Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist was first seen at the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona from March 9th to September 8th 2019 followed by the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York in March 2020. Due to COVID-19 new dates for the Whitney will be announced soon.
Agnes Pelton (1881–1961) was a visionary symbolist who depicted the spiritual reality she experienced in moments of meditative stillness. Art for her was a discipline through which she gave form to her vision of a higher consciousness within the universe. Using an abstract vocabulary of curvilinear, biomorphic forms and delicate, shimmering veils of light, she portrayed her awareness of a world that lay behind physical appearances—a world of benevolent, disembodied energies animating and protecting life. For most of her career, Pelton chose to live away from the distractions of a major art center, first in Water Mill, Long Island, from 1921 to 1932, and subsequently in Cathedral City, a small community near Palm Springs, California. Her isolation from the mainstream art world meant that her paintings were relatively unknown during her lifetime and in the decades thereafter. This exhibition of approximately forty-five works introduces to the public a little-known artist whose luminous, abstract images of transcendence are only now being fully recognized.
Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist was organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, and curated by Gilbert Vicario, The Selig Family Chief Curator. The installation at the Whitney Museum is overseen by Barbara Haskell, curator, with Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant.
Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated publication edited by the organizing curator of the exhibition, Gilbert Vicario with contributions by Elizabeth Armstrong, Director, Palm Springs Museum of Art; Dr. Michael Zakian, Director, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University; Dr. Susan Aberth, Associate Professor of Art History; Coordinator, Theology, Bard College; and Dr. Erika Doss, Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame.
Dr Erika Doss gave an excellent and informative lecture on the art of Agnes Pelton and is available on YouTube: Spiritual Searching in Modern Times: Agnes Pelton’s Desert Transcendentalism, Phoenix Art Museum, 2019
(Text taken from the exhibition press release.)