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Contents:

Bio of H. Joe Waldrum

H. Joe Waldrum, An Artist "teetering on the brink" by Mary Stephenson. Reprinted from The Taos News , October 27, 1994.

"Harold Joe Waldrum" by William Peterson. Reprinted from Artspace, Southwestern Contemporary Arts Quarterly, Winter 1981-82.

"Harold Joe Waldrum at Tally Richards, Taos" by William Peterson. Reprinted from Artspace, Southwestern Contemporary Arts Quarterly, Winter 1984-85.
 

H. Joe Waldrum: An Artist "teetering on the brink"

In his new book, "Ando en cueros," Waldrum trounces art's 'culturettes, normalonians and sycophants.'

Mary Stephenson, The Taos News, October 27, 1994.



Whether he's talking about his art, recounting how he killed a man -- in self defense -- or telling how he took on the former archbishop to save the churches of New Mexico, Harold Joe Waldrum is a riveting raconteur, who speaks eloquently about his life.

So it's no surprise that his art book, Ando en Cueros ( I Walk Stark Naked ) is so engaging. In it, Waldrum mixes provocative essays with photos of his ranch, livestock and ranch cowboys -- all cunningly juxtaposed by 64 color reproductions of his work.

One gallivants through the pages of the book, swept away with the force of Waldrum's personality, mind and breath-taking work. The book is chock full of wonderful photographs: Waldrum's Mountain Ranch (nestled in La Sierra de Los Ladrones) south of Alburquerque; his beloved mules (June Bug, Mayday, Miss Daisy and Moon); the cowboys that populate the ranch; and the "spotted hills" of the mesa.

In opening essays, we are given tidbits of information to savor -- all delivered with Waldrum's acerbic wit and characteristic candor:
 

Mules are smarter than horses and much smarter that some of the people who have come here to the ranch to train them.

When my analyst in New York identified me as socially schizophrenic, I felt better knowing my malady had a name; and when I first saw the mountain range of the thieves . . . I felt better knowing there was a place for the socially schizophrenic to live."

Waldrum gives readers a piece of his mind. Readers are treated to "harangues" about "artspeak," why he paints naked, his loathing for Daylight Savings Time, and his disgust with the state of art education. All the while, he seduces with his rapier wit, precision and the beauty of his images. Titles titillate: "Teetering on the Brink Will Refresh You," "They Wanted Me to Perform Orally," and "Love Letters and the Palm Springs Desert Museum" are sample monikers which hook the reader.

Best of all, Waldrum's paintings and etchings are meticulously reproduced. From his "window series" begun in 1971, to landscapes arranged in triptychs -- in which three rectangles are squared and stacked on each other -- Waldrum's abstract work explores color and value, his windows beckoning one into dark openings that don't threaten but seem to promise solace and absolution.

Interspersed in this section is his genitalia series. This section, "Genitalia is Genitalia is Genitalia," begins with a lovely passage:

Our genitalia is our flower. Flowers are there to insure the reproduction of their species. Flowers are beautiful in order to attract; flowers are aromatic in order to attract; flowers give pleasure in order to attract. Everyone has a flower. Every flower is beautiful.

Waldrum then visually expresses this opinion in aquarella, and the resulting paintings of genitals look like flowers in the bud state, ready to explode into bloom. The colorations are sensual, yet delicate, and the result is a poetic celebration of nature, our own.

Waldrum is perhaps best known for his paintings, aquatint etchings and linocuts of the adobe churches of New Mexico. Again, Waldrum's mastery of color and value have created seemingly endless variations of color studies and a masterful use of light and shadow. His churches are frozen in moments which reveal their magnificent structure, legacy and the play of the environment upon them.

In "La Luz," for example, the buttress of the San Francisco de Asis Church at Ranchos de Taos is caught in a play of blinding sunlight and shadow. The bold drama of the contrast evidences the assertive virtuosity of Waldrum's talent. Taking the elegant lines of the structure, his eye captures a moment of singular beauty and his execution demands we take notice. It's interesting, the lines are minimal, and the shadings of color are subtle and the result is a show-stopper.

So is his book.

Clear, articulate and spare prose make his originality all the more startling. At its best, Ando en Cueros is a breath of fresh air, a glass of cool, pure mountain water. With the same flourish he brings to his art, Waldrum carves up pretentious art critics, "isms," anything that may get in the way of his work, his passage, his story.

More information on
Ando en cueros .

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Excerpt from:

"Harold Joe Waldrum"



William Peterson Artspace, Southwestern Contemporary Arts Quarterly, Winter 1981-82

One of the longstanding metaphors in western art, from the Renaissance down, is that of the painting as a window. Matisse was drawn to the motif again and again; Duchamp and Magritte made odd jokes about it; and Motherwell sustained a long meditation on it in his Open series. For several years now, Harold Joe Waldrum has made it a central motif of his work.

As a format, the concentric rectangles of the window lock in the exterior shape of the canvas producing a powerful internal integrity. At the same time, the format relieves the artist of compositional considerations and the panel becomes autonomous and internally resolved in a way reminiscent of Jasper Johns' use of concentric target circles or the preexisting, flat design of the flag. Also reminiscent of Johns is the tension between flatness and three-dimensionality which is taken beyond the selected 'subject matter' into the weightiness and disjuncture of the component bands. All of this underscores the paradox of the painting as a painted 'thing' with an object-like relationship to the wall.

Waldrum involves his pigments in a Promethean theft--they conspire to steal light. In each canvas, the three differently-colored bands establish the gradations and semitones evocative of a particular time of day. " Azul, Azul, Azul " is a night or twilight picture while "Dos y Media" -- with its primary scheme of naples yellow interior, cobalt blue frame and cadmium red wall -- suggests the hot light of 2:30 in the afternoon.

Waldrum's explorations of the window metaphor have probed its ambiguous and problematic nature. In some, the window's receptacle will seem like a vessel filled with light; in others, especially those with black centers, it will seem emptied, leaving an awesome darkness. Some are filled with hope or longing; others with profound resignation. Often an image of mandalic centering, the broad middle plane can also seem a blank slab or table awaiting an inscription. Because a window is a threshold allowing or withholding access to another world, it can be taken as opening outward onto a beyond or inward into an interior. Inside might be a room, a womb or a tomb; outside might be a kingdom of light or the darkness of the "immense night" in Lorca's poem.
 

Poema de la Solea

Tierra seca,
tierra quieta
de noches
inmensas.

(Viento en el olivar,
viento en la sierra.)

Tierra Vieja
del candil
y la pena.
Tierra
de las hondas cisternas.
Tierra
de la muerte sin ojos
y las flechas.

(Viento por los caminos.
Brisa risa en las alamedas.)

Federico Garcia Lorca

Poem of the Sunbeaten

Dry land,
quiet land
of immense
nights.

(Wind in the olive grove,
wind in the mountain range.)

Ancient land
of the lamp
and hardship.
Land
of the deep cisterns.
Land
of death without eyes
and arrows.

(Wind along the roads.
Breeze in the promenades.)

translated by W.P.
 



Frequently Waldrum seems to have borrowed from Byzantine icons the notion of the painting as a source of light. Hieratic and resplendent, an icon serves as direct access to the Divine with the light passing through the image into this world. Waldrum's ominous, shored up,flat surfaces can also be reminiscent of those great, blank windows in Michelangelo's Lauretian library which had intrigued Rothko as well. In any case, these openings located feelings of mystery and vulnerability.

. . . But with their boldly frontal surfaces, which contain depth but deny the manipulations of perspective, Waldrum's windows offer a different address to our subjectivity. Hung in the interiors of our rooms, these paintings as windows reinforce our sense of being inside, placing us more firmly inside the space of the room and admonishing us to become indwellers of the only space we have -- the present.

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"Harold Joe Waldrum at Tally Richards, Taos"


William Peterson Artspace, Southwestern Contemporary Arts Quarterly, Winter 1984-85

Lonely and isolated, as all high places are, Northern New Mexico may pressure its tenacious inhabitants into a kind of brooding withdrawal. Communities and individuals would seem to have closed in on themselves simply for survival's sake. The mud-hewn churches and moradas of the area's secluded villages have become the dominant subject of Harold Joe Waldrum's work. Within the self-contained borders of his always square format, their in-turned loneliness is enough to make the soul itself contract like the dark shadows and crevices that mark their fleshy walls and buttresses. Whether swollen with the glowing projected light of the setting sun or looming in shadowed darkness, Waldrum's churches shroud their mysteries with massive planes that hover protectively around an inaccessible interior. And no matter how brilliant and warm his color may be, the images maintain the austerity and gravity of an isolate and sober grandeur.

In his Taos show last summer, Waldrum showed large and small paintings, pencil drawings and Polaroids, and unveiled a new suite of color aquatint etchings (six to be filled out to 12 when the suite is done) made at Albuquerque's Custom Etching Studio.

Waldrum's is a fully romantic enterprise that enlists a strict formalism to shore it up and give it solidity. Thus, it is not surprising that the etchings are reminiscent of the moody pictorialism of the late 19th century. Their fine color ranges from tactile, velvet darks and delicate, granular, butterfly-wing washes, to the ash-filled atmospheres one finds in Goya. In the paintings, his lush color is achieved through specially ground pigments suspended in a polymer medium. Paint is layered on, often in coats of contrasting hue so that the light glows from within. Metallic pigments are frequently introduced to add a kind of liturgical weight and unearthly luminosity. Contours come under critical pressure from the respiration of the broad masses that they separate.

Sometimes they carry evidence of the undercolors and sometimes Waldrum retraces them with a fine electric line. This cloisson´ segmentation reinforces the gem-like light of the larger masses of color. Of course, there is some danger that such broad simplification of outlined form and high-key color might read like frames from Walt Disney; but Waldrum heads this off with the depth and fullness of his expression.

Like icons, Waldrum's images are not pictures in the strict sense. They are abstract evocations of presence and are permeated with an aura of mystery, of holiness or other-worldliness. Indeed, they are often most powerful when they are most abstract, as with the great thorn of light on the Trampas church, a composition whose severity crystallizes the mood of penitential passion.

But Waldrum has also recently been able to use details that would have been precious in other hands. An example is the outrageous, jacklegged bell-tower on the Chacon morada. Improvised out of poverty, it is whimsical as a Miro and crowns the building with a truly quixotic glory. Similarly, the art nouveau silhouette of the bell on the Abiquiu morada adds a mysterious animation, at once elegant and menacing like a tarantula or Quasimodo himself perched on the massive tower whose shadow slices through the form like wire cutting through modeling clay.

All of Waldrum's shadows are eerily animate; they pulse and breathe with a life of their own and seem almost ready to ripple gently like funeral trappings. The images are haunted. Their world is closed to us beyond their brilliant planar slabs -- mute, stoical and seductive.

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