Dallas’s famous landmarks manufactured and installed by Texlite in porcelain enamel and neon include the original Pegasus sign and the Majestic Theater’s marquee, and the porcelain enamel panels on the façades of the Statler Hilton Hotel and Love Field Airport.
By June Mattingly
In 1934, Texlite’s first-to-be-famous Dallas icon, the porcelain enamel and neon revolving, two-sided Pegasus sign was installed on the roof of the 29-story Renaissance Revival Magnolia Building; Dallas’ first building in the skyscraper class at the corner of Akard and Commerce Streets. Twenty years later, when Texlite celebrated its 75th year, it was the largest sign company in the world because of its main business of manufacturing signs for gas stations for Magnolia Oil, Standard Oil, Gulf, Humble, Chevron, Esso and Texaco. The Pegasus came out of Texlite’s giant furnace in their factory in Dallas on Manor Way near Love Field. Texlite’s logo adorned the green panels on the exterior of Love Field when Kennedy was shot (1957-1974), the Majestic Theater’s marquee (1921-1976) on Elm Street’s “theater row,” the Esquire Theater’s marquee (1931-1985) in Uptown, and the Dr. Pepper sign on the roof of its bottling plant on Mockingbird Lane. Still in full sight are the marquees on the well-attended Highland Park, Lakewood and Inwood theaters in suburban Dallas, and in downtown Dallas, the turquoise panels on the façade of the Statler-Hilton Hotel (1956 -) and on the office building at 211 N. Ervay.
Photo is courtesy of an Internet friend whose father was an employee of Texlite
Texlite goes back to 1879 when an Italian immigrant opened a tiny sign company on the future site of the Magnolia Building at 1401 Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. In less than a year, Texlite’s business was flourishing and in 1915 it moved into larger quarters at Bryan and Pacific Avenues. In 1922, “Texlite” was coined, incorporated and the plant was purchased by New York investors one of whom was Harold Wineburgh’s far-sighted father Henry who made a fortune in signs for inside trolley cars in Philadelphia and New York. When Harold graduated from Princeton that year he received Texlite as a present.
On one of his annual summer trips across the Atlantic to Europe Wineburgh discovered neon and brought it to Texas from France. Neon lighting quickly became popular in outdoor advertising because of its visibility – even in daylight. Today LED lights are replacing neon because of their lifespan and electrical efficiency. The technology of porcelain enamel has changed very little since it was industrialized. It remains the choice for signs and exterior sheathing for buildings because it is impervious to the elements, exhaust fume acids and graffiti.
In 1928, Texlite moved into larger quarters on Commerce Street and installed its first porcelain enamel furnace. The panel for each of the two horses was baked in Texlite’s next plant at 3303 Manor Way. This furnace was large enough to produce parts of B-29 wings during World War II and bomber fuselages during the Korean War. In this 135,000 square-foot factory 500 employees worked on producing porcelain enamel and neon signs, later porcelain enamel curtain walls for building exteriors and illuminated plastic signs for gas stations worldwide. The discovery in 1901 of Spindletop, a giant oil field in East Texas, solidified Texas’s claim as the oil center of the United States and is the main reason behind Texlite’s successful business.
The original Pegasus, symbolizing the winged horse of Greek mythology or colloquially “Flying Red Horse,” the logo of the Magnolia Oil Company, commemorated the opening of the American Petroleum Institute’s first annual meeting. This two-sided curvaceous sign in red porcelain enamel with white highlights outlined in red neon tubing was completed in Texlite’s factory in six weeks; it was not intended to be a permanent structure. The “horse,” positioned majestically atop the Magnolia Building was lit the first time in November 1934.
In 1938, Wineburgh moved his wife and two daughters from New York City to Dallas to watch over Texlite. Referring to the two horses back-to-back, he would love to say “Dallas doesn’t want to be a one horse town.”
The population of Dallas in the early 30s was 160,000 and the Magnolia Building was the sixteenth tallest building in the United States, the tallest west of the Mississippi and Dallas’ tallest until the Mercantile Bank Building, only four stories taller, went up in 1943. The upper floors of this building were occupied by the Magnolia Oil Company, while R.L. Thornton’s Mercantile Bank was in the street level space.
These two mighty horses known all over the world as Mobil’s trademark and Dallas’s unofficial symbol graced the skyline in endless flight until 1974. 450 feet above street level, the “horse” dominated the developing Dallas skyline until larger buildings eclipsed its glow. In the early days, the Pegasus was visible on a clear night to families who drove their children into Dallas to be the first to spot it and to pilots who reported seeing it 70 miles south of Dallas in Waco.
Each of the two porcelain-enameled steel horses (the steel forms were built by Mosher Steel located at 5101 Maple Avenue) measured 40 feet in length by 32 feet in height, and together weighed 6,000 pounds. Standing 14 feet apart, the brackets and cables were shaped to resemble an oil derrick and anchored to a 50-foot metal tower; in between was a custom-designed mechanism to rotate the Pegasus.
J.B. McMath (1894-1982), an employee of Texlite for 34 years, was in charge; he and his crew installed the two mighty stallions. At the time, it was considered hazardous and impractical to place a sign of this size, much less a revolving one, where a strong wind blew much of the time. Despite the treacherous height and the improvisational nature of the project, construction proceeded on schedule until five days before the completion date when a fire broke out in the plant. A quarter mile of the neon tubing imported from France was destroyed in a fire, so a makeshift neon department was set up to manufacture the tubing from scratch.
A three horse-power motor turned the 15-ton structure at one revolution every 40 seconds. When the wind exceeded 30 miles per hour, for safety precautions, there was a device to make the revolutions stop. 1,162 feet or about a quarter of a mile of red neon tubing lights outlined the details on both sides of the silhouette and the sign glowed by means of 22- thousand volt transformers.
For 20 years, when necessary, at least two electricians from Texlite took an elevator up to the 27th floor of the 29-story Magnolia building, climbed the equivalent of eight floors on ladders to attend to necessary maintenance such as installing roller bearings on the horses’ revolving ring and to make sure the sign revolved 24 hours a day in all kinds of weather.
Driving into Dallas from Oak Cliff across the Houston Street Viaduct over the Trinity River, the Pegasus being in sight. Date of photo unknown. This early picture of the Pegasus is courtesy of the Dallas Historical Society. Note the city’s background in the picture.
The Pegasus logo of “speed and power” was used as early as 1911 and adopted as a trademark in this country shortly after the organization of Socony-Vacuum (originally Standard Oil Company of New York). In 1959, Magnolia merged with several oil companies and formed the international Mobil Oil Company. In 1972, the Esso brand was replaced by Exxon. ExxonMobil, an international corporation uses the Pegasus as its corporate logo at their Dallas headquarters in the Las Colinas office complex, on front of their high rise on Stemmons Freeway, on its credit card and to identify gas stations worldwide.
Left: This B-29 plane shows the size of the wings for which Texlite made parts.
Right: Texlite manufactured the Texaco sign.
Left: A Humble and Esso service station w/ signs made by Texlite.
Right: A Mobilgas sign made by Texlite.
In 1976, the Pegasus sign and the Magnolia Building became gifts to the City of Dallas. The announcement was made in Washington by Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Texas Representative Jim Mattox and it received enthusiast comments from First Lady Matrice Ellis-Kirk and Mayor Ron Kirk. That same year, the Magnolia Building was designated a Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This national designation brings advantages like major tax breaks to a developer who restores or adapts a use for the building rather than demolishing it.
Even though the Flying Red Horse today is surrounded by taller buildings, it’s possible to catch a view of it while strolling the streets looking up into the sky or from car windows while driving where Interstates 30 and 35 merge and split apart. The Pegasus denotes Dallas and symbolizes our city like the Empire State Building in New York City does, the skyscrapers in Dubai do, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris does.
Information about the Magnolia Building and neighboring edifices.
The Magnolia Building was designed by the famed British architect Sir Alfred Charles Bossom (1881-1965). Built in 1922, this 29-story building was about 10 feet from the next door buildings, thus there’s an extension of a three-story base outward from the east side and a narrow 24-story pavilion at the back of this side to prevent a future high-rise from being too close. As is visually evident, a five-story cupola supports the Pegasus.
One of the grandest of downtown’s luxury hotel, the Adolphus, opened in 1912, over a hundred years ago on 1321 Commerce Street. Its French Renaissance Beaux Arts architecture, crowned by a slate and bronze mansard roof stands out just like the 20-story Magnolia Hotel does. At the corner of the building is a Budweiser beer-shaped turret in honor of Adolph Busch.
The demise of the Baker Hotel in 1980 – it was on one side of the Magnolia Building – notice the Pegasus on top of it – the Adolphus Hotel is on the left. The Adolphus Hotel in on the far right – notice the turquoise paneled building in the background.
The 18-story, 700-room Baker Hotel, once in the shadow of the Magnolia Building, opened in 1925 and in 1980 it was imploded to make way for a 37-story AT&T building. A precious piece of Texas history, the Baker was home to the Peacock Terrace, the Crystal Ballroom and the exclusive Petroleum Club. The coffee shop on the lower level was the best place and really only place in town to eat downtown after a movie downtown on a Sunday afternoon.
In 1997, developers converted the Magnolia Building into the 330-room upscale boutique four-star Magnolia Hotel to cater to the business traveler. The lower floors and the exterior of the long-neglected building were restored. While most of the building was gutted, the Denver developers saved historic features like gold-leaf coffered ceilings and the elevator doors decorated with brass Pegasus emblems. Adding to its attractiveness is its proximity to the American Airlines Center and within walking distance of the Joule Hotel and the original Neiman-Marcus.
The Pegasus just got old.
The two Flying Red Horses in 1999 in a shed in Farmer’s Market (one Horse is laying on the floor) after it was removed from the Magnolia Building.
Over the years, the Pegasus’ porcelain-enamel panels became rusted and pitted, the worn support braces caused the sign to sway in the wind and the neon tubing broke. Enthusiastic supporters to restore the giant sign included Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Hobitzelle and McDermott Foundations, Southwestern Bell, D Magazine and the Mobil Corporation. In 1997, the battered sign was shut off. Even though the City had bolted down the horses, it was impossible to restore the sign where it was so it was removed in 1999. A gigantic crane was placed 50 feet above the roof and with the help of a helicopter, the horses were disassembled and placed inside a shed in the Farmers Market with the intention of it staying on permanent display.
Over $600,000 was contributed by private and corporate donors to build a new sign that has not weathered well since it was put in place. To duplicate the new panels, the original ones were used as templates and fired using the same finishing processes Texlite had used. Galvanized steel was used to deter rusting for the next 100 years. In this version, each horse is made out of 18 sections, 36 panels total because a giant kiln like Texlite’s was not in existence. The factory on Manor Way had been torn down to make way for a BMW parking lot. Using the same finishing process, the new panels were fired in one of the two porcelain enamel facilities in this country, Denton-based Starlight Signs, a short distance from Dallas. A computer-controlled weather station was made for the roof to provide contemporaneous information on wind speed and direction and so when the wind blows over 20 mph brakes could be applied. Extra sets of red neon tubing were made for future repairs and stored in a space below the roof.
The new Flying Red Horse was ready in time for the city’s Millennium Celebration and New Year’s Eve celebration in 2000; over 45,000 people attended. Mayor Ron Kirk led the countdown to launch the new century nationally in a CBS broadcast. Brilliant fireworks celebrated the installation in the $2.5 million Pegasus Park. Brad Goldberg, a Dallas sculptor designed the popular limestone garden in its honor; the source of the park’s natural spring water fountains comes from 1,600 feet below the Magnolia Hotel.
Texlite filled another role, this time in the movie business.
In the 30s, theaters were conceived as a stage for live vaudeville entertainers such as Mae West, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Harry Houdini, Helen Hayes, Ginger Rogers and the big jazz bands of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. In the movie department were “macho heroes” such as John Wayne, James Cagney, James Stewart and Humphrey Bogart.
The flagship in the Interstate vaudeville chain, Dallas’ Majestic Theater in the 1900 block of Elm Street opened in 1921 on the distinguished “theater row.” In the Renaissance Revival style and five stories high, it supported an eye-stopping brightly-lit neon marquee.
On the left is Dallas’ original Majestic marquee shining on a crowd waiting in line in 1965 and on the right is the new marquee.
In 1973, the Majestic showed its last movie and in 1976 the Hobitzelle Foundation gave the Majestic to the City of Dallas. One of the salvaged crystal chandeliers from the ballroom of the Baker Hotel was installed. In 1977, the Majestic became Dallas’s first building on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Interstate theaters’ interiors matched their showy marquees with baroque lobbies, auditoriums with Corinthian columns, egg-and-dart moldings, cartouches, marble fountains, floors and staircases along with ornate cage elevators. Dallas’s 2,400-seat Majestic had a ceiling of floating clouds and twinkling stars, and to add to its luxurious fantastical theme, in a playroom called Majesticland was a carousel and petting zoo, the Land of Nod, a nursery with cribs and nurses and a men’s smoking lounge.
Other theaters on “theater row” included the Palace Theater that opened in 1921 with a Wurlitzer organ console mounted in the pit that rose up between movies and played until the next show started. The Melba, built by Howard Hughes opened the same year and was demolished in 1970. It had a single screen and in 1953 showed the first 3-D movie; a year later it started showing technically-inspired Cinerama films. In 1970, the Palace closed and was immediately demolished. The Capitol opened in 1922 next door to the Rialto and in 1938 showed the world premiere of “Under the Western Skies” starring Roy Rogers. The Capitol specialized in Saturday westerns and serials like Dick Tracy. With the arrival of television in 1956, the Capitol’s popularity faded and “hit the dust” when it was demolished in the ‘60s. In the same block, glittering bright was the Tower Theater’s marquee on a building in the arte modern style; it opened in 1937 and closed in 1970.
People waiting to buy a ticket at the Melba. “Dirty Dozen” with Lee Marvin opened in 1967 at the Tower.
Downtown Dallas outshone Las Vegas in the ‘30s. Note the Palace and Capitol marquees.
On the left is Texlite’s marquee for the Majestic Theater in Houston. On the right is the interior.
Texlite’s movie marquees were not all in Dallas.
Texlite also manufactured memorable porcelain enamel and neon theater marquees in Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin but more in Dallas because that’s where the Interstate theaters headquartered and where Texlite’s plant was located.
In 1915, the Paramount Theater, then called the Majestic, opened its doors in Austin. In 1977, this theater earned its place in the National Register of Historic Places which qualified it for Federal restoration funds.
The Worth Theater and the adjoining Worth Hotel in Fort Worth opened in 1928 and were considered marvels of Art Deco architecture. In the 60s and early 70s, the attraction of suburban living drew theater-goers away from downtowns all over the country. The Worth theater, like many movie houses in Texas, fell into decline; it closed in 1971 and was demolished not long afterwards.
The Majestic in Houston opened in 1923, the city’s first theater with air-conditioning. It stayed a first-run house from the day it opened until this Italian Renaissance “palace” was demolished in 1971.This was one of the “atmospheric” theaters designed by the architect John Eberson from Chicago for the Interstate chain; he also designed the Majestics in San Antoino and Dallas and over 1200 movie theaters during his career.
The $3 million Majestic in downtown San Antonio opened in 1929. It housed an auditorium with a seating capacity of 3,700 making it the largest movie house in the South. It had a Texlite theater marquee lit with 2,400 lamps and was 76 feet in length beginning at the seventh-floor level. In 1975, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City of San Antonio purchased and restored the building to make it home to their Symphony.
Texlite’s suburban theater marquees.
Preservation is the key with the Inwood, Highland Park and Lakewood theaters’ marquees; each distinguishes their individual Dallas neighborhoods. Sadly, the Wilshire, located on the south side of East Mockingbird Lane that opened in 1946 was demolished in 1978 to make more room for a shopping strip.
Oak Lawn in the early ‘50s showing a Mobilgas and Esquire sign made by Texlite. In 1968, a line is waiting for admission into a future classic movie.
Photo taken by an employee of Interstate Theaters.
The Inwood Theater arrived in the mid-‘50s long before the Inwood Village was developed.
The Inwood, built in 1947 on Lovers Lane is today an updated two-level theater with leather loveseats downstairs and stands as this suburb’s premiere showplace for independent and foreign language films. The Highland Park Village Theater opened in 1935 and reopened in 2010 after an extensive renovation by Landmark Theaters, co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban who own and operate the Inwood, as well as 66 theaters in Texas and across the United States.
The Lakewood theater in 2012 and on the right is a detail of the marquee.
The Lakewood Theater’s marquee still dominates this East Dallas neighborhood. When the lighted ball atop the theater’s red, blue and green art deco 100-foot tower dim, children knew it was bedtime. The opening day movie in 1938 was “Love Finds Andy Hardy” starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.
The original Lakewood, Inwood and Village Theater marquees photographed in 2013.
If the Art Deco Esquire still existed in the “happening” 3400 block of Oak Lawn in the Uptown district, it would be even more popular than in its day. The Esquire’s distinguishing feature was the huge, multi-colored neon palette and paint brushes. When it opened in 1931 seating was limited to 550. By 1941, Paramount operated it and seating capacity grew to 900.Interstate completely remodeled it in 1947and in 1985 it was torn down. In 2013 an AT&T retail store took its place.
Another of Texlite’s important customers was the Dr. Pepper Company
Left is the second Dr. Pepper plant on the corner of Greenville Avenue and Mockingbird Lane and the building on the right is the Jefferson Hotel
Two memorable Dallas buildings, the original Dr. Pepper headquarters and the historical Jefferson Hotel stood out in part because of their identifying signs on the roof. The last version of Dr. Pepper’s plant stood out with its emblematic 10, 2 and 4 o’clock tower on the roof. The Dr. Pepper plant was built in 1946 and demolished in 1997 in spite of a battle with preservationists and a federal court case. That corner today is the site of a Kroger grocery store. The Jefferson Hotel opened in 1917, changed to the Hotel Dallas in 1953 and reached a sad ending in 1975.
Texlite moved onto manufacturing porcelain enamel façades of buildings.
The mid-century Statler Hilton was considered the first modern hotel in the United States. Highlights included music in the elevators, 21-inch TVs in the rooms and a heliport on the roof. The two front wings of the Statler Hilton come together at an angle making room for a large circular drive and off-street garden. The hotel was built in 1956 at a cost of $16 million. Inventive construction techniques included a cantilevered reinforced slab system to reduce the number of columns to support the interior rooms.
Hotel magnate Conrad Hilton considered this hotel one of his leading achievements. For the evening of its opening, Mr. Hilton staged a big charity ball in the Grand Ballroom charging $100 per ticket. Over 1,000 guests raised $70,000 for Southwestern Medical Center. Entertainment during the evening included 12 Hiltonette dancers wearing headdresses depicting money, fashion, cattle, oil, Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl for which Texlite made the first scoreboard. This event marked a new era for Dallas as a major convention city.
Early pictures of the Statler Hilton and the adjacent Dallas Public Library designed by Dallas architect George Dahl (1894-1987).
According to an American Institute of Architects guide, the Statler created “the best block of 1950s architecture in the city” and in 2008, the National Trust for Historical Preservation included it on its list of “America’s Most Endangered Places.” The 20-floor structure, once the largest convention facility/ business center in the South stayed unoccupied for over a decade. The redevelopment of the 57-year-old former 250-room hotel is to add a luxury residential tower and retail; Merriman Associates are the architects.
Texlite installed the architectural façade of 211 N.
Ervay 211 N. Ervay opened in 1958 as a general office building on a slim, but prominent corner lot 50 feet in width and 200 feet long. At the time, the Palace Theater was next door. Within a block are Thanksgiving Tower designed by Philip Johnson and the Republic Bank Building/Tower designed by Harrison & Abramovitz, both New York architectural firms. Designed by Hedrick & Stanley Architects, the exterior of 211 was covered with continuous glass windows and alternating azure and aquamarine spandrels to uplift the bland skyline of the 50s.
Behind 211 N. Ervay, but not in view is the Pegasus sign; to the right is the Republic Bank. The image on the right (2013) shows vacant offices.
Up the block from 211 are the three towering aluminum paneled Republic Bank buildings that are now luxury Gable apartments. Over the years, 211 was sold and resold. Occupancy declined as modern skyscrapers such as the Comerica Bank Tower and 1700 Pacific added their presence to the Downtown District. Empty since 1995, preservationists no longer need to continue their battle against razing the building because it is in a stage of redevelopment. Preservation Dallas has included it in its inaugural list of Dallas’ Most Endangered Historic Places and as an example of the “vanishing cool blue architecture of the 1950s.”
Texlite added the Southland Center to its customers.
Southland Center’s panels were painted gray when it turned into a Sheraton Hotel in the new century. This building no longer has individuality; it is just a block full of hotel rooms, convention facilities, and rows of taxis. The Internet has incorrect information in its statement that the panels were Italian mosaics. No mention is made that Texlite manufactured and installed the turquoise porcelain enamel panels on the Southland Center, as the pictures verify. This building is now the Sheraton Hotel and the panels are painted a dull gray.
The Southland Life building shown converted into the Adam Mark Hotel. The photograph on the right shows the Sheraton Hotel with the gray panels.
Southland’s first two buildings opened in 1958 and the third opened in 1980. All three skyscrapers were designed by Welton Beckett from Los Angeles. The center tower was the tallest in Dallas until 1964 and in Texas until 1963. In 1988, Southland Life moved their headquarters to the new Cityplace Center. Then the Southland came by hard times as modern office buildings arrived on the scene. In 1998, the Adam Mark’s hotel chain bought and converted the building into a first-rate convention facility. DART’s adjacent light rail station was a major factor in this hotel being purchased by Sheraton’s chain, the new owners in 2007. In 2009, $90 million was spent to renovate the public spaces and 1,800 guest rooms.
Texlite’s porcelain enamel panels adorned the façade of Dallas’s Love Field Airport for 17 years.
From 1957 to 1974, Texlite’s green porcelain enamel panels in a monochromatic green mosaic design identified Love Field. This commercial airport began as a World War I army airfield in 1914 and was named in honor of First Lieutenant Moss Lee Love who was killed in a training accident. In 1953, to draw air travel from Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Field and closer to Dallas, Dallas built a modern terminal of its own, Love Field. The 1957 Official Airline Guide showed 52 weekday departures from there, mainly on Braniff, American, Delta and Continental. Love Field was now in the big league. Inside the terminal were three one-story concourses, 26 ramp-level gates and the first two-way, moving sidewalks. In 1959, American Airlines started its first Turbo Jet Service and Boeing started its 707 flights to New York. By 1964, Love Field was the largest air terminal in the Southwest and by 1968, Braniff’s and American’s new terminals were open for business. That year Dallas and Fort Worth established an agreement to build the Dallas/Fort Worth International or D/FW airport. Until the opening of DFW in 1974, Love Field was North Central Texas’s primary airport. The constant presence of Southwest’s headquarters and its national destinations in the new facility reestablishes Love Field as a very important regional airport today.
The five-year-old Love Field terminal secured its place in history on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy arrived at Love Field on Air Force One. He was assassinated in his motorcade at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas and hours later Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States aboard Air Force One. Love Field Airport’s third terminal building decorated with Texlite’s variegated green porcelain enamel panels.
Love Field Airport’s third terminal building decorated with Texlite’s variegated green porcelain enamel panels.
June Mattingly, Contemporary Art Critic and Collector
Dallas is my home but I have New York City roots by being born on the Upper East Side in Lenox Hill Hospital. My family moved to Dallas when I was seven so Harold Wineburgh my father could run Texlite, the company he received in 1922 as a graduation gift from Princeton that manufactured porcelain enamel and neon signs for the major oil companies and for Dallas landmarks, one being the revolving Pegasus sign atop the 23-story Magnolia building. The first location of his sign company was on the site where the Magnolia now stands. Both of my parents and grandparents were born and brought up in New York City. Our family regularly took the train from Dallas to New York for the holidays to see our family and to go to summer camp and our summer home in Maine. Rather than graduate from Hockaday, I went east to prep school and to Bennington College to major in studio art under Paul Feeley who the Guggenheim Museum honored with a retrospective after he died and the Albright Knox Museum honored with a retrospective in 2014. At college I met Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler and Clement Greenberg. In my senior year I was the first intern to volunteer in the library in the Museum of Modern Art. To appease me for my not attending the Yale School of Architecture my parents bought me a 1953 four-door Chevrolet Impala in turquoise, my favorite color.
Living in New York was fabulous. Celebrities of all kinds will always thrill me. I shared an elevator in the Waldorf with Frank Sinatra and with Salvador Dali in the St. Regis. I swooned over Judy Garland singing on Broadway, Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta conducting at Lincoln Center, Frank Gehry giving a talk at Chinati, seeing the original casts in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, My Fair Lady, The King and I, Oklahoma, South Pacific and Evita in London, the performances of Led Zeppelin, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin, Beverly Sills, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Placido Domingo, Martha Graham, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Van Cliburn, Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing together, Ann Richards, Joe Biden and the list can go on and on.
After graduation, New York City was my base for five years before I moved back to Dallas, raised three children and commuted to North Texas University in Denton preparing for a career in commercial interior design, first in an architectural firm and then in my own firm in the Republic Bank Tower with clients such as the owners of a Cowboy stadium box and a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I sold so much Knoll furniture I was treated to a tour of their factory. In the mid-60s, I built my first architect-designed residence on Strait Lane for my young family. Before a 20 x 40 foot pool was put in our backyard I had an organic vegetable garden complete with bug-fighting marigolds and lady bugs. That endeavor inspired me to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life. My late husband and I built nine residences along the Katy Trail and an office building in North Dallas for which I found emerging architects to design and we received three American Institute of Architects awards. Over the years, my homes forever full of art and classic modern furniture were chosen for museum tours and magazine articles in PATRON, Paper City, Metropolitan Home.
In 1980, I opened the Mattingly Baker Gallery in Uptown in a 1920s one-story building I gutted to create spaces to show emerging artists in Texas. More than 300 people attended the opening. Examples of the talent I discovered that went on to become established artists include Mary McCleary and Melissa Miller who in 2013 and 2014 respectively won Houston’s Texas Artist of the Year, and Rockport resident Jesus Moroles whose work I showed at the 1981 Chicago Art Fair and whose 22-ton granite sculpture sits across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. The gallery’s ten shows a year were almost always reviewed in the art sections of the two local newspapers. I received a lot of publicity for my great eye.
I rose to art celebrity status running my gallery showing young Texas artists, along with prints and works on paper by high profile New York artists such as David Salle, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella, and as an important collector. I have been ahead of my time in contemporary art beginning in the 70s when I purchased a major painting by Ellsworth Kelly, suites of screen prints by Andy Warhol, lithographs by Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist long before they became famous and expensive, and I met the artists in person. I can’t leave out the high profilers in that group including gallerists Mary Boone, Marian Goodman, Barbara Gladstone, Paula Cooper and both of Leo Castelli’s wives, the heads of Tyler Graphics, Petersburg Press and Universal Limited Art Editions. I remember the guests at private parties such as for the first three Miami Basel Art Fairs. Harry Parker, the director of the Dallas Museum was a friend and big supporter of my gallery.
I founded DADA, the Dallas Art Dealers Association and helped found EASL, the Emergency Artists Fund, and the Architectural Forum. In the mid-80s as chair of the Friends of Contemporary Art for the Dallas Museum of Art, I tripled FCA’s membership in two years and raised $75,000 to purchase an Anish Kapoor sculpture for the museum’s permanent collection. Kapoor’s centerpiece sculpture (2006) for the Cowboy stadium is valued in 2015 at $13 million. The major Julian Schnabel painting that I bought in 1984 for $40,000 at the PaceWildenstein Gallery on 57th Street, a gift from my father to the DMA; in 2015 it is in the million dollar category. Because I owned one of Donald Judd’s metal wall sculptures I hosted a cocktail reception for him in my home to celebrate the opening of his retrospective at the Dallas Museum of Art. With a DMA curator I co-led three trips for the Museum, one to Europe to the Venice Biennale and the Basel Art Fair, one to New York City to Agnes Gund’s and Leonard Lauder’s apartments and Joel Shapiro’s studio, and the last one to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for Bruce Nauman’s retrospective.
After closing my gallery in 1988, I curated educational art exhibits for five years for Frito-Lay, a former gallery client, in their headquarters in far North Dallas, I curated the opening show for the Arlington Museum of Art, I taught evening classes at Southern Methodist University on collecting art and worked as an art advisor for private clients. For more than a decade I was the regional chair for Bennington and principally interviewed prospective students.
Boards I served on include Planned Parenthood, Friends of the Katy Trail, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary and the Dallas Zoological Society for whom I co-hosted the party honoring the primatologist Jane Goodall who was present for the opening of the Wilds of Africa.
Travel became my main hobby starting in my late teens as a culture traveler to Europe with my parents. Since then I have visited all seven continents. Beginning in 1981 and for 20 years by myself or in small groups I went on camping, hiking and birding trips to photograph lowland gorillas in Rwanda, leopards in Kenya, rare birds on the Tibetan plateau, Komodo Dragons on their Indonesian Island, white pelicans and whooping cranes on the Texas coast, pink dolphins in the Peruvian Amazon and seven species of penguins and their chicks in Antarctica. My goal was to make people aware of the growing loss of so many wild creatures and their natural habitats, original art objects themselves, and the irreplaceable diversity and beauty of nature. Unfortunately, no photographs exist to show I went white watering at the base of Victoria Falls, I hiked in the mountains and on the glaciers in Patagonia, and I paddled in the stern of a canoe on the Zambezi River avoiding alligators and sand bars. Spiritually and intellectually my adventurous spirit prevails.
In 2012 and 2013, I wrote two well-received e-books titled The State of the Art: Contemporary Artists in Texas and The State of the Art: Contemporary Artists in Texas Second Edition. These two editions featured close to 100 artists. At the same time I wrote monthly reviews on architecture projects, museum exhibits and gallery shows for the online moderndallas.weekly and for Arts+Culture magazine.
Now I live in downtown Dallas within walking distance of the symphony hall and the museums in a loft with polished concrete floors and 15-foot ceilings in a building designed by Larry Good, an architect who 35 years ago remodeled my gallery building. Surrounded by art by many of my treasured Texas artists I play with my two adored rescue cats. Every day I look out of my wall to wall ceiling-height windows to enjoy the sky and the skyscrapers and my view of the new Pegasus, while I work on articles for my blog TexasContemporaryArt.com and on my book on contemporary Texas artists that is close to completion.
photographs and article by June Mattingly
Donald Judd (1928-1994)
Donald Judd’s home and studio before he moved to Texas, now the Judd Foundation is on Spring Street in New York’s SoHo and open to visitors by appointment. Inside are not only his minimalistic sculptures and furniture, but also permanent installations by his contemporaries he knew and admired including Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and Frank Stella. His beliefs in placing art in a more permanent way than possible in a gallery or museum and in bringing art, architecture and the landscape together to become a coherent whole were finally realized by Judd in Marfa.
Judd moved to Marfa in 1971 and began transforming an abandoned 350 acre military fort into his base of operation and private residence for the last two decades of his life. Until then this West Texas cattle town was known for James Dean’s last film “Giant” (1956) with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. This non-profit contemporary art museum and gallery complex was named for the Chinati Mountain. Marfa has turned into an artist colony, among them residing here are Jeff Elrod, David Hirschi and Leslie Wilkes.
Transport oneself to Marfa if only to experience one of the most truly glorious art-filled spaces in the world. “Untitled” (1982-86) consists of 100 shimmering aluminum boxes each measuring 41 x 51 x 72” and set at 173” intervals. Placed in three rows in a straight line they run the length of two remodeled light-filled artillery sheds. Their panels reflect a huge spectrum of possibilities and reflect their surroundings such as grass, sky, trees, and the rising and setting sun.
Like other minimalists, Judd believed art should unequivocally stand on its own, to become an instinctual, physical experience. He reduced his art in favor of a unified image composed of geometric forms arranged according to a grid. Each unit of his 60 concrete boxes form two to six freestanding giant rectangles measuring about a half mile in length. His largest and most ambitious outdoor work resides in a wide field with local fauna and tarantulas, art pieces themselves.
Typical of the designs in his home were the cabinets in his kitchen, the tables and chairs and the frames for the windows.
Every fall the Judd Foundation hosts an open house at Chinati with music, talks, special exhibitions and private and public festivities. Hundreds of visitors travel here from all over the world for the event. Fly via Southwest Airlines to El Paso; in the next 200 miles (on HWY 90) is spectacular scenery and the highest mountain in Texas, the Guadalupe Peak (8,749 feet). A scenic wonder is hiking and birding in Big Bend National Park. Don’t miss the Marfa Lights, the Nature Conservancy’s Reserve, the McDonald Observatory in Alpine and Marfa’s main drag.
The celebration starts off on Friday evening with a by invitation only cocktail party outside followed by a seated dinner inside in the equestrian arena. When Judd was alive entertainment was provided by Scottish bagpipe players who along with Judd wore the traditional Great Highland dress for the occasion. Please see the pictures I took at the second opening event at Chinati when I also photographed Judd being interviewed by Art in America magazine.
At the time of Judd’s retrospective at the Dallas Museum of Art I owned a stunning Donald Judd wall sculpture. In honor of Judd I gave a party in my home that Judd attended along with Paula Cooper who I knew from before; I bought my Judd from her gallery.
Judd attended the Art Students League of New York and the graduate program at Columbia University under the consummate art critic Meyer Shapiro. When writing (1959-1965) for Artforum he influenced the direction of art criticism and avant-garde art intellectually as well.
Pictured are Claes Oldenburg’s/Coosje van Bruggen’s Monument to the Last Horse, Judd’s 100 Untitled Works in Mil Aluminum and his15 Untitled Works in Concrete along with Judd being interviewed by Art in America and an opening party with Judd wearing kilts. All photos courtesy of the author.
Major retrospectives of his work were organized by the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona and the Tate Modern in London. Collections owning his work include the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in DC, the Whitney and Guggenheim Museums in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
If you torture a single chicken and caught, you’re likely to be arrested. If you scald thousands of chickens alive, you’re an industrialist who will be lauded for your acumen. That’s my conclusion after reviewing video footage taken by an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals, an animal rights group. The investigator said he worked for two months in a North Carolina poultry slaughterhouse and routinely saw chickens have their legs or wings broken, sometimes repeatedly – or, worse, be scalded to death.
The New York Times, To Kill A Chicken, by Nicholas Kristof, March 14, 2015
Photographs taken by Meredith Rendell, my assistant, at the Dallas Heritage Village.
Most readers of this blog shop at Whole Foods and Central Market where the chickens are free range. Think about it- it is better to eat free range chicken than fish out of the ocean!
These photos were taken during three of my mostly camping trips to Africa; the first trip was with The San Diego Zoo. One of my first animal sightings was of a baby leopard on the ground, a rare thing to see because leopards stay in the trees. I was so excited I fumbled with my camera too long to get a photo of this amazing site, but it is burned in my memory forever. I captured other great shots that I would like to share with you. All of these animals must be preserved and protected from extinction. Treasuring photographs of these creatures is not enough, we must treasure these animal lives as if our own lives depended on them.
Time magazine reported in the first 2015 March issue that 30,000 male elephants have been killed in the last ten years, really slaughtered, for their ivory. This gruesomely amounts to close to 80 a day or nearly four elephants poached every hour. Just the thought makes me grieve. How can anyone perform such an inhuman, cruel act? For years I protested in person under the auspices of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals the circus for using captive elephants and tigers for entertainment. Below are pictures I took of these magnificent creatures on three safaris. One time I stood five feet from an elephant and had no fear. When I was on the board of the Dallas Zoo I co-hosted a party for the Wilds of Africa honoring Jane Goodall who was present. The New York Times On Sunday March 15, 2015 had a major article on her efforts to save her chimpanzees. Rhinos for their horns and gorillas reportedly are meeting the same terrible fate! Where are the World Wildlife Fund, the United States and other aware, conservation-focused organizations and governments?
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.”
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.’”