EXHIBITION - February 1 - March 29, 1998

An important traveling exhibition of wood sculpture by the New Mexico artist Patrociño Barela (1900-1964) will open at the Harwood Museum on Sunday February 1, 1998, with a reception from 3:00 - 5:00 pm. Organized by the Harwood, the exhibition features 40 wood carvings by Barela dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. Also represented in the exhibition are New Mexico wood carvers Luis B. Barela and Carlos Barela, grandsons of Patrociño Barela.

Barela emerged on the American art scene in 1936 as one of America’s most important artists when, following the Santa Fe show, he was featured in a show of Federal Art Project artists at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

He was the first Mexican-American artist to receive national recognition. When Barela made his New York debut, he was hailed by Time as the "discovery of the year." The New York Times cited his work for showing "real force…there is crude, honest, personal expression in the small carvings." The Museum of Modern Art proclaimed him "the most dramatic discovery made in American art for the past several years."

His carvings show deep psychological and mystical insights into the human condition. The poet William Carlos Williams wrote of Barela, "…for wholehearted depth of purpose his figures have a comment to make on the age which is like a breath of fresh air." While Barela did not remain a part of the national scene during his lifetime, he became a legendary figure because of his deep spirituality and monumental talent as an artist. Today in New Mexico, nearly every santero (an artist who creates sacred images) recognizes Barela as a major inspiration.

Accompanying the exhibition is a major biography, Spirit Ascendant, the Art and Life of Patrociño Barela, by David L. Witt and Edward Gonzales, co-curators of the show. Witt is a writer and curator at the Harwood Museum in Taos. Gonzales is an artist and native New Mexican. Also featured in the book are introductory essays by two of New Mexico’s leading writers, Max Evans and Rudolfo Anaya. All of Barela’s works shown in the exhibition are also reproduced in the book. The biography, which includes nearly two hundred illustrations of the artist and his work, is published by Red Crane Books. The book is a winner of the Border Regional Library Association 1997 Southwest Book Award.

Support for the Barela book and exhibition came from sources including the family of Patrociño Barela, the Southwest Art History Council, the Harwood Museum, the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation, the Joseph P. Sullivan and Jeanne M. Sullivan Foundation, the Stephane Janssen Art Foundation, participating museums, and individuals and institutions who loaned Barela carvings to the exhibition and for reproduction in the book.

Patrociño Barela Online Exhibition

Back to Gallery Exhibitions

Back to the Main Page