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WERNER DREWES (1899-1985), Storm Clouds (a.k.a. White Storm Cloud), 1977

Sullivan Goss: An American Gallery is presenting “The Search for the Modern West” as its first exhibit for 2023.

The exhibit features paintings, sculptures and prints that address the mythology, history and real life experiences of the American West. 

The exhibit opens with a reception from 5 to 8 tonight at the gallery, 11 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara. Many of the exhibit’s artists plan to be there.

The exhibit runs through Feb. 20.

“ ‘The Search for the Modern West’ is an art exhibition that seeks to expand, or maybe even escape, this all-too-familiar story. It will not be a show full of images of stoic cowboys or noble Native Americans, though audiences can expect a subtle nod here and there to that shared iconography,” the gallery said in a news release. “First, the exhibition intends to be modern and contemporary. The earliest work in the exhibition dates to the 1940s and is by the French and Mexican poet and Surrealist painter, Alice Rahon (1904-1987). She paints a pared down nocturnal landscape with a red moon looking down on a platoon of black triangular shapes that feel either like conifer trees or mountains. She was inspired both by the cave paintings at Altamira in France as well as her travels through California and Mexico.

“She is joined, across the room, by a large work called ‘Blue Corn Window, Taos, 1974-1977’ by LEE MULLICAN (1919-1998) who was closely associated with Rahon’s husband, Wolfgang Paalen. Both sought out a mysticism —  or perhaps a spirituality and space for idealized imaginative practice — that they associated with pre-Modern life,” the gallery said.

The gallery said each artist relates differently to the West. Some try to express the history of the culture, and those artists include Angela Perko, Holli Harmon and Dave Lefner.  

Can Western art also be abstract? The gallery said that question is answered by artists Channing Peake (1913-2006) and Harvey Leepa (1887-1977).  

Sullivan Goss: An American Gallery describes artists Hank Pitcher, Phoebe Brunner, Natalie Arnoldi, Mary-Austin Klein and Nicole Strasburg as “essentially native contemporary Westerners.

“Phoebe paints her memory of all the places she has explored as a horseback rider, skier, and traveler,” the gallery said in its news release. “Mary-Austin Klein travels by bike and is most interested in the Western clarity of light. Hank usually paints his home, but is represented in this exhibition by a painting of the Colorado Rockies, with the distinctive mountains we know all too well from a certain brand of beer in the background. 

“Rocky mountain vibes attend Nathan Huff’s ‘Encounter’ too, if from a certain distance,” the gallery said.

For more information, go to sullivangoss.com or contact the gallery at 805-730-1460.

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