Joseph Yoakum, Moosehead Lake near Town of Rockwood In North Central Maine, 1965. Courtesy of Venus Over Manhattan.
Richard Mayhew, Untitled, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Venus Over Manhattan.
By Justin Kamp
This week, as The Armory Show once again whirs to life, roving crowds of collectors will descend upon the Javits Center. A more narrowly focused, intimate affair will coalesce in southern Manhattan: On September 9th, the Independent Art Fair opens its inaugural 20th-century edition at Casa Cipriani in Battery Park, highlighting artists and programs that span 100 years of creative production.
“Independent 20th Century is a fair with a mission to unearth the stories of the avant-garde through the eyes of a rising generation of contemporary gallerists,” said Elizabeth Dee, co-founder and CEO of Independent Fairs. “We worked collaboratively with gallerists that are next generation to formulate a fresh take on historical work, both from the canon and outside it, that is reflective of today’s moment.” With this wide-ranging approach in mind, Artsy set out to find the artists whose contributions to art history deserve a closer look.
Joseph Yoakum and Richard Mayhew
Venus Over Manhattan presents stunning transcendental landscape paintings by Joseph Yoakum and Richard Mayhew that favor personal encounters with the land over the traditional perspectives and grandeur of Romanticism. The dual presentation urges a reappraisal of 20th-century landscape art.
The self-taught Yoakum took real locations as his subjects. He often named his works after notable natural landmarks, twisting those vistas into surreal, sometimes nonsensical topographies. His mountains and rivers often appear knotted, folded, or otherwise displaced in the picture plane. Yoakum’s idiosyncratic formalism has already begun to win institutional reconsideration—including a major 2021–2022 show that traveled to MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Menil Drawing Institute. All this attention cements his status as an outsider artist whose resolute strangeness eventually transformed into a remarkable style of its own.
Mayhew’s incandescent watercolors, on the other hand, offer a more emotional approach to landscape painting. Mayhew—who studied with the Art Students League and was a founding member of the famed Spiral Group—calls his magma-flow paintings “mindscapes” and claims that they are spiritual evocations of places rather than straightforward representations.
Viewed together, the artists’ works affirm that American landscape painting is more experimental and expansive than most art history textbooks suggest. Landscape isn’t just a realm for naturalists or outsider artists, but fertile proving ground for serious explorations in color and form.