LewAllen Galleries is now presenting the exhibition "Images of Ancestry"

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LewAllen Galleries is now presenting the exhibition "Images of Ancestry"
John Nieto, Mary from Acoma Pueblo, 1988. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in.



SANTA FE, NM.- LewAllen Galleries recently opened the exhibition of works by John Nieto entitled, "Images of Ancestry."

John Nieto (1936 – 2018) is a leading figure in American contemporary art, renowned for his paintings of Southwestern, Indigenous and contemporary subjects conveyed through his distinctive style of expressive color and bold strokes. Inspired by both his own heritage, a mix of Spanish and Native American (Mescalero Apache and Navajo), and his deep study of the history and culture throughout the Southwest, he painted a wide range of richly modulated images of Indigenous warriors, fancy dancers, chieftains, potters, weavers and other craftspeople, as well as portraits of contemporary and historical icons. LewAllen Galleries is proud to announce an exhibition of paintings and graphite drawings by John Nieto entitled “Images of Ancestry.” The exhibition opens Friday, July 21 and will be on view through Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, including the Indian Market period in Santa Fe.

During his distinguished career that spanned six decades, Nieto was known as a brilliant colorist whose paintings convey a vibrancy and eloquence of vivid color combinations. He provides a visual language that captivates and enraptures his viewers. His passion for bright colors developed as a young man and evolved throughout his career. Nieto developed his own unique palette, which is celebrated in all of the paintings included in this exhibition.

Nieto said of his work, “I want to make a positive statement and strong colors are an appropriate vehicle. Some of the colors are based on masculinity; others are meant to be softer and more poetic. I arrange the colors so that there appears to be sunlight coming through them. It’s like picking flowers in a garden—with each color you create a new mood.”




Inspired as a young man after visiting an exhibition of Fauvist art at the Dallas Art Museum in 1959, Nieto studied and explored the works of other fauvist artists. His discovery of their technique using striking, non-naturalistic color to communicate emotional meanings was crucial to his artistic development. A notable aspect of Nieto’s paintings are the bold ribbons of color that outline his figures and animals, which have been referred to as auras or halations.

Nieto was also deeply influenced by the beliefs and culture of his Native American heritage, and his portraits of Indigenous people or wildlife show his deep sensitivity and respect for his subjects. Nieto’s art mirrors the complicated heritage of the Southwest and he believed through his powerful colorations he might help his audience understand the nobility, dignity, pride and hurt of Native Americans that many of his paintings quietly carry.

Over the course of his career, Nieto’s work was exhibited across the United States and in Europe, Japan, Latin America and Africa. After participating in an exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Nieto met with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office of the White House and presented him with his painting, “Delegate to the White House.” The work was hung in the White House for many years and later included in the collection of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. In 1994, Nieto received New Mexico's Governor's Award for achievement in the Arts, the state’s highest honor for a living artist. He received Southern Methodist University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.

A major monograph entitled “John Nieto: Forces of Color & Spirit,” written by Susan Hallsten McGarry, was published in 2009. Today, Nieto’s work is represented in prominent museum and private collections across the country.

LewAllen Galleries presents a special Indian Market reception of “Images of Ancestry” on Friday, August 18, 5 – 7 p.m. Nieto’s wife, Renay Nieto, and son, Anaya Nieto, will attend the reception. In conjunction with this exhibition there will be a free showing, open to the public, of the 72-minute documentary film, “John Nieto: An American Spirit Walk,” written and directed by Anaya Nieto, on Saturday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. at the Santa Fe Scottish Rite Center, 463 Paseo de Peralta, in Santa Fe.

LewAllen Galleries
Images of Ancestry
July 21st, 2023 - August 22nd, 2023










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