I was in Austin last week, and I caught the Austin Museum of Art exhibit, "20 to Watch, New Art in Austin". It occurs to me that many of these artists share a broad style with artists that I have seen in Portland. This very successful and fecund trend is everywhere.
Their primary influence seems to be fanciful/naive book illustration — perhaps children's books. The whole show is coherent, with some of the three dimensional pieces being intricate, miniature worlds — little balsa wood scaffolding, glazed drip sand castles. Even the non-representative paintings of Xochi Solis and Andrew Long have a youthful look. In particular, Alyson Fox, Jules Buck Jones, Baseera Khan, Matthew Rodriguez, Raymond Uhlir, Stephanie Wagner, and Eric Zimmerman could all illustrate (or sculpt) for the children's books. Most of the artists have a connection to the University of Texas. Kelly Fearing (see The Fort Worth Circle) taught there for 48 years, but of course this trend is at least nationwide. Those that I think have shown work in a common style in Portland recently are Jeffrey Mitchel (at Pulliam Deffenbaugh), Claire Clowe (at Elizabeth Leach), Darren Waterson, and Amy Ross. You can catch similar work all over. It makes a lot of sense to me that a generation of artists would be drawn to styles familiar from childhood, either comic books or the thoughtful children's books. Sometimes I think that half the nation's young artists are elaborating on images from their childhood.
When I first saw Fearing's work in the 1970s I connected his imagery with the fact that he taught in the art education side of UT's Art Department. It seemed natural that his paintings of zoo animals in fantastic landscapes (similar to the paintings of Henri Rousseau) would inspire art educators. Not that I think Fearing is responsible for this style.
It appears to me that a large trend has developed that will be interesting to follow. I wonder where all these artists will be in twenty years. Will the twenty-something artists develop adult imagery or continue to work with the familiar?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Amon Carter Museum, in Fort Worth, is showing "Intimate Modernism: Fort Worth Circle Artists in the 1940s". Dave Hickey is giving a related lecture on March 29. Eleven artists are included in the show. As near as I can tell they are Bror Utter, Bill Bomar, Dixon Reeder, Lia Cuilty, Flora Reeder, Cynthia Brants, Veronica Helfensteller, Marjorie Johnson, Sara Shannon, Kelly Fearing, and George Grammer. A few artists working in Fort Worth around the time that may have associated with the circle but are not included are Blanche McVeigh, Olive Pemberton, Emily Guthrie Smith, George Grammer, David Brownlow, Marjorie Johnson, Evaline Sellors, Charles T. Williams, Marjorie Johnson Lee, Ann Boynton, Jack Boynton, McKie Trotter, and John Erickson. I assume various artists were excluded from the show because they came later than 1950 or they were not at that time a part of the group that was a relatively organized, cohesive bunch in the 1940s. My parents met some of these artists in the 1950s, but the cocktail party had changed by then. I know that Fearing had moved on, eventually to the University of Texas, where he taught when I was a student there. My parents were acquainted with Utter, Bomar, the Reeders, as well as artists who must have come later, like McKie Trotter, Jack Boynton, and Charlie Williams. As a boy, I saw some of these artists' work at the Amon Carter Museum and Ted Weiner's sculpture garden.
Friday, February 8, 2008
In my article on Rectangles I wrote that you could create spirals from any rectangle except a square. That turns out to be false. I was looking at Josef Albers' "Homage to a Square" series, and realized that you could easily use his system to create spiral-like curves. Here's an example.