Exhibition Details

Location: Steele Gallery
Dates: March 9, 2019
to September 8, 2019

Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is the first survey on the obscure American painter in more than 24 years. Born to American parents in Stuttgart, Germany, Pelton (1881-1961) and her family briefly lived in Basel, Switzerland before returning to the United States in 1888. A graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, she began experimenting with abstraction in the early 1900s in New York, eventually exhibiting in the Armory Show of 1913 at the invitation of Walt Kuhn. Intentionally moving away from the “mainstream” arts community, Pelton eventually settled in Cathedral City, California. She painted conventional desert landscapes to make a living, but it was her abstract studies of earth and light, biomorphic compositions of delicate veils, shimmering stars, and atmospheric horizon lines, that distinguished her work.

A believer in numerology, astrology, and faith healing, Pelton’s abstract compositions propelled her into an esoteric world epitomized by the Transcendental Painting Group (1938-1942), a short-lived group that promoted abstract, non-objective art. Although Pelton received some attention during her lifetime, she has been relatively unknown within the field of American Art. Approximately 40 – 45 works will comprise this exhibition shedding light on Pelton’s artistic contribution to American Modernism, while examining her practice against a broader, international framework of spiritual and esoteric abstraction.
Accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition publication edited by the organizing curator of the exhibition, Gilbert Vicario with contributions by Elizabeth Armstrong, Director, Palm Springs Museum of Art; Dr. Michael Zakian, Director, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University; Dr. Susan Aberth, Associate Professor of Art History; Coordinator, Theology, Bard College; and Dr. Erika Doss, Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame.
Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

Tour Schedule

Phoenix Art Museum | March 9 – September 8, 2019
New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe | October 3, 2019 - January 5, 2020
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York | March 13 – June 28, 2020
Palm Springs Art Museum | August 1 – November 29, 2020


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General admission:
$20 — Adults
$17 — Senior Citizens (Ages 65+)
$15 — Students (with ID) 

$11 — Children (Ages 6-17) 

All special exhibitions are included with general admission. 

This exhibition is offered to the general public for $5 during voluntary-donation, free-access hours from 3–9 pm each Wednesday, from 6–10 pm on the first Friday of each month, and from noon–5 pm on the second Sunday of each month.

Interested in coming as a group? For group sales information, click here. 

Press Information

Media images and credit lines: Download here
Press release: Download here
Media Contact: Margaree Bigler, Marketing and Communications Manager, margaree.bigler@phxart.org 


Agnes Pelton, Messengers, 1932. Oil on canvas. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of The Melody S. Robidoux Foundation.

Agnes Pelton, The Fountains, 1926. Oil on canvas. Collection of Georgia and Michael de Havenon.

Agnes Pelton, Fires in Space, 1938. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.