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Prepare Yourself for a Journey Into Darkness

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Prepare yourself for a journey into darkness at William Reaves Fine Art, with its current modernist exhibition, The Reductive Landscape: Paintings & Drawings by Jack Boynton and McKie Trotter. Boynton's Blind Beast, a monstrously large side profile of a flat nosed mythical creature's head with course hair and yellow mouth against a somber gray background is incredibly powerful. He might not have eyes to see, but he should be feared nonetheless. Dissection, which was painted a year later, is almost certainly representative of the demise of this same creature, with the lightning cleaved halves showing the fading heartbeat on one side, the empty void of life on the other, and a cataclysmic background of iridescent green.

Boynton, who passed away in 2010, continues the macabre theme with the riveting Reflections, a darkly ominous creature with a caged face, fiery embers for eyes, brush-strokes of chaos on its torso, and backlit by an emerald green glow.

I was torn between Boynton's similarly composed (rule of thirds) Untitled (Purple Landscape) and the more mustard-colored Tehatchapie Pass, with bases of squiggling, frenzied contrasting brush strokes of dancing field grasses. I finally settled on the former, with its perfect portrayal of disappearing horizon in the night sky and would like to think that Boynton, who earned his degrees from Texas Christian University, would also prefer the purple version.

Trotter, who passed away in 1999, and Boynton met at TCU and evolved their relationship from teacher and student to professional colleagues. Together they "introduced and perfected a reductive form of landscape painting" by reducing the light and portraying subjects in simple expressionist visions. Many of Trotter's works are dark in tone, but I absolutely fell in love with the brighter Earthscape With Sea (Fields) and Earthscape #14, both relying heavily on the orange and russet tones, but to different effect. Fields portrayed a stormy turmoil-filled sky of red, brown and orange, with the lower two-thirds comprised of vertical crops of teal, green, gold and yellow, expanding in their growth off the canvas, while the other promised peace and calm, in spite of its red cloud sky.

An archivist's nightmare, many of the pieces are untitled, but please do seek out the blue-toned Untitled Landscape, 26" x 16" oil on Masonite, and Untitled (blue horizons), 25.5" x 48" casein on Masonite. They portray refreshing turquoise landscapes evocative of the wide-open Texas countryside with fence posts and red horizon. There is a quiet strength to Trotter's Natural Bridge, with its dark navy and brick red swaths of wide verticality and moon-like orb at the top.

For those eager to learn more, the gallery is offering a guest lecture on Saturday, February 28, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with Sarah Beth Wilson, curator of exhibitions and collections at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont; she once worked for Boynton as a freelance curator.

The Reductive Landscape: Paintings & Drawings by Jack Boynton and McKie Trotter continues through February 28, at William Reaves Fine Art, 2143 Westheimer, open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-521-7500, reavesart.com.

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