“I make art of the things I know” referencing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Texas Gulf Coast. David’s recognizable imagery goes from still lives of flowers in a vase to portraits of friends to swamp-scapes featuring native inhabitants. This multi-media artist uses such diverse techniques as oil paint on panel or painted bronze. His unmistakable painting style stands out by his brush strokes, heavy with paint, and the images outlined in black.
A pinnacle in his star- studded career was the hardcover publication of “David Bates” organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. In 2009 David had a one-person show at Pace Prints on 57th Street in New York. Pace publishes his woodcuts, etchings and monotypes. John Berggruen in San Francisco, Arthur Roger in New Orleans and Tally Dunn in Dallas all represent him.
David was born in Dallas in 1952 where he currently resides. In between receiving a BFA and MFA from SMU, he attended the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. He has participated in the 1987 Whitney Biennial and was given a solo show in 2011 at Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The Metropolitan, Whitney and Museum of Modern Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in DC, the Fine Arts Museum of Houston, the Dallas Museum of Art and the San Francisco Modern each own some his works.
Taking in “Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture” illuminates why David’s reputation exists not just in Dallas, where he was born in 1952, but also on a national level. This smashing narrative art completed in 2011 and 2012 fills the gallery.
The subjects in his new series originate in Galveston, a city on the coast of South Texas; the landscapes in particular bring to mind this fall’s hurricane-force storm Sandy on the Eastern seaside and its post-apocalyptic devastation. Americans, depending on where they live, every year cope with thunderstorms, floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, snow and sand storms, heat waves, high winds, wildfires, and the associated multiple threats and deprivations.
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2010, the deadliest storm in terms of human lives in the US since 1928, was the subject of David’s previous series. Both Galveston and New Orleans sit on the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans to the north of the Mississippi River Gulf outlet. These images and the inflatable-looking chairs and beach balls apparently made from malleable plastic bring to mind Sandy, the second tropical storm to hit New York City in two years; Irene in 2010 caused nearly $16 billion in damage. Not to be minimalized in these horrendous events is the loss of habitats of wildlife from sea turtles and cranes to woodpeckers.
In his art, David stresses and captures the need for planning for these catastrophes and awareness of the imposing rising sea level and serious climate changes. The still life titled “Oleanders,” of branches full of flowers in a blue and white porcelain vase sit in front of a window showing ocean waves under darkened storm clouds. Floral paintings and drawings, from a pear tree branch, peach tree blossoms to flowering iris bulbs reflect the four seasons and bring Texas’s natural beauty into his studio.
Still lifes outside the glass, from bright cloud-filled blue skies to foreboding moon-stirred backgrounds form backgrounds for Historic residences like “The Sealy House” and “Moody Residence,” as well as weathered churches like “St. Joseph’s Church” and “Coastal Church.” These structures are familiar to David. But each time he sees changes in the landscape and the coastal seascape due to decades of storms. “Bay House,” a fishing cabin on the beach, typical of middle to low income housing rebuilt after a severe storm rests on stilts for obvious reasons.