After first visiting New Mexico in April 1929, Georgia O'Keeffe was deeply affected by the vastness, beauty and color of the landscape. She wrote to Henry McBride from Taos in 1929, "You know I never feel at home in the East like I do out here--and finally feeling in the right place again--I like myself--and I like it--It is just unbelievable--One perfect day after another--I have the most beautiful adobe studio--out the very large window to a rich green alfalfa field--then the sage brush and beyond--a most perfect mountain--it makes me feel like flying--" (as quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe: Art and Letters, New York, 1987, pp. 189-90)
Painted in 1930, the present painting, Another Place Near Abiquiu, is an austere and simplified view of the mesa, hills and mountains that surrounded her. This period marked arguably the most critical point in her development. "As she shed New York and embraced the brilliant light of New Mexico, her work became cleaner and sharper as she began to employ greatly simplified forms, often with overt religious symbolism. The churches, crosses, and animal skulls of the Southwest became the object of her scrutiny, as well as the underlying structure of the parched land itself. Encapsulating not only the passion and intensity of the life in the Southwest but also its ultimate mystery and impenetrable sense of otherness." (S. Greenough, "Georgia O'Keeffe: A Flight to the Spirit," in Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and his New York Galleries, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 460)
The beauty of Another Place Near Abiquiu lies in O'Keeffe's exploration of color, form and light. O'Keeffe stated, "It is lines and colors put together so that they may say something. For me, that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint." (as quoted in C. Eldredge, Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 36) In Another Place Near Abiquiu, O'Keeffe pushes the landscape toward the top of the canvas, nearly eliminating the horizon, reflecting the pictorial strategies that she had developed as an avant-garde American Modernist: an interest in a type of heightened realism that pushes an image to the edge of abstraction. O'Keeffe paints the image as an objective interpretation of a desert landscape as well as a meditation on form and color. It is this near abstraction that evokes the mystical and spiritual qualities, which she associated with New Mexico.
In Another Place Near Abiquiu O'Keeffe transforms the layered landscape of plains, hills, mesas and mountains into abstract, undulating forms. Further abstracting these forms, she separates each band by defining them in different earthy shades of blacks, browns and oranges, reflecting the variegated and changing colors of the desert. Christine Taylor Patten, O'Keeffe's companion near the end of her life, writes, "A day can be consumed observing changing intensities, shadows, a sunset whose brilliance seems to color the air itself, a liquid movement through the landscape. Colors deepen as the earth turns, gold slowly turning to deep orange, purple shadows rendering the hill's long crevices even more visible in the day." (O'Keeffe at Abiquiu, New York, 1995, p. 50)
Describing O'Keeffe's work in the Southwest, Lloyd Goodrich has written, "The Southwest has been painted often--but often badly, by artists who believe that a beautiful subject produces a beautiful picture. But O'Keeffe translates this landscape into the language of art. She models the hills so that they possess substance and weight. She carves their intricate folded and furrowed forms into powerful sculptural creations. The unbelievable colors of the desert are recorded without sweetening, in full-bodied earthy harmonies. Always her desert poetry is embodied in robust physical language, speaking to her senses." (Georgia O'Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, New York, 1970, p. 22) Although painted on a small scale, Another Place Near Abiquiu adeptly captures the overall impression of the vastness and beauty of the New Mexico landscape O'Keeffe so loved with her innovative use of light, color and form.