Spirit of Splendora

James Surls's woodsy surrealism takes root at the Blaffer

There's a lot of earthy hippiedom in Surls's work that can make it seem a little quaint to later, more cynical generations less enamored with Joseph Campbell-esque ideas. And while Surls is a widely beloved figure, his writing, with its self-conscious romanticizing of his place in the world and the sweeping romantic view of his own work, can be a little hard to take.

Big Man Going to the Arms Race sports a big 
Courtesy of Blaffer Gallery
Big Man Going to the Arms Race sports a big phallus.


Through November 12.
Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9525.

But Surls did become -- and remains -- a mythic figure in the Houston art scene, even though he has since abandoned Splendora for Colorado. More influential than his art is the tremendous impact he had on the local community through the creative force of his personality. The recent 25th anniversary of Lawndale Art Center, which Surls founded while a professor at UH, is a case in point. His influence as a teacher and as the creator of an open experimental environment for art has had a ripple effect. Directly and indirectly, Surls impacted a generation of Houston artists, in addition to his chunk of the Piney Woods.

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