A Retrospective of Joyful Spirituality
BY JOHNATHAN MORPURGO | Among the mountains of art available for viewing in the city, Westbeth Gallery’s vibrant “Remembering Carmen Promutico” retrospective is a gem.
In the midst of sister Jean Promutico’s own impressive retrospective at Westbeth, Carmen’s show is a visual feast of 40 years of drawing, painting, and assemblage nestled into a tight room. The retrospective’s success is due in no small measure to the efforts of its curator, Ernest Haecker, who is also Promutico’s surviving partner. The artist died in May 2011 at the age of 66.
In the early 1970s, Haecker and Promutico were active with homophile pioneer Harry Hay and his partner, John Burnside, in their Circle of Loving Companions, a spiritually-based group that generated the first gay organizing in New Mexico. The familial warmth and spiritual reflection evident in the Promutico show are imbued with a cheerfully eclectic energy that makes it more than simply a memorial collection of the artist’s work.
The abstract drawings are the deepest artistic find of the show. Promutico’s use of line and space is profound and communicates rhythm. I found myself staring at etchings and drawings long enough to observe movement in the minute abstracted forms. The whimsical character shown in Promutico’s early drawings intensifies with the assemblages on exhibit, which initially draw more attention. These three-dimensional collages range from nautical to domestic to spiritual in theme.
Promutico was a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, and his work has been shown extensively in New Mexico, where he spent most of his career, as well as in New York and Baltimore. A painting of the artist’s beloved Rockaway Beach, which won awards in Santa Fe, exemplifies the joyful blending of styles, techniques, and geography that characterizes Promutico’s career.
REMEMBERING CARMEN PROMUTICO | Westbeth Gallery | 55 Bethune St. at Washington St. | Through Nov. 11, 1-6 p.m. | Information at 212-255-0556