Beatrice Mandelman (1912-1998) was born in Newark, New Jersey. She began her art studies at 12 years old, enrolling in classes at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art. In the 1930s, she attended Rutgers University, the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art and the Art Students League of New York City, and was also employed by the Works Progress Administration as a muralist and printmaker.
The WPA disbanded in 1942, but the program gave Mandelman the opportunity to exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, and tied her to prominent artists like Gorky, Pollock and de Kooning.
In 1942, Mandelman married Louis Ribak. They moved to Santa Fe two years later to visit artist John Sloan, who had been Ribak's teacher. They took a train to Taos during their visit and liked it so much that they settled there. The move marked a radical change in Mandelman and Ribak’s artwork. “We had to start all over again,” Mandelman said. “We spent the first couple years painting landscapes.” They were known for their figurative paintings in New York, but in this radically different environment their focus shifted to pure abstraction.
They were trailblazers for a new wave of artists called the Taos Moderns, a movement that enlivened the Taos art colony but enraged an older vanguard of academic painters with ties to the Taos Society of Artists of the 1910’s and 20’s.
“Mandelman worked with full abstraction at a time when most artists were not daring enough to do so,” writes David L. Witt in his book Taos Moderns, noting that the artist considered herself “the first of the second generation of artists in Taos.” The voice of a young, female abstract painter had never been part of the remote art community.
With their friends Ed Corbett, Agnes Martin, Oli Shihvonen, Clay Spohn and others, Mandelman and Ribak fostered a radical new aesthetic. "Mandelman was an intensely dedicated painter," writes the Mandelman Ribak Collection of the University of New Mexico. "In the relative isolation of Northern New Mexico she found the freedom to develop a style that was distinctly her own. Inspired by the light, the local color, the landscape and the confluence of diverse cultures in Taos, her work flourished."
Ribak died in 1979, and Mandelman died on June 25th, 1998 in Taos. Over her lifetime, she produced a diverse body of work consisting of paintings, prints, collages and works on paper.
Metropolitan Museum, New York City, NY
Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
Harwood Museum, Taos, NM
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
1940 - "Colored Prints under $10", Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
1947 - National Serigraph Exhibition Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas, TX
1951 - National Serigraph Society Exhibition Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas, TX