Taos Transcendental Group art given to Museum of New Mexico

By Tempo staff
Posted 9/3/19

Formally established in Taos, the Transcendental Painting Group (1938-42) was committed to innovative new directions in modern American art. Their manifesto announced their goal to …

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Taos Transcendental Group art given to Museum of New Mexico


Formally established in Taos, the Transcendental Painting Group (1938-42) was committed to innovative new directions in modern American art. Their manifesto announced their 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."

Eight works of art by members of the Transcendental Painting Group have been presented to the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe as an "irrevocable gift," according to an announcement by the museum, the William Dailey Trust and Dr. Nicole Panter Dailey.

The gift includes four abstract works by group co-founder Emil Bisttram, including "Constellation" (1956), "The Flaming One" (1964), and one of his last major abstract paintings, "The Archetype" (1974); two canvases by Robert Gribbroek titled "Iris" (1935) and "Beyond Civilization to Texas" (1950); and the museum's first acquisition of pieces by the group's secretary Dane Rudhyar, an untitled pencil drawing from 1940 and "Fantasy," a watercolor on paper from 1948.

"With this donation, the New Mexico Museum of Art will be one of the only public institutions to hold artwork by Gribbroek or Rudhyar," a press release states. "The works were collected by the late William Dailey, a rare book dealer based in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California, and Nicole Panter Dailey, a psychologist and professor of film at the California Institute of the Arts."

William Dailey was born in Philadelphia but grew up in Evansville, Indiana. His interests as a boy in the 1950s included vegetarianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, astrology, alchemy and mesmerism, the release states. In 1968, William entered the rare book trade in 1968 and in time amassed a now-famous library of psychotropic drug-related literature.

In 1967, at 22 years old, Dailey headed west from Indiana to meet Dane Rudhyar in order to have his astrological chart done by Rudhyar, the release continues. "When William met Rudhyar, 25 years after the TPG disbanded, Rudhyar, despite being considered one of the world's greatest humanistic astrologers and a respected avant-garde composer, was living in near poverty in Lake Elsinore, California. Dailey and Rudhyar developed a friendship that lasted until the end of Rudhyar's life in 1985. At some point, William acquired a graphite abstraction from Rudhyar, which became the first piece in his TPG collection. In the years before meeting Nicole, William acquired the first four of the TPG pieces that are part of their gift to the museum."

Nicole Panter Dailey grew up in Palm Springs, California, but ran away to Los Angeles in her mid-teens and became a member of the "Class of '77" - the first generation of Los Angeles punk rockers. She managed the notorious band The Germs and was a featured interview in the underground documentary classic "The Decline of Western Civilization."

William and Nicole discovered their mutual love for New Mexico and the TPG early in their courtship. Both considered the New Mexico Museum of Art's Agnes Pelton painting, "Awakening," a personal favorite. They completed their TPG collection with four additional paintings purchased jointly.

At the time of William's sudden passing in December 2017, he and Nicole were researching institutions that might be the eventual recipient of their collection. Both agreed the paintings belonged in New Mexico.

In August of 2018, Panter Dailey worked with the New Mexico Museum of Art to craft the details of the gift and finalize their bequest.

"The work of the TPG is important in the evolution of modernism and the history of art in New Mexico," said Panter Dailey. "We were very aware that our stewardship of the works gave us a responsibility to do right by honoring their place in art history when finding a final home for them. Bill and I had no doubt that these paintings should come back to New Mexico, that they belong here. The New Mexico Museum of Art checked all the boxes for us and the curatorial staff has been so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this acquisition, it was obvious this was the right fit."

"The museum currently holds over 90 works by major TPG members, but this irrevocable gift adds significantly to quality, breadth and depth of story the museum is now able to tell about the group," said curator of 20th century art Christian Waguespack. "We are grateful for this significant donation to the museum ... and thrilled to expand our collection of works by one of New Mexico's most groundbreaking community of artists."

Panter Dailey is a volunteer psychologist at a middle school and a free clinic in Los Angeles, in addition to her teaching work at the California Institute of the Arts.

The Museum of New Mexico is located at 107 West Palace Avenue, just west of the historic Santa Fe Plaza. For more information, call (505) 476-5072 or visit nmartmuseum.org.


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