Visual Arts

Modernism, Long Ago: A Texas Art Retrospective Scans the Years From 1935-1965

Nineteen thirty-five seems a long time ago, in the fast-moving world of art, and indeed it is: almost 80 years. The exhibit "A New Visual Vocabulary: Developments in Texas Modernism from 1935-1965," presenting Texas art primarily from 1935 to 1965, showcases some of the Texas artists at work in that era, which of course included the cataclysmic event of World War II and the semi-idyllic postwar Eisenhower years, when America basked in prosperity, its manufacturing facilities undamaged by war.

The exhibition brochure suggests that Texas was "a vital current of modernist paintings and sculpture," yet the paintings and sculpture shown here tend to undermine that assertion. The artists are talented indeed, but the explosive force of dynamic change seems absent. France and Greenwich Village were alive with innovation, and the small town of Water Mill, Long Island, New York, and surrounding areas saw such diverse artists as Jackson Pollock, Bill de Kooning, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Joe Cornell and many others.

The Texas art is wonderful, if not pioneering. Oyster Shucker (1946) by Lowell Collins captures the melancholy and danger of the sea, its loneliness and tediousness, and by showing a single expressive eye permits us a look into the worker's soul. It is powerful and haunting.

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Jim Tommaney