Albuquerque master artist and arts activist, Robert Hooton’s work will be celebrated in an intimate installation, Robert Hooton / Albuquerque Elders, at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History through May 31, 2009.

The 16 works in this installation (including paintings, assemblage, drawings, and prints) are drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. Many are recent gifts from the artist’s family. According to museum director Cathy Wright, “We are honored that Hooton’s family has been so generous to ensure that the artist’s career is fully represented in the museum’s permanent collection. These works will remain a lasting legacy of Hooton’s contributions to our community.”

Robert Hooton (1917-2006) studied Architecture at the University of Illinois and worked as an architect for the city of Washington, D.C. During World War II he served as a draftsman and combat artist for the United States Navy. After his service, he studied painting at the University of New Mexico and in 1951, with his wife Peg, established Workshop Originals, an art gallery in Old Town Albuquerque. As an arts activist in the community, Hooton received a New Mexico Art in Public Places grant, and an Albuquerque Arts Alliance Bravo Award for his career retrospective. He also served as the first director of the Albuquerque Historical Society Museum (now the Albuquerque Museum). In 1977 he closed Workshop Originals and retired to paint full time. He died in Albuquerque in 2006.

During the 1940s, especially when he lived in Guatemala, Hooton explored narrative in representational drawings and paintings depicting everyday life. Using layers of handmade paper, controlled accidents, and universal shapes, he juxtaposed organic and rigid geometric structures, celebrating the aesthetic character of subtly contrasting forms. His architectural training influenced the quality of his poignant, explorative, and unorthodox mark making, which captured the essence of the abstract expressionist movement of the 1950s.

Hooton is a visual poet who recreates spiritually fantastic experiences. His paintings evoke a spirit of Southwestern enchantment and mysticism and transcend the temporal world. During the 1980s, in his acrylic, pastel, and colored pencil works, Hooton simplified nature’s complex forms into elegant shapes that hover in imaginative landscapes. The work calls to mind the sublime encounter and graceful sensitivity of Mark Rothko’s color field paintings, the synthetic cubist collages of Pablo Picasso, and the philosophy of Zen, which emphasizes experiential wisdom realized through meditation.