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Sun Patterns—Dark Canyon: the Paintings and Aquatints of Doel Reed (1894-1985)

July 6 - October 30, 2021


Sun Patterns - Dark Canyon explores the art and career of the highly successful twentieth-century American printmaker and painter Doel Reed (1894-1985). Reed is best known today as a Southwestern artist and "master of the aquatint;” his conservative yet modernist approach to the New Mexican landscape found a ready audience among curators and collectors during his lifetime. Reed began summering in the Taos artists’ colony starting in the 1940s and permanently moved to New Mexico in 1959. The mountainous topography, geology, and history of New Mexico were an endless source of inspiration to Reed. This exhibition will bring attention to this significant but understudied artist and demonstrate how Reed was both influenced by and contributed to various artistic trends in 20th century art over his long and prolific career, yet remained committed to making art that was recognizably American in form and content. 


Despite the fact that Reed was a nationally recognized artist and educator, whose paintings and especially prints are in the collections of major museums throughout the United States and Europe, no scholarly studies exist on the artist. This exhibition will not only bring attention to Reed’s art and career, it will contribute to knowledge about the development of American art and the embrace of printmaking by leading artists throughout the country. Printmaking started to receive attention as a fine art in the United States during Reed’s lifetime and was only slowly incorporated into university and art academy curricula. Reed was an acknowledged leader in the United States with respect to the technique of aquatint, which reflects his close study of Goya’s masterful graphic work. By focusing on Reed, we also gain insight into the vibrant community of artists throughout the American Southwest and Midwest in the 1930s-1970s and how they responded to and adapted modernist approaches for their own purposes and audiences. His close friends and students included artists as diverse at Birger Sandzén, Ernst Blumenshein, William (Bill) Dickerson, J. Jay McVicker, and Howard Cook, among many others.

Reed exhibited widely throughout his lifetime, won numerous awards, and was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1952. In 1984, when Reed was 90 years old, his prints were included in no fewer than five national exhibitions in New York City.


Following it's debut at the OSU Museum of Art, Sun Patterns - Dark Canyon will travel to Wichita Art Museum. For further information about Doel Reed visit the Doel Reed Center in Taos.


Guest Curator

Rebecca P. Brienen, Ph.D. Vennerberg Chair of Art, Oklahoma State University


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  • Credits

    Funding for this exhibition is provided by Kent and Jeanette Young, the Doel Reed Center, Neal and Lora Buck, and the Vaughn Vennerberg endowed chair fund in the OSU Department of Art, Graphic Design, and Art History.


    The accompanying catalogue is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Family Foundation.


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