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Step into 'Another World' at Philbrook exhibit
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Step into 'Another World' at Philbrook exhibit

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In the late 1930s, a group of nine artists living and working in New Mexico came together in pursuit of a unique goal: “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.”

The result, as the group stated in its manifesto, was to create “an art transcending the objective and expressing the cultural development of our time.”

Thus, the name they chose for themselves was the Transcendental Painting Group. And while the group lasted only for about three years, the paintings they made form a unique body of work that attempted to show how abstract, almost Surrealist art could evoke a deep, emotional response in the viewer.

It was, according Raymond Jonson, one of the group’s founders, described as “telling all about the wonders of a richer and deeper land – the world of peace – love and human relations projected through pure form.”

On Oct. 17, the Philbrook Museum of Art will open “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group,” the first comprehensive traveling exhibit of work by this group. The exhibit, organized by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, included more than 75 paintings and drawing by group members.

“This exhibition looks specifically at the ways art can be used as a tool to transcend,” Philbrook President and CEO Scott Stulen said. “My hope is for visitors to take time to immerse themselves in this show and feel the power and peace these beautiful works can manifest.”

Ultimately, the group would include 10 artists: Jonson and co-founder Emil Bisttram, Ed Garman, Robert Gribbroek, Lawren Harris, William Lumpkins, Florence Miller Pierce, Agnes Pelton, Horace Towner Pierce and Stuart Walker.

While the group’s manifesto claims that the works its members produced were not influenced by “political, economic or other social problems,” critics and historians have made the case that the artists were certainly aware of the gathering storm that would become World War II, and that their quest for the spiritual was an effort to provide a response to the suffering of the era that was caused by economic hardship and the violence of war.

“The ability to understand and respond to our shared difficulties, struggles and uncertainties through art — and the need to search for a deeper meaning — is as relevant today as it was nearly a century ago,” said Philbrook curator Susan Green, Marcia Manhart Endowed Associate Curator for Contemporary Art and Design.

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