September 6, 2014
Gregory Botts: The Madrid Group
Art LTD, September/October 2014
Matthew Irwin


Gregory Botts: The Madrid Group
Art LTD, September/October 2014
Matthew Irwin

In mountain towns throughout the West, straw-hatted plein air painters pull over at scenic vistas or at the base of dramatic mountain-scapes, hatches of their Subarus and SUVs pitched while they interpret land on canvas. The work, which, to borrow a phrase from Matthew Coolidge, amounts to little more than "advertisements for nature," shows up in airports, hotels, and trophy homes -- places where a pleasant, agreeable aesthetic are particularly desirable.

Gregory Botts's work, on the other hand, provides a different reading of the public performance that is painting outdoors. Splitting his time between New York City and the former New Mexico mining town of Madrid (now a popular tourist destination), Botts built the collection "The Madrid Group" from works begun at his mountain retreat from 2000 to 2009. Plenty of other Western artists depict landscape from within an abstract, or even conceptual, framework, but the work of plein air artists is so easily associated with tourist-driven fall arts festivals. Botts breaks us from his association by questioning his own romantic notions of landscape. He confronts his own presence as an artist in a scenic, mountainous, tourist town. This is particularly evident in the fragmented pieces, as the Yellow Sky Fragments series or the works done by memory, as in the Blue Remembered Hills series.

However, the series that best articulates his vision falls under the heading Madrid, Night Studio. Take, for instance, Madrid, Night Studio, All One, falling #1 (2004-2008), a large-scale painting in oil and acrylic. What appears to be a full quarter of the canvas is black. Taking up a full length and width, it is cut only by white, five-sided stars like those in an illustration for children. The remaining quarter is filled with abstract overlapping shapes in vivid solid colors. We must stand back from the 115-inch-by-72 3/8-inch image, across the gallery to appreciate that we are viewing a painting of paintings against the dark sky, as if Botts (a student of Fairfield Porter and Paul Georges) is reconstructing the landscape around his studio from memory, while that very same landscape is obscured by night. He disrupts his own romantic gaze through the process of revealing it. And yet, void of particular dialogues on the romanticized West, the work still fits nicely in places where an agreeable aesthetic is desirable.

Matthew Irwin

Download:   Gregory Botts: The Madrid Group
Art LTD, September/October 2014
Matthew Irwin

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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