Two masters anchor Santa Fe’s contemporary art show

SANTA FE—Inside the Art Santa Fe contemporary art show, five screen prints by Yayoi Kusama highlighted her famous technique that reminds us that all objects, even ordinary ones, submit to the mighty forces that drive the universe. Meanwhile, just outside the entrance at the same show, people gathered around a work by Ricardo Cardeñas-Eddy, whose enormous portrait of Frida Kahlo appeared to have been painted on a cement wall, then planed off by construction workers.

Together, the two influential artists’ work effectively advanced the curatorial theme of [MOMENTUM]—a focus on building platforms, gaining knowledge, growing audiences, and supporting artistic innovation.


The show, held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center from July 18-21, was the culminating event to the city’s inaugural art week celebration.  It celebrated its 20th year and is the city’s only major contemporary fine art show, attracting collectors and fans from around the world to a dizzying array of exhibits, performances, workshops, and live artwork demonstrations.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with the City of Santa Fe and to be part of the first Santa Fe Art Week celebration,” said Eric Smith, the CEO of Redwood Media Group, which owns and produces the show. Smith praised the city’s vibrant art scene as a perfect fit for such a contemporary art show.

More than 60 national and international galleries showcased hundreds of artists and their work.  One of these artists, Adam Sauers, specializes in the inlay of turquoise, mica and other natural stones, onto ceramic pottery. Sauers uses small tiles formed from spiny oyster to accent his stones. His innovative technique gives the impression that the materials are suspended just above the surface, a successful blending of the ancient and the contemporary.

“I learned how to do this through my family, and now I get to put my own style and flair into each piece,” Sauers said.

Jen Tough Gallery, of Benicia, California, represented three artists chosen as “best in show” by judges from the Santa Fe art and design community. The award winners were Julie Brookman, Jenny Phillips, and Carol Dalton. The gallery represents emerging and mid-career artists.


There was also Max Daily’s Oslo Sardine Bar, an immersive installation that invited people to experience art in the context of a small eatery out at sea. The installation has become a San Diego staple experience and in Santa Fe, it offered a fresh way to invite people into the art world.


But all eyes were drawn to the work of the two masters—Kusama and Cardeñas-Eddy.

Kusama’s prints, four of pumpkins (A Pumpkin Yor, A Pumpkin RY, Pumpkin ST, A Pumpkin (BY)) and one of a glass of lemon squash (Lemon Squash (5)), showed why she is among the world’s top-grossing artists. Kusama, 90, is known for massive installations that have been showcased around the world, including large, interactive sculptures and prints.


The artist, who was born in Nagano Prefecture in 1929, started to paint at about age 10 using polka dots and nets as winsome motifs in watercolors, pastels and oils. In 1957, she came to the United States and was a part of the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, including the pop-art movement. She has lived in Japan since 1973 and continually produces art seen around the world.  The New York Botanical Garden recently announced Cosmic Nature, a major exhibition of Kusama’s work that will open on May 9, 2020, and run through November 1. In October, she installed an enormous, inflatable sculpture called Life of the Pumpkin Recites, All About the Biggest Love for the People (2019), at the Place Vendôme in Paris. About a month later, during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® in New York City, Kusama debuted a new balloon, called Love Flies Up to the Sky, in front of more than 3.5 million spectators and more than 50 million viewers nationwide. The balloon was part of the parade’s Blue Sky Gallery series, which invites celebrated contemporary artists to contribute artwork to the event.


Represented by Gallery Edel, of Osaka, Japan, at the show in Santa Fe, Kusama’s work crackled with color and energy, clad in her motif of polka dots and nets, which she calls “infinity nets.” This technique created the impression that the pumpkins and the lemon squash were decaying into excited atomic particles. It was the artist’s way of reminding people that the forces that exert power across the universe also influence everyday objects, like pumpkins and refreshing beverages.

Steps away, in the grand foyer, attendees quietly regarded the face of Frida Kahlo, whose image was painted onto a 7-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide slab of concrete, metal bars exposed. The large painting looked like a found object, a mark of Cardeñas-Eddy’s background as a construction engineer.

Cardeñas-Eddy, born in México, and represented by Contemporary Art Projects USA at the show, is known for his clever use of such building materials as concrete and steel bars.

The large portrait, “La Pared de Frida” from Cardeñas-Eddy’s Frida’s Paredon Series, was a solid example of his style. While the slab and rebar appeared to be deteriorating, Kahlo’s image remained unaffected, revealing the artist’s belief that historical and contemporary U.S.-Mexico border issues likewise persist. Even the underlying materials projected resilience, illustrating that issues along the border have a long history.


Cardeñas-Eddy’s technique years ago drew major attention with his My Muses Series, which was inspired by the seven art Muses created by Zeus and which guided Classical culture and the thinking of humanity for centuries. The series drew heavily on the appearance that the pieces were found objects, an approach that enabled people to more easily link history to contemporary art and thought.

Kusama and Cardeñas-Eddy’s were the perfect bookends to the show. With Kusama, one was able to see that forces in the universe affect all things. And with Cardeñas-Eddy, one could see that even with changing times, many social issues persist.

As excitement over the show receded into memory, the organizers were already looking to the future. In July, the show plans to continue using the [MOMENTUM] theme to continue bringing cutting-edge artwork to a city known for its natural beauty, cultural history, and a deep appreciation for the arts.

Photos: Art Santa Fe 2019
all photos by Derrick Henry / Meniscus Magazine