In a period of great change and uncertainty, a small group of artists in New Mexico joined together in a mutual need to explore spirituality through abstraction. In 1938, the artists formed the Transcendental Painting Group, and over only a few short years created abstract works of art that are sensuous, emotive, and radiant explorations of form, landscape, and the human spirit.
According to their manifesto, the group wanted to “carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new concepts of space, color, light, and design, to imaginative realms that are idealistic and spiritual.” In this desire to respond to a higher reality, the artists experimented with abstraction and explored their spiritual responses with an almost musical rhythm and luminous glow. The radiant paintings that resulted—uplifting, exploratory, and imaginative—offered an antidote to the pain and suffering of the era that was caused by economic hardship and the violence of war.
This first comprehensive traveling exhibition to explore the work by the Transcendental Painting Group is organized by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. The exhibition features over 75 paintings and drawings and includes work both from 1938–45, the significant period of the Transcendental Painting Group, as well as artwork made before the group was formed and after it disbanded. All eleven artists associated with the group are featured, including the guiding artists of the group, Raymond Jonson (American, 1891-1982) and Emil Bisttram (American, 1895-1976), and significantly the two female members, Agnes Pelton (American, 1881-1961) and Florence Miller Pierce (American, 1918-2007).