Santa Fe he was a painter. Although he continued to exhibit woodblock prints here and there, I don’t believe he made any new ones after 1916. Lopez acknowledges this obliquely: “Though Nordfeldt is primarily known as a painter after 1917, his earlier explorations of printmaking impacted the generations of printmakers that followed.” That is surely the case, but the impact came less from his multi-block color prints, like the example reproduced in the book, than from the white-line style he championed in Provincetown, which might have underscored the argument more firmly. In fact, the book might well have demonstrated this by including one of the Provincetown-style white-line woodblock prints by Ruth Hogan, a much-admired contemporary master of that technique who actually lives near Santa Fe and is unaccountably absent from this book.
Many prominent figures of the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies enter these pages, Oscar E. Berninghaus, Will Shuster, and Andrew Dasburg among them. Art aficionados will take delight in discovering their woodblocks and woodcuts, which are likely to be less familiar than their paintings. (One wishes that Berninghaus’ buddy Bert Geer Phillips was not consistently referred to as “Bert Greer Phillips,” a small matter, perhaps, but a howler in a book about art in New Mexico.)
Ensuing chapters are given over to logically considered periods, topics of imagery, or artistic bents: ecclesiastical subjects, landscapes, New Deal artists, abstraction, expressionism. A section on “New Mexico’s Pueblo Peoples and Lands” delivers one of the book’s high points, the elaborate color woodblocks of T.C. Cannon, who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts. (One of his teachers there was Fritz Scholder, several of whose surprisingly minimal prints are featured later in the book.) Cannon’s largescale prints, which often provide a wry perspective on Indian subjects, are always a joy to encounter. He lived hard and died young, being snuffed out in a car crash in 1978 at the age of only thirty-one, a major talent who might have been still greater. Lopez’s volume brings us right up to the present, focusing on recent works by Leon Loughridge, Scott Parker, Bob Haozous, Gustavo Muñiz, Melanie Yazzie, Christa Marquez, Yoshiko Shimano, and — most charmingly — Thayer Carter, all of whom contribute prose explicating their work.
Lopez’s presentation does fall into formula, offering several paragraphs of just-the-facts biography on every artist considered and then a lightly analytical consideration of the prints selected for reproduction. It reads somewhat like a series of encyclopedia entries, but it’s not always easy (or even possible) to piece together information one would imagine to be essential in this context, such as when an artist died or when he or she lived in New Mexico. Not all of the artists under consideration lived in New Mexico, to be sure, but most of them did, and at least they portrayed New Mexico subjects. Although this is a generously scaled book at 247 pages, Lopez must have had to exercise considerable selectivity about which artists to include. I regretted one omission particularly. When Lopez wrote of the mark made on
American print artists from Edo-period Japan, she was referring especially to the famous prints of Katsushika Hokusai (The Great Wave off
Kanagawa, the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, etc.) and the artistic genre collectively known as ukiyo-e. But Japanese printmaking also evolved, and in the 20th century that school’s descendant, called shin-hanga, exerted its own influence on American artists, bringing together Edo style with aspects of European Impressionism and realism. The most eminent family of that newer school was the Yoshidas, and one of its most prominent members, Toshi Yoshida, spent time in New Mexico and made at least two top-quality color woodblock prints of local scenes: Santa Fe (1971), of vendors and tourists at the portal of the Palace of the Governors, and the especially evocative Ship Rock (1984).
The Carved Line (the book) is elegantly designed and beautifully printed, as one expects of its publisher, the Museum of New Mexico Press. It includes more than a hundred reproductions, many of which will invite the reader to crack the spine over and over to revisit this deeply personal niche of graphic art.
Harold Joe Waldrum: El contrafuerte grande perdido de la capilla de Chacón, 1993, linocut on paper; top, Barbara Latham: Christmas Eve, 1926, woodcut on paper; opposite page, Ed Haddaway: The Ladder, 1986, woodcut on paper