WTAMU department of art, theater and dance partners with PPHM with Southwest Abstractions


Photo by: Emily Merrill

Southwest Abstractions of Emil Bisttram located on the first floor of the PPHM and is available for viewing until March 19, 2022.

On Sept. 21, Southwest Abstractions of Emil Bisttram opened at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. The exhibition includes abstract works that have never been featured in a museum.

Bisttram was born in Hungary and studied at the National Academy of Art and Design and Cooper Union. He lived in New York while the city was becoming the center of the art world, but moved to Taos, New Mexico. Bisttram helped found the Transcendental Painting Group in 1931. Although the artist produced figurative paintings, most of his work after World War II were abstractions.

Jon Revett, associate professor of art, drawing, painting and printmaking, discovered Bisttram’s works about 15 years ago when a friend introduced him to it.

“I thought they were really kind of unique, and I hadn’t seen the work before. So he kind of came on my radar at that point,” Revett said. “Then I began to see his work in museums and other places, and kind of noticed that he was getting clout.”

The exhibition is from an extensive collection of Bisttram’s paintings from the Ladd family of Amarillo, the friend that introduced Revett to the work in the first place.

“We had always talked about doing an exhibition, and so eventually we approached the Panhandle Plains and they accepted,” Revett said.

PPHM is an integral part of West Texas A&M University and is always seeking ways to partner with the different departments of the university. Stephanie Price, associate director of marketing at PPHM, explained how the museum was approached for the exhibition.

“We always want to find ways that we can integrate with the curriculum or the ways that the museum can be a resource. So, Jon approached us about these incredible paintings that he found in the home of the Ladd family, and how they would make an excellent exhibition here at PPHM.”

Along with constructing the exhibition, Revett teaches some curriculum on Bisttram’s work.

“We did a course this summer where we took students to New Mexico. We took them to see paintings in museums, and they saw drawings of the paintings in the show. So, they really had the unique experience of researching the paintings and then getting to see other equal components of the paintings,” Revett said.

Revett said that the students have responded well to the curriculum and enjoyed it.

“To take students out into the world, to see our research work they look at in the classroom and they see and function in the real world is really kind of a very unique experience.”

The exhibition is located on the first floor of PPHM in the Harrington Gallery will run Sept. 21, 2021 through March 19, 2022. Regular admission rates apply.

For more information, including a special public Bisttram event on Nov. 6, visit panhandleplains.org.