John De Puy: The Last Taos Modern
March 2 – August 18, 2024
The Roswell Museum pays homage to Taos Modern artist John De Puy. He was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1927. What would become a deep, life-long connection to the landscapes of New Mexico and the surrounding region had its roots in his family even before he was born. De Puy’s grandfather Chester had a ranch in the vicinity of Taos in the late 19th century.
As someone who was known to engage in artistic practice daily, De Puy was both a dedicated painter and an avid student. He had degrees from Columbia University in New York and Oxford University in the United Kingdom and he also studied for a time at the Art Students League in New York. De Puy served in the United States military for six and a half years spanning parts of World War II and the Korean War.
De Puy first visited Taos, NM in 1949. He then returned to Taos permanently in 1952. He benefitted from the US federal government’s G.I. bill that covered tuition costs for educational programs after military veterans concluded their service. De Puy attended the Taos Valley Art School. He befriended a number of like-minded artists, including Ted Egri, Cliff Harmon, Beatrice Mandelman, Agnes Martin, Robert Ray, Louis Ribak, and Earl Stroh. They became known as the Taos Moderns.
Former Harwood Museum of Art curator David Witt wrote of De Puy in his 1992 book Taos Moderns: Art of the New, “He brought to his painting the sensitivity of a naturalist who was equally at home exploring trackless desert, experimenting in the art studio, or vandalizing billboards north or Taos with Edward Abbey.” De Puy’s best friend, Abbey was an author and environmental activist. They shared a love for the lands around them and a tenacious dedication to protecting and preserving them. Edward Abbey once said of his friend, “He paints a hallucinated, magical, and sometimes fearsome world—not the one we think we see but the one, he claims, that is really there. A world of terror as well as beauty—the terrible beauty that lies beyond the ordinary limits of human experience, that forms the basis of experience, the ground of being.”
De Puy passed away peacefully at his home in Ojo Caliente at the age of 95 on March 15, 2023. Some would consider him to have been the last surviving artist in the Taos Moderns group. De Puy’s work has been collected and exhibited not only across New Mexico, but internationally as well. A major retrospective of his work took place in 2016 at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. Earlier, De Puy had a solo exhibition here at the Roswell Museum entitled The Ground of Being in 2006. The Roswell Museum’s exhibition John De Puy: The Last Taos Modern is both a gesture celebrating the artist’s life and legacy as well as recognizing his passing as the end of an era. This is the second of a series of exhibitions exploring the output of groundbreaking artists who made significant artistic contributions to our region.
Special thanks is owed to Agustín Pozo Gálvez for his translation of text about the exhibition to Spanish.