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Two New Art Exhibits Inspire Interior Decor

We’re taking design cues from two exhibits coming to the Valley this spring.

By Carly Scholl

With spring comes a fresh bloom of inspiration, and we’re looking to two of the Valley’s most prominent museums for home design direction this season. Opening March 9 at the Phoenix Art Museum, a unique exhibit explores the work of an oft-overlooked American modernist whose paintings transcend reality and celebrate the mystical. “The art of Agnes Pelton was influenced by the desert and its seasonal transformation,” explains interior designer Lynda Martin. “Her work is ethereal and soft with the suggestion of the arid landscape and bold blues of the sky. A peaceful sense is evoked, and the palette reflects many of the color trends today. I would incorporate the essence of her work in a master bedroom to impart a calming energy to a personal space.”

At the Heard Museum, a collection of photographs, drawings and paintings by a famous color theorist give insight into the strong sense of order and harmony in pre-Columbian architecture found south of the border. “In the example of Josef Albers, his complex study of color and geometry are spare and direct,” notes Martin. “His work is very architectural in the style of the Bauhaus movement with color studies that are intricate yet bold. This is a perfect look to incorporate into contemporary settings that demand a clean, crisp aesthetic.”

“Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist”


Phoenix Art Museum

March 9, 2019-Sept. 8, 2019

A leading trend in home decor this spring is the modern bohemian look—a softened take on the eclectic, globally inspired aesthetic that has seen the rebirth of macramé and the rise of sophisticated pastels and curvaceous forms in everything from furniture design to home accessories. While this trend is undoubtedly contemporary, its roots seem to extend as far back as the mid-20th century, when modernist painter Agnes Pelton was conjuring ethereal abstractions from the Southwestern landscape.

Debuting at Phoenix Art Museum this spring, the largest survey of works by the little-known artist will show a range of paintings demonstrating Pelton’s interest in esoteric subjects, including numerology and Agni Yoga, translated into dreamy abstract compositions. “It’s difficult to pinpoint Pelton’s exact influences because she often worked in isolation and her pieces are so imaginative,” explains exhibit curator Gilbert Vicario. “But she always anchored her paintings in the earth. You’ll see iterations of mountains, desert landscapes, flora, light and fire throughout her work, but each one is different from the last.” Reactions to Pelton’s paintings are often visceral and emotional says Vicario, which he believes stems from the luscious color and mysterious forms present in each piece.

Take a page from Pelton’s book and infuse your interiors with a sense of otherworldly whimsy grounded in natural silhouettes and materials. Soft hues, glittering light fixtures and touchable textiles mixed with references to earthy elements, such as flowers, water and wood, will impart a sense of balance to an interior scene while celebrating imagination and beauty.

Agnes Pelton (1881–1961), Fires in Space, 1938, oil on canvas, 30 1/8″ x 25″, signed; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Measuring 18.5″H by 58″W by 17″D and topped with a black leather cushion, the Dusk bench features a burst of wood grain rays emanating from a brass semicircle that evokes the essence of fire and light common in many of Pelton’s paintings. $799 (cb2.com)

“Messengers,” 1932, oil on canvas.

The Josette chandelier, composed of golden feathery plumes, forms an elegant halo of light. The fixture measures 36″ in diameter and can be fully customized. $17,725 (shinebysho.com)

A delicate bud vase ornamented with a sculptural floral form calls to mind the voluptuous shapes, pastel hues and connection to nature found in Pelton’s work. $28-$56 (anthropologie.com)

Agnes Pelton (1881–1961), Ascent (aka Liberation), 1946, oil on canvas, 32″ x 21″; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

“Josef Albers in Mexico”


The Heard Museum
Feb. 1, 2019-May 27, 2019

Originally organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, this exhibit has traveled to our neck of the woods to give the Valley a glimpse into the inspired musings of the father of color theory. “After the Bauhaus was closed down in 1933, Josef Albers and his wife, Anni, moved to New York, where they began taking numerous road trips to and through Latin America,” explains Erin Joyce, fine arts curator at the Heard. “The couple was completely taken with the abstract geometric vocabulary they found in the pre-Columbian architecture in Mexico.” Photographs that Albers took while visiting sites such as Teotihuacán, Chichén Itza and Monte Albán, as well as the famous paintings they inspired, make up the exhibition, which looks at a two-pronged narrative of Albers’ color theory: how we interact with color and how place is informed by it.

This vintage Navajo rug expresses complexity through simple geometric shapes and neutral hues offset by vibrant red—a harmony Albers observed in the pre-Columbian architecture of Mexico. 4’3″L by 7’2″W. $6,500 (davideadler.com)

When it comes to emulating Albers’ love of Mexico—with its simple reductivity of clean lines and “local color”—into your own home, Joyce suggests using this dualistic approach as a guiding light. “In any good design, you want to reference place and determine how you want to interact with different hues,” she says. “Just as important is how color interacts with itself.” To incorporate the essence of Albers’ modern, vibrant artworks into your home, seek out a place you want to evoke—whether it’s a city, building, park or cafe, and find a balance of clean lines, orderly geometry and bold color to reference its essence.

“Tenayuca I,” Josef Albers, 1942, oil on Masonite.

Add some interest to your coffee table with this set of six hexagonal concrete coasters that you and your guests can rearrange into endless designs. $36 (forthepeoplestore.com)

“Ballcourt at Monte Albán,” circa  1936-37, gelatin silver print.

“Study for Homage to the Square,” 1964, acrylic on Masonite.

The design of the Noble dining chair by B&T embraces the clean lines and primary colors of some of Josef Albers’ most famous works. $799 (2bmod.com)

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