Texas Contemporary Art

June Mattingly

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

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James Surls

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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

 

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