Virgil Grotfeldt, 1948-2009

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Photo courtesy Wade Wilson Art
Artist Virgil Grotfeldt died today from cancer. Born in Illinois in 1948, he was part of the Houston art community for many years. "I've always thought of him as a terrific painter, one of the best in the city," longtime friend and HBU Gallery Director Jim Edwards tells Hair Balls.

The artist's works are held by the Menil Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Whitney, The Chengdu Museum in China, and the Fritz Becht Collection in Amsterdam, among many collections, public and private, here and abroad.

Grotfeldt was known for his mix of nature and abstraction. "The forms that he created in his paintings had a kind of mysteriousness about them," says Edwards. "Some of them look as if they're something from the bottom of the sea...They also looked like something that could have been in the cosmos, like forms breaking up in the Milky Way... They had a certain ethereal quality to them." He adds: "Walter Hopps talked about him in the same breath as Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky."

Another longtime friend, Wade Wilson of Wade Wilson Art, has represented Grotfeldt since 2007. "There was nothing like the work he did," he says. "He was an artist who really danced to his own rhythm, and it was fabulous to watch."

Since 2002, Grotfeldt taught at HBU. Edwards curated an exhibition of works by Grotfeldt, called "Virgil Grotfeldt: 274296," which is presently on view at HBU Gallery. Grotfeldt painted directly on his own brain scans for the series. When the artist showed them to Edwards, "I was just totally taken with them," he says. "They are very, very powerful." It was Grotfeldt himself who gave the show its title, taken from the number he was given as a cancer patient at MD Anderson.

There were between 450 and 500 people at the January opening of "274296" - everyone in the Houston art community showed up. "He was a wonderful friend to many, many people in the community," says Edwards. "He was much loved by his students...And his art is going to stand on its own for a long time."

"274296" was set to close this Friday, but the gallery's extending it for view on Saturday and Monday.

Houston Baptist University will host a memorial service in the Belin Chapel on campus Monday, March 2 at 10 a.m.  The service will be followed by a reception in the university's art gallery. Houston Baptist University is located at 7502 Fondren Road.

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