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"The Texas Aesthetic X" Shows Old Favorites Plus a Few New Surprises

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Visiting this year's “The Texas Aesthetic X” exhibit is akin to a family reunion; we get to check in and touch base with 16 old friends over at the William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art stable of contemporary Lone Star painters, catching up on new works and seeing a few familiar pieces. The event is always a favorite with the art crowd, and this year's “Aesthetic” roundup adds in a pair of resident water-colorists and five guest artists.

With works by almost two dozen artists, ranging from sketches to sculptures, photorealism to photography, plus a strong showing by regional painters, it's a safe bet that you'll find something to your liking.

There's no denying the power of the three oil paintings by guest artist Robert McCoy, who hails from San Antonio. The level of detail in Day's End, Gus and Tools of the Trade is truly amazing: the grain of wood on the rustic furniture; the cracked and embossed leather boots, holster and saddlebag; the warp and weft of the native American rugs; and the finely detailed stitching of the cowboy hats all framing worker's tools, which in this case happen to be firearms. Other guest artists worth checking out are the whimsical and colorful cacti on stools by Vera Barnett from Fort Worth and the multi-generational familia-themed oils and acrylics by Austin's Fidencio Duran, whose ancestors immigrated from Mexico.

Texas is a big state, so it's no surprise that landscapes are a large portion of this show. Randy Bacon (Albany) paints the colors he sees, including purple, in Longhorn Valley, Llano and the swirling Pedernales. It's interesting to see Mary Baxter's process, as the Marfa artist shows us her study for Devil's River, as well as the final large-scale oil. There's a new work by David Caton, titled Fresno Creek, Big Bend Ranch State Park, that renders the rocky landscape with a serenity that's all shadows-and-light. Pat Gabriel (Fort Worth) offers up a pair of panoramic landscapes that accurately show nature's mood swings from stormy tumult to sunny day, as well as a dangerously ominous scene in Wheat Field.

The Gulf Coast serves as inspiration for Lee Jamison (Huntsville) in Lynchburg Ferry and The Light of Industry, Freeport; his third oil shows a rusty, vintage bridge parallel to the newer structure in Wharton. In two works by Laura Lewis (Mason), the sky is allowed to dominate the canvas: Hay Bales and Rio Blanca Canyon. Guest artist Jim Malone's marker pen sketches criss-cross into spiny cactus underbrush and barbed wire in a pair of works, with the Fort Worth artist unafraid to leave some areas absent of color. We're always a fan of Noe Perez (Corpus Christi) and his landscapes, and it's refreshing to see pops of color in his new oil, Bluebonnet Pasture, as well as in the returning favorite, Red Cactus Flower. A wonder with pastels, Jeri Salter (Round Rock) understands the complexities of our Texas skies in Clouds Over the Panhandle.

Architecture plays an important part in this exhibit, and Houston-painter Charles Ford preserves the decaying beauty of vintage and historic homes in St. John Church, c. 1891, Sam Houston Park; Staiti House, Sam Houston Park; and San Felipe Cottage; be sure to check out the ghostly details in his windows. Also from Houston, nostalgic Americana is at play in watercolors by Hunter George, including Old Giddings Freight Terminal, Old Magnolia Train Station in Magnolia, TX and the trapped-inside-power-lines of St. Anne Catholic Church at Sunset. Austin's Craig Mindell's colored woodcuts, with thousands of micro lines carved in frantic rows, give iconic 6th Street a dark and rainy appearance. Houstonian Erik Sprohge dabbles in both landscape and architecture, but his At the Tracks, Bastrop Area stands out with the strangely colored house and storage units, as two pole-mounted crosses stand guard.

Fish, birds and all sorts of fauna are in abundance, from the beautifully rendered birds by Margie Crisp (Fort Worth), to the coastal birds by Debbie Stevens from Cypress, who continues to take home the win in wildlife competitions. For those not afraid to step outside the box, don't miss the latest from Austin's Keith Davis, who's keeping it weird with painted wood reliefs of a horned toad, a kingfisher and a rooster. Perhaps no better example of the spectrum can be found than between the very realistic fishing scene by Elgin's William Montgomery (poor guys don't realize they just caught the smallest fish in the lake) and the two-dimensional, hyper-colorful bird and fish scenes by Fort Worth's Billy Hassell, where the water blends seamlessly into the sky.

Rounding out the exhibit are cowboys. Sort of. There's no doubt as to the subject matter in Robb Kendrick's tintypes, with the Austin photographer choosing profile views of the vintage cowboys; but William Young's anthropomorphic catboy (or is it cowcat?) takes the cake, right down to his red bandanna with myopic birdie tie clasp.

“The Texas Aesthetic X” continues through June 25, at William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art, 2143 Westheimer, open Tuesdays to Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-521-7500, reavesart.com. Free.

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