What's Important is the Art: The Legacy of Elaine Horwitch, Southwest Rising with Dr. Julie Sasse

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In a fitting close to Encounter Culture’s inaugural season, host Charlotte Jusinski returns to where it began. The New Mexico Museum of Art’s exhibition Southwest Rising: Contemporary Art and the Legacy of Elaine Horwitch celebrates the woman responsible for launching this region’s contemporary art movement into the stratosphere.

Joining Charlotte to dish on the legendary gallery owner’s influence are Dr. Julie Sasse, Chief Curator at the Tucson Museum of Art and author of the book that informed the original exhibition at TMA, and Christian Waguespack, Curator of 20th-century art at the New Mexico Museum of Art, who reconceived the idea for MOA using works from its permanent collection.

“She was totally confident, totally unabashed,” recalls Julie. “She showed what she liked, and she liked boldness. She liked color. She liked precision painters. But she also liked abstraction. She had no problem showing Filipe Archuleta next to a Paul Jenkins, or a famous artist next to an emerging artist.” No one is in a better position to evaluate the Horwitch’s magic than the woman who spent 14 formative years by the impresario’s side, attending every party, documenting each sale, and cataloguing the impossibly vibrant collection for which the gallery owner was renowned.

Horwitch opened her first gallery in Scottsdale in 1973. By 1976, she had an outpost in Santa Fe, followed swiftly by Sedona, then Palm Springs. Her rise was meteoric, as were the careers of the artists she championed.

Although she fostered a summer camp and cocktails vibe, the art always came first. She displayed a shrewd business acumen and an impeccable ability to predict the “next big thing” coming out of the Southwest Pop scene in the 1970s and 80s. Horwitch was well-known for her support of female and indigenous artists––creators who didn’t often receive the same recognition (or fees) outside her gallery.

“It wasn't about your name. It wasn't about your pedigree,” says Christian. “It was about what you were producing and that merit, your merit as an artist. I think that that changed the game for a lot of gallerists and curators working here in the Southwest.”

For MOA’s interpretation of Southwest Rising, Christian made great use of the museum’s light-filled top floor gallery, creating an immersive experience that pays homage to Horwitch’s passion for contemporary Southwestern artistry and unabashed showmanship. The exhibit is also something of a tribute to Julie’s meticulous original narrative. “This work on this project has gotten me excited,” he says. “This is a time period and artistic moment that really needs some more digging into, and Julie has given that to us.”

Southwest Rising: Contemporary Art and the Legacy of Elaine Horwitch is on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art through January 2nd, 2022. Plan your visit to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The beautiful book Southwest Rising: Contemporary Art and the Legacy of Elaine Horwitch, written by Dr. Julie Sasse, is co-published by Cattle Track Arts & Preservation and the Tucson Museum of Art.

MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Arizona's Pioneering Women Artists: Impressions of the Grand Canyon State - by Betsy Fahlman & Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest - by Lesley Poling-Kempes

Visit http://newmexicoculture.org for info about our museums, historic sites, virtual tours and more.

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Encounter Culture, a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.

Hosted by Charlotte Jusinski

Technical Director: Edwin R. Ruiz at Mondo Machine

Recording Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe

Executive Producer: Daniel Zillmann

Theme Music: D’Santi Nava

For more, visit NewMexicoCulture.org.

9 episode