Patrocino Barela: Allegories of an Artist’s Life

Jun 28 - Sep 21, 2019

Santa Fe

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Press Release

Patrocino Barela
American, c. 1900-1964

The work of Patrocino Barela, an important self-taught modernist sculptor, will be featured at Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe in Patrocino Barela: Allegories of an Artist’s Life, on view from June 28 – September 21, 2019. This exhibition of historic wood sculptures, presented alongside paintings and watercolors by Barela’s contemporaries, highlights Barela’s remarkable acumen for rendering historical, religious, and allegorical narratives with a sophisticated, modernist sensibility.

A self-taught artist, Barela’s virtuoso handling of volume and space continues to influence generations of santeros (a person who creates religious images). However, Barela himself was not a traditional santero. While he frequently depicted images of the sacred, he also captured moments of human intimacy, tragedy, and everyday life –– another reason for his profound influence on subsequent generations.

Barela became a full-time artist in the 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression, when the U.S. government established the Federal Arts Program (FAP) and began employing artists in nationwide projects of unprecedented scope. He soon gained recognition from the greater art world. Time Magazine named Berela the “discovery of the year” in 1936, and in the same year his work was included in the pivotal exhibition “New Horizons of American Art” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Barela was also the first Taos artist to be collected by the institution.

Barela’s early success was fleeting, and he fell out of the national art scene quickly. Economic disadvantages, racial prejudice, and alcoholism marginalized Barela, though he continued to work, producing a wide variety of works, many of which can be found within collections throughout northern New Mexico.  

In addition, Barela’s works may be found in important public collections in the United States, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), and the aforementioned Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.