Texas Contemporary Art

June Mattingly

Roger Winter

Union Square

Union Square, oil on linen, 72×120″, 1988


Faxa Bay, oil on linen, 50 x 84", 2014

Faxa Bay, oil on linen, 50 x 84″, 2014

Berit’s Iceberg

Berit’s Iceberg, oil on linen, 28 x 108″, 2013

Roger Winter is a fine painter and a professor emeritus of painting and drawing at SMU.

In the fall of 2014, Kirk Hopper’s gallery in Dallas presented the work of 45 of Roger’s past students including one who teaches ex-President George Bush, who was in attendance, and Dan Rizzie, one of Dallas’ established artists.  This gallery opening was the most exciting one in 2014; jam packed with celebrities, so much so the secret service was everywhere from car parkers to guards inside.

Roger taught art at SMU for 26 years.  Two of his students, John Alexander and David Bates are so renowned in their careers they appear in the two editions of my e-books “The State of the Art: Contemporary Artists in Texas (2012 and 2013). John was born in 1945 in Beaumont, lives in New York and David was born in Dallas in 1952 where he lives.  Both John’s and David’s prints are represented by Pace Editions, affiliated with the world known Pace Gallery in New York one of their connections due to their talent but also from studying under Roger.

Roger was born in Denison in 1934 and in 1956 he received a BFA at the University of Texas in Austin. The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, a non-profit, gave Roger a solo in 2012 and in 2011 one of his other galleries, Gerald Peters in Santa Fe gave him a solo.  Don’t galleries credited with giving Roger solos starting in 1963: Murray Smither, Gene Binder, Fishbach, Edith Baker, Delahunty, and Chapman Kelly bring back pleasant memories to a lot of you?   Also, familiar are the names of the important critics/museum directors who praised his art in reviews and articles: Ted Pillsbury, Grace Glueck, Janet Kutner, Charles Dee Mitchell, David Dillon, Douglas McAgy, and Bill Marvel.

Susie Kalil, the distinguished writer of the biography of the early Texas landscape painter Alexander Hogue published by the University of Texas Press in her essay for Hopper comments “Yet all of the landscapes and portraits are rendered as if by virtue of a stare that never seems to end.  Winter captures the spirit of diverse locales and environments, from arid plains of West Texas and snowy fields of rural Maine, to congested intersections of New York City.  But to say Winter is a simple-minded realist is to miss all the ways that he fuses precise observation with structural rigor and painterly sensuality.”



Peter Ligon

Oil on panel, 9x12", 2014

Driveways, oil on panel, 9×12″, 2014

Oil on panel, 11x14", 2014

DTC, oil on panel, 11×14″, 2014

oil on panel, 11x14" 2014

Back of El Si Hay, oil on panel, 11×14″ 2014


Oil on panel, 11x14", 2014

Garage on Gano, oil on panel, 11×14″, 2014

Two extraordinary Texas landscape painters and art instructors whose backgrounds are similar but whose renderings bear little resemblance

Peter Ligon’s show at REGallery was one of the best gallery shows in 2014.

Peter is known for using slow drying oil paint on wood panels, a traditional technique, in the actual location. The majority of Peter’s images are in Dallas where he lives and from where he commutes to teach at Eastfield Community College and the University of Texas at Dallas.  His Master’s degree is from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and his BFA is from the University of North Texas in Denton.

“Bows and Arrows, Bryan St,” in his December, 2014 show titled “aka Hand Crafted Paintings by Peter Ligon” exemplifies his involvement and skill as a painter to create wonderfully bold-colored, recognizable, and  minimalistic site-specific buildings. The site in this piece is situated across the street from Jimmy’s, a very established Italian restaurant/market just off of Fitzhugh Avenue, closed on Sundays.  Peter missed the previous Sunday to watch a Cowboy game, so the following Sunday – he chose Sundays to avoid dog walkers, block exercisers and cars obstructing the view the other six days of the week – was uncomfortably cold.  To show flexibility in his artistic habits, he took a picture of it that he put on his laptop screen and painted it in his not much warmer studio.  This painting was destined to be marked “do not touch” because it did not have time to dry completely before its installation in December in his show.

“It is so common for artists to paint from photographs today…I believe dangerously common.  Its flatness, stopped-time look and palette permeate so much artwork with the consequence of looking like it is about photography, rather than anything else intended.  It is a huge crutch/convenience that is not silent, even though many think so.  I have no problem with artists who employ photos, but I do have a problem when artists deny the effect of its ‘condition.’”




Tony Feher

Tony was born in Albuquerque in 1956.  He was brought up in Corpus Christi and he pursued a BA from the University of Texas in Austin.  He left Texas in 1981 for New York.  Museums that own his art include the Guggenheim, the Walker Art Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

“An established master” of contemporary manufactured goods, Tony relies on “intuition and improvisation to observe and appreciate the beauty in everyday objects that surround us – the incidental, the ordinary, the commonplace, and what many regard as mundane.”  For a show at Lora Reynolds’ gallery in Austin in 2010, he grouped 31 glass bottles, an object ordinarily overlooked or discarded, with screw caps on but labels removed, filled them with colored water and placed them on a painted shelf, in his typically imaginative way.  Coincidentally, and close by in downtown Austin, his site-specific commission for the re-opening of Arthouse consisted of a constellation of hundreds of water bottles suspended from the second floor’s beamed gallery ceiling, but unfortunately it was not a temporary installation.  He also used the ceiling (as well as his first-grade art sensibility) to create what amounts to several large beaded necklaces of inch-long strips of colorful orange (and red and blue) construction tubing strung on long, looped lengths of cord.  Though not a minimalist artist, he uses as little as possible in a finished work to get his point across

In March 2012, yours truly got to meet Tony when he spoke at the Nasher Sculpture Center about “Super Special Happy Place,” his public art commission completed in 2012 for the new federal courthouse in Rockford, IL.  His first work out of natural materials covers two acres of five planted varieties of crabapple trees that bloom in the spring with red, pink, and white flowers, and grow clusters of apples in scarlet, orange and gold in the fall.

Tony is now the subject of a traveling retrospective covering his 20-year career with 60 key works filling up perfectly the Blaffer Art Museum of the University of Houston.  Its last stop is in 2013 at the Bronx Museum.  A fully illustrated definitive monograph accompanies this survey.  Its publication was made possible, in part, by the galleries that represent his art: ACME, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Hiram Butler and Devin Borden, D’Amelio Terras and The Pace Gallery.

“I know it’s not the ‘correct’ response for an artist to make,” he says, “but what’s wrong with adding some beauty to the world?”

Like many artists, he began what has become a very successful career struggling to make “bad paintings.” He thought to himself, “Does the world really need more bad paintings? This is my art.”

“I still can’t draw a cat that looks like a cat.”

“My work has pretty much been informed by everything I learned in first grade,” he says. “It just took me 45 years to realize it.”

Drinking from a clear plastic water container, he became fascinated by the condensation clinging to the sides.

feher untitled 2012

Untitled, 2012, plastic (PET) drink bottles, 85 x 7 x 8 inches

It would be easy to extrapolate an ecological message – man’s impact on the environment – from his use of construction materials and, well, trash, in his work. That would be overthinking, says the artist. In a word, his work is about beauty.

“It was a cloud, like a cloud in our atmosphere, and I thought it was so extraordinary to have that microcosm inside something as mundane as a plastic bottle…”

It led to what he calls his “signature work,” clusters of bottles filled to various levels with primary-color liquid, often suspended from the  ceiling.”

His résumé includes exhibitions from Marfa to Los Angeles to Instanbul.

Over the past couple of decades, Tony has built a career on stuff most of us throw away without a thought, from twist-off lids to old carpet squares, suspending everyday objects with string or stacking them on the floor in columns and pyramids.

It’s an approach to found-object art that offers the artist a lot of freedom.”

“I’ve developed a way of working where I let a site determine aspects of what I do.”

feher untitled 2012 pvc tubing

Untitled, 2012, PVC tubing, rope and steel pipe, dimensions vary with installation


“I like the idea of controlling how you see and making you see something different.”

Initially inspired by a wall of gridded windows, Tony made what he calls “a large abstract painting” by covering the clear ones in simple designs of hundreds of small strips of blue painter’s tape and leaving the frosted windows as they were.  It’s a striking, soothing work that constantly changes with the interplay of shadow and sunlight.

Utilizing long lengths of fluorescent nylon construction twine, he draped the hot-pink, chartreuse and glowing orange strands from pipes in the ceiling.  He has twisted the concentric loops into a complex composition that becomes a three-dimensional “drawing” that one can walk around and under.

“I’m fascinated by fluorescent colors…colors that don’t exist in nature. They really respond to the light in the air.”


Orange, 2011, five painted cardboard boxes, pallet, 55 x 42 x 42 inches

Orange, 2011, five painted cardboard boxes, pallet, 55 x 42 x 42 inches

Singer of Many, 2008, thirty-one glass bottles with screw caps, water, food color and painted wood shelf, 8 1/4 x 108 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches

Singer of Many, 2008, thirty-one glass bottles with screw caps, water, food color and painted wood shelf, 8 1/4 x 108 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches

Untitled (tape installation), 2006, site-specific installation at AMFA, blue painters' tape on window, 100 x 44 inches

Untitled (tape installation), 2006, site-specific installation at AMFA, blue painters’ tape on window, 100 x 44 inches



Brad Oldham

oldham the traveling man walking tall

The Traveling Man Walking Tall

Brad is a site-specific sculptor who lives in Dallas.  He immediately “sees” a sculpture in the allocated indoor or outdoor space set aside for his commission.  First comes a model in clay, wax, or a carving in wood.  Twelve thousand man hours later, the above-ground and below-ground heights of the real sculptures added together can total 70 feet.

The supports of structural steel are similar to those used for bridges and buildings and are connected with thousands of 1/8″ thick industrial rivets.  The feet are attached to reinforced concrete piers placed 32 feet into the ground.  The guitar-shaped head symbolizes the music played in the night clubs in the neighborhood, Dallas’ historic Deep Ellum, and the lengthy spiral legs and outstretched arms act as an “artistic gateway.”  The upturned tails and curved backs of the birds symbolize a “perfect perch” for The Traveling Man to rest and check out the rest of the world.

The Traveling Man stands 38 feet tall and weighs 35,000 pounds.  Two differently posed, 300-pounds each, mirror-finished song birds sit nearby.  All of the stainless steel sculptures work together with the skyscrapers as a backdrop and rise up to the sky close to the downtown DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) light rail station in a neighborhood much in need of a resurgence of investors, residents, and traffic.

oldham the traveling man wainting on a train

The Traveling Man – Waiting on a Train


James Surls



In the spring of 2009, James showed his site-specific, cast bronze and stainless steel sculptures on the center islands of Park Avenue from 51st to 57th Street.  The spectacular Blossoms were commissioned and funded in part by the New York City Public Arts Program.  Some measured as high and wide as 18 feet, and all were in his recognizable configurations.  In the medians were the lovely tulips standing out, thus the title Blossoms.  On this stretch of the Upper East Side are to landmark buildings: Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram building and Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House.


Raised in the piney woods of Splendora, for many years James’ art was inspired by the East Texas landscape.  In his words, “a person’s art has to come from a place.  You get comfortable in your terrain and you use that, you draw from it, conjure from it.  I conjure from the earth, the woods…sun and rain and waind and grass and birds and trees.”

James was born in 1943.  He has a home and studio in Carbondale, Colorado, but returns to Houston periodically to work in his studio there.  He is one of the most important artists in America today.  He received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy.  Among museum collects holding his sculptures are the Whitney and the Guggenheim in New York, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., and the LA County Museum.

surls 2


HJ Bott’s show Scribble Morphings to run from October 10 to November 15 at Anya Tish

Mobius Quatro, 2012, glazed acrylics on canvas, 34 x 34 inches

Mobius Quatro, 2012, glazed acrylics on canvas, 34 x 34 inches

First, Bott etches lines into medium density fiberboard – the cuts create ridges to underlie and define the geometric forms of the art. In paintings, these interlocking lines burst into patterns while the lines flowing to and away from the painting’s surface simulate light and shadow, background, and foreground. Complex straight and curvaceous lines either drift towards or away from the surface to achieve their objective: to form compositional depth. Bott had a two-person exhibit at Trinity University at age 14, and he has not stopped meticulously applying layers of paint and glazes, sometimes as many as 100. Some are defined with the use of tape and paint, and others are painted free-hand. Mixing warm and cool colors complicates matters by overlaying lights and darks shades. Once the painting is finished, a palette knife guided over the surface smooths away the brushstrokes. Then a glossy coat of protective varnish is applied inviting the spectator to literally touch the painting.

Roar Shock Well, 2012, co-polymer on canvas, 51 x 51 inches

Roar Shock Well, 2012, co-polymer on canvas, 51 x 51 inches

His wall and floor sculptures, or grid structures, of the 80s and 90s use hand weaving techniques and are made from cut and curved sheets of industrial wire mesh with strands of plastic-coated wire woven into them to create curved forms, spaces, and another dimension.

Bott has devised his own systems of configurational concepts and mathematical procedures, the foundation of his work, over five decades. In 2012, his monograph titled “Rhythm and Rhetoric” was published by Anya Tish’s Gallery in Houston.  In 2014, her gallery gave him his fifth solo exhibition of new work, this one titled Scribble Morphings, new works extoling the 24 Basic Scribbles, the usual hand-drawn marks, or the combination of them found in children’s art.  This show also marked the 67th year for this painter, sculptor, and theorist to exhibit his art.  His exploration of his theory, DoV: Displacement of Volume System, has created exceptional paintings and sculptural modules of multidimensionality.

Four SQs from Danxia, 2012, vinyl acrylics on canvas, 54 x 54 inches

Four SQs from Danxia, 2012, vinyl acrylics on canvas, 54 x 54 inches

His art exists in over 70 public collections and in over 160 corporate, museum, and private collections including commissions. Born in 1933 in San Antonio, his educational background includes attending the Art Students League with graduate studies at New York University, Columbia, and the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie in Germany.   Houston-based HJ, or Harvey, prefers the initials HJ to credit his paintings.


Kristin Cliburn’s first solo show at Cris Worley’s titled “Gaps, Bands and Zigzags” is on now through August 2 to appreciate and contemplate

Untitled, 2014, acrylic on canvas

Untitled, 2014, acrylic on canvas

The subtle interaction of light and color in Kristin’s sparkly canvases requires one to literally stop short in the best way. In the beginning, it’s not unusual to try to relate never-seen-before artworks to other artists you’ve watched. Even with my many, many years of studying and teaching contemporary art in my background, I find no comparison of Kristin’s art to the artists associated with the worldly Minimalist school of the 60s where it superficially belongs. Rather than attempting to make more of the experience required by art reviewers like myself, I spent my time in Cris’ gallery opening simply enjoying the tranquility and immaculate execution of these paintings.

Kristin, a Houston-based artist, received her BFA in painting from the University of Texas and her MFA on the same subject from the University of Houston.

With Gratitude, 2014, acrylic on canvas

With Gratitude, 2014, acrylic on canvas

Three sentences from Kristin’s Artist Statement make fine additions: “These paintings reflect a tandem relationship between electricity, air and the artist’s hand. Using an air gun, a carefully choreographed layer of color dissolves the gesture into a field of unmediated presence.” “Color hovers on the canvas like atmosphere, subtly transitioning to create a sense of weightlessness and buoyancy. They are at times airy and light, and at others opaque and dense.” “Each one seems to have a different chord, a silent sound that rearranges language into one of personal emotion.”


Barry Whistler’s current show Parallel Process is a stunner! It remains on view until June 7

Don’t worry if you miss the show, Barry and his assistant Travis will have inventory or get you listed for new work as it leaves the studio.

This review discusses mostly the work of Lorraine Tady, who lives in Dallas, and Leslie Wilkes, who lives in Marfa.  Barry’s gallery represents Tady and Wilkes.

Contemplating the title “Parallel Process,” there’s a similarity of the four artists’ artwork and an earlier generation of accomplished abstract painters – Frank Stella (born 1936 in New York) and Al Held (born 1928 in Brooklyn).  Held taught at Yale and Stella at Princeton.  Like Stella and Held, the four artists in this show produce highly organized series of works as they explore aspects of styles from Abstract Expressionism to Geometric Abstraction.  All are devoted to linear and/or geometric forms, abstract repetitions and the relationships of process, color and design.

Lorraine Tady

Lorraine Tady, (OVS-3B) Octagon Vibration Series, Oscillation Expansion, 2014, graphite, pastel, pigment, 44 x 35 inches

Lorraine Tady, (OVS-2) Octagon Vibration Series, Tetronimo Hyperbole, 2014, graphite, pastel, pigment, collage, 60 x 44 inches

Lorraine Tady, (OVS-2) Octagon Vibration Series, Tetronimo Hyperbole, 2014, graphite, pastel, pigment, collage, 60 x 44 inches

Lorraine, at a mature point in her career, investigates complex variations on a single theme.  Her combinations of mediums from lead pencil, ink and charcoal on variable surfaces from archival grid paper to canvas create an intended physical quality.  “The process employs diagramming, mapping, plan/elevation, cross-section, translation/re-translation inquiry (or subverting the clarity these systemic intentions may imply) allowing my images to be intuitively found, extracted, analyzed, shifted, and represented in various words.”

Tady_Octagon Vibration Series_Resonator Levels_44x35in_2014

Lorraine Tady, (OVS-1B) Octagon Vibration Series, Resonator Levels, 2014, graphite, pastel, pigment, 44 x 35 inches

Lorraine received her MFA from SMU and teaches art at the University of Texas at Dallas. In 2014, Lorraine wrote the erudite comments for the catalog on Leslie’s exhibit “Optic Verve” (March 29 -May 18) at Women and Their Work, an important nonprofit space not far from downtown Austin.

Leslie Wilkes, Untitled (14.10), 2012, gouache on paper, 12 x 12 inches

Leslie Wilkes, Untitled (14.10), gouache on paper, 12 x 12 inches

Leslie develops overall surface designs from edge to edge, and asserts its flatness with no visible brush strokes.  Her sophisticated and studied abstract gouaches are pursued without distraction in the small town of Marfa.  Miraculously, all the straight lines in her striking geometrical paintings are free hand; she uses no tape to control the outlines of the contained linear spaces.  Leslie has trained her eye to understand how an unusual combination of colors and patterns interact and as a result can be surprising while exceptionally pleasing to the eye.


Leslie Wilkes, Untitled (14.05), gouache on paper, 12 x 12 inches

Leslie has a BFA from UT Austin, an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and attended the residency program at the Skowhegan School in Maine.

Leslie Wilkes, Untitled (12.02), 2012, gouache on paper, 12 x 12 inches

Leslie Wilkes, Untitled (12.02), 2012, gouache on paper, 12 x 12 inches


George Tobolowsky

I make abstract metal sculptures from steel and stainless steel “found objects”. These found objects however, are not of the everyday sort, but rather bulky industrial metal castoffs that I scour scrap yards and fabrication plants to find. I rarely alter theses metal pieces but instead work to fit the individual scraps together – much like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – into balanced compositions. My sculptures are one part assemblage and one part recycling, which follows closely with the philosophy of another early artistic influence, Louise Nevelson.

My titles are typically added upon completion and offer a suggestion for interpretation but mindfully allow room for various readings within each piece. My works represent a logical extension of the welded steel sculpture tradition that can be traced from Julio Gonzalez to David Smith.

In his studio on his ranch in Mountain Springs George produces complex forms from indoor tabletop sculptures, utilitarian furniture to monumental outdoor works. For three-dimensional assemblages he uses vast heaps of heavy industrial steel and stainless steel castoffs, his main medium, found in scrap yards or what he calls his “back yard.” An average of 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of discarded bent, molded, extruded, colored and punched objects are scavenged weekly; completed works weigh from 600 to over 3,000 pounds.

After cleaning the metal the pieces are welded together to relate to each other in some way. In the process are created abstract, tactile, amazingly elegant and balanced compositions announcing “the sum is more than the parts?” Lacquer is added for luster and protection – no wonder George welcomes museum-lookers to rub the surfaces, usually a no-no. Tongue and cheek titles, “The Auditors,” “Wall Street” and “Dealbreaker” refer to his personal life.

George’s career-long buddy James Surls was his instructor at SMU and continues as an inspirational force in his work. A crowded commitment to one-person museum exhibitions deservedly continues to face George. Jim Kempner in New York, Gerald Peters in Santa Fe and Deborah Colton in Houston represent George’s work.

Dropping in, 2012, welded painted steel, 81 x 50 feet x 26 inches

Dropping in, 2012, welded painted steel, 81 x 50 feet x 26 inches

A Rough Red Road to a Start-up, 2012, welded painted steel, 10 x 12 feet by 5 inches

A Rough Red Road to a Start-up, 2012, welded painted steel, 10 x 12 feet by 5 inches