Painting the American Southwest: The Work of Otto Plaug

DECEMBER 21, 2019—JULY 5, 2020

In 1920, Saratoga County artist and designer Otto Plaug (1898-2000) made his first journey to the American Southwest in the company of his friend and fellow artist Winold Reiss. Both were born and trained in Germany, both brought to the United States a modernist style that emphasized bold, graphic lines and solid passages of color. During Plaug's excursion, he spent several months at the Laguna Pueblo in west central New Mexico, where he befriended several of the residents who sat for him for portraits. A few years later, in 1925, he returned to Laguna to paint the landscape. The nearly twenty works produced during that visit capture the desert's surprising array of colors and explore in tempera paint the time-eroded, geometric mesas that fill the terrain with rugged beauty.

Plaug's remarkable southwestern portraits and landscapes had unfortunately been lost to history until art collector and researcher Albert B. Roberts rediscovered the aging artist in the 1990s. Painting the American Southwest: The Work of Otto Plaug, will reintroduce Plaug's work by drawing from the large collection of paintings, sketches, photographs, and manuscript material that Roberts recently donated to the Albany Institute. Plaug will rejoin the ranks of Georgia O'Keefe, Gustave Baumann, Robert Henri, Winold Reiss, and other well-known American modernists who found the American southwest a source of inspiration and astonishing beauty.  

(Left) Self-portrait, Otto Plaug, 1940, oil on canvas (center) Tree and Garden, Otto Plaug, 1925, tempera on heavy paper (right) Haschi, Laguna Woman, 1921, tempera on heavy paper; promised gifts of Albert B. Roberts

Exhibition Support

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Program and exhibition support is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Season exhibition and program support is provided by Phoebe Powell Bender, Mr. and Mrs. George R. Hearst III, Charles M. Liddle III, Lois and David Swawite, and the Carl E. Touhey Foundation, Inc.