Willliam Reaves Fine Art specializes in art by Texas artists who are influenced by and carry on the traditional portrayal of Texas landscapes. This is the seventh year of an annual group show, with 16 Texas artists exhibiting. In The Texas Aesthetic VII: Minding the Texas Tradition the works are contemporary, while still honoring the artists who have gone before them, metaphorically standing on their shoulders.
Though sharing a tradition, as well as geographic residences, the works are remarkably varied. One striking work by Laura Lewis is titled "Boogie Woogie Blues - Cotton Harvest" (32x48") and features a vibrant sunset with the foreground filled with thousands of cotton bolls, some in shadow from the harvesting equipment, some not. The composition is unusual and compelling, using a landscape as a starting point but moving well beyond it into a portrait of light and shadow playing on the cotton plants tinged with richly rewarding blues.
Jon Flaming's "Abandoned Texaco, West Texas" (30x40") has no such surprises but conveys a gentle sense of decay and loss, as the hustling and bustling modern world leaves behind a small-town single gas pump, now lonely and isolated, that once was valuable to a rural community. Nostalgic, yes, but finely done, with a haunting resonance that lingers.
Smaller (16x16"), and unusual for this exhibition, is Jeri Salter's "Alley View", showing a dirt road and the backs or sides of small storage or commercial small buildings. A series of old-fashioned telephone poles leads one's eye into the drab distance, while red paint on two of buildings provides relief from the grayness. The mood is somber, but subtly interesting.
Houston artist Erik Sproghe's "Ruminations" provides rolling hills in the background, reclining cattle on a field in the foreground, and the skeletal head of a steer nailed to a fencepost, as though warning us of some possible calamity, while bluish trees relieve the starkness and add texture.
William Montgomery's "Long Billed Curlew" fascinates with a finely-detailed portrait of a placid curlew in the foreground, and an oil refinery in the distance, across a waterway, posing the contrast between nature and development. The curlew's delineations are impressively precise - think John James Audobon - and Montgomery has included as well some small-scale and detailed debris on the shores. Montgomery is obviously a caring artist, generous in what he includes in his art, and well aware of the environment.
Debbie Stevens gives us a portrait of a bird in vibrant action in "Skimming By" as a predator bird hits the water to feed. Stevens has captured its energy and movement, resulting in a dynamic, exciting image.
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Randy Bacon gives us in "Gonzalez" a portrait of a red-brick building of unusual proportions and details. It dominates his canvas, filling the space, we are seeing architecture here, the work of talented men, not nature. The building is free-standing, and seems to sit implacably with a quiet power, owning its surroundings. It is aware that its chimneys are beautiful, its entrance welcoming, its balcony graceful, and its sturdy elegance admirable. And it is right.
Mary Baxter is showing an intriguing work "Contrabando" of a waterway that has dried up, with orange-red buildings on distant hills. The composition is powerful, and the combination of colors here so breathtakingly attractive, that it becomes difficult to lament the drought, when it can create such beauty.
The other Texas artists are Margie Crisp, Keith Davis, Pat Gabriel, Lee Jamison, Robb Kendrick, Noe Perez, William Young, and Houston's Hunter George. Their work is also involving and talented.
The Texas Aesthetic VII: Minding the Texas Tradition continues through July 12, William Reaves Fine Art, 2313 Brun St., open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 to 5, 713-521-7500, www.reavesart.com.