Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist
Mar 13–Jun 21, 2020


Agnes Pelton (1881–1961) was among the generation of American artists in the first decades of the twentieth century who rejected realism in favor of portraying their inner emotional states. But unlike her peers, who based their abstractions on the exterior world, Pelton used her vocabulary of curvilinear, biomorphic forms and delicate, shimmering veils of light to depict the unseen forces she believed exist in nature. Pelton’s art was included in the 1913 Armory Show, but her decision to remove herself from the art world meant that even within her lifetime she was relatively unknown except for her participation in the short-lived Transcendental Painting Group (1938–1942). Its members, like Pelton, believed in numerology, astrology, and faith healing. Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, the first survey of her work in more than twenty-four years, brings together approximately forty paintings dating from 1917 to 1961 that will illuminate her artistic contribution to American modernism and place her art within the context of international spiritual and esoteric abstraction.

Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, and curated by Gilbert Vicario, The Selig Family Chief Curator. The installation at the Whitney Museum is overseen by Barbara Haskell, curator, with Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant.