Seeking to expand the boundaries of American art, a small bunch of like-minded artists came together in New Mexico in 1938 to form the Transcendental Painting Group (TPG). Led by Raymond Jonson and Emil Bisttram, the TPG included painters such as Agnes Pelton and Robert Gribbroek. According to their original manifesto, the term “transcendental” best expressed their aim “to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new concepts of space, color, light, and design, to imaginative realms that are idealistic and spiritual.”
By 1941, with the onset of World War II, the group officially dissolved, which might partly explain why their mystical oeuvres have often been overlooked by art historians and critics alike. However, these remarkable artists and their respective works have recently garnered renewed attention. Currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) through June 19th, “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945” is the first major traveling museum exhibition dedicated to the work of these painters.
Interestingly, this overdue spotlight comes at a time when there seems to be a growing number of contemporary artists exploring nonobjectivity and mysticism in styles reminiscent of the pieces produced by members of the TPG. However, unlike their predecessors who were strictly concerned with themes of idealism and spirituality, many of today’s artists are reflecting on pressing philosophical and societal issues.
Below, we highlight eight artists who belong to a new generation experimenting with light, color, shapes, and space in new and unexpected ways.