 1960s, conceptual art was considered anti-establishment since these artists wanted to make art that questioned its own assumptions, an art of ideas rather than of objects. Art historian Paul Wood compares conceptual art to Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat "dissolving away until nothing is left but a grin."

The conceptualists took the side that art based on beauty and technical skill was nothing more than commercialism. Conceptual artists made intellective process the crucial element over crafted product. Conceptual art challenged the notions of authenticity and originality in art, the function of the artist and the role of the spectator.

"This exhibition presents provocative works of conceptual art, along with examples of the types of work to which conceptual artists were responding," Harwood Director Susan Longhenry said. "We look forward to activating the museum's galleries with work that truly requires the active engagement of its viewer."

The impetus for "Nod Nod Wink Wink" comes from the enthusiastic and creative collecting of New Mexico collectors Christopher and Kathleen Burmeister.

The Burmeisters chose to collect what is most inspiring to them, which also happens to be the most intellectually challenging. "Good art wages a visual and intellectual battle with the viewer," Christopher Burmeister said. "And the result can be uncomfortable."

The collection also sets an example of the creative energy and friendships created among collectors. Burmeister and fellow collector Ray Graham have forged a lasting relationship based on the thrill of collecting. In the early 1970s, Graham began to collect art from friends and his collection has grown to more than 700 works.

"I began as an anthropology student at the University of New Mexico back in the '60s," Graham said. "There was never any intention that I was buying art as an investment. It was mainly supporting those artists and the ideas that I found intriguing. And the range of ideas was never limited to one style or any form. It was always wide open."

Other contributing collections in "Nod Nod Wink Wink" include the collection of Larry Bell, Pace Gallery N.Y., Gus Foster and the Sarkisian Family.

The Harwood Museum of Art is located at 238 Ledoux Street in Taos. Call (575) 758-9826. For information on a series of events accompanying the exhibition, visit Harwood Museum of Art.

Media Contact: Andrew Flack, (303) 960-3773, flack@buzzinc.net