In 1994, the Amarillo Museum of Art began honoring and celebrating exceptional art collections with the annual Achievement in Art Exhibition. This year, the museum is proud to present the collection of Mike and Dalia Engler, long-time supporters of the AMoA. They have generously funded exhibitions, museum programs, and staff professional development. In addition to their steadfast financial support, they have also volunteered their time to serve on the Board of Trustees. Both Mike and Dalia have served as President of the Board (1997-8 and 2004-5 respectively), and they have generously donated a number of significant works to the museum’s Permanent Collection. These gifts include the work of Florence Pierce, Joseph Marioni, and Theodore Waddell.
The Englers began to focus their collection in the late 1990s. The pivotal acquisition of three works by Florence Pierce would influence the trajectory of their collection of monochromatic paintings. They were first introduced to Pierce’s work by the late AMoA Curator and Director Patrick McCracken, who in early 1995, presented Pierce’s first museum exhibition titled Ambient Seduction. She is best known for her essentially monochromatic works of layered resin on mirrored Plexiglas. These artworks, like all of the works in the Engler’s collection, are best experienced with time, consideration, and thought rather than seen at a glance. Because they reflect, absorb, and emanate a glow with constantly changing available light, they require the viewer’s active participation.
The Englers acquired these three works in 1997 through Charlotte Jackson Fine Art in Santa Fe. For nearly 30 years, Charlotte Jackson has championed the work of contemporary American and European artists: Modernists, Monochrome, Concrete, Light and Space, and Color Field painters and sculptors. Her gallery has been instrumental in the success of numerous artists as well as the development of many significant collections. One such collection is that of Natalie and Irving Foreman, which is now a part of the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. In many ways, the core of the Engler’s collection mirrors that of the Foreman’s; the exception being the Engler’s interest in collecting glass and the recent additions of Hiroshi Sugimoto photographs.
Soon after purchasing the Florence Pierce works, the Englers began collecting in earnest. The next acquisition was Joseph Marioni’s Red Painting #45, 1999. Marioni was an original member of the Radical Painting group along with other monochrome painters that met in New York during the 1970’s and 1980’s. In a recent essay titled Footnote Number 6: Art and Objectness, Marioni writes, “The flat plane of painted color allows us to see the inner movement of the light itself. Light is the energy that activates the pigmented paint, and is the radical opticality of the painting. It is not derived from or verifiable by touch. So the painting is flat for visual clarity and full disclosure of its color. We are all immersed in light, most or all of our lives. Paintings delimitation is to see a particular moment of the light. So that, in the architecture of concrete painting, function follows light.”
This statement addresses some of the challenges inherent to monochrome, reductive, or concrete minimalist artists. Namely that the work does not provide a figure, narrative, composition, or display of skill seen in other modes of painting. Historically, a painting has been a picture plane, with paint used as a vehicle for illusion and narrative. Yet, when these paintings are given time and attention by the viewer, it becomes clear that these artists are exceptionally skilled, with a deep understanding and consideration of materials; along with widely diverse creative motivations. One could say of the Impressionists that a Cézanne is not the same as a Monet, which is not the same as a Renoir. With thoughtful looking, it becomes clear that a Joseph Marioni is not the same as a Rudolf deCringis, which is not the same as a Peter Tollens.
Mike and Dalia have been actively collecting from artists whose work they appreciate for more than 20 years. They have come to know many of the artists in their collection and have nurtured those relationships. The artworks in this exhibition have been lived with for much of that time. The Englers have steeped themselves in the works of the monochromatic painters and have developed an understanding of the key figures that informed this genre of painting. Other notable artists in the collection include Josef Albers, Robert Motherwell, Sir Anthony Caro, John Beech, Carl Andre, Marcia Hafif, Agnes Martin, and Erica Blumenfeld, among many others.
I am forever grateful to Mike and Dalia for their kindness, generosity, and willingness to allow the walls of their home to be bare in order to present their impressive collection to the residents of the Texas Panhandle region, the community of Amarillo, and its visitors.
JOSEPH MARIONI Red Painting, 2002 Acrylic on linen, 66” x 54”
Collection of the Amarillo Museum of Art, Gift of Mike and Dalia Engler