Creative, Experimental and Traditional Talent at ‘Texas Draws III’ 

Drawing endures as the easiest way for artists to experiment with new ways of seeing. Playing with perspective sparks the most startling images in “Texas Draws III,” the third edition of the Southwest School of Art’s biennial roundup of the state’s artists putting pencil to paper.

Austin artist Katie Maratta shrinks panoramic High Plains landscapes into miniatures in her small-scale, high-impact “horizonscapes.” Her drawings are about one inch tall and maybe three feet wide, forcing viewers to get close and squint a little, much like you would looking at the Texas Panhandle landscape where God ironed the land. Fast-food restaurants, cattle, silos, lonely trees and telephone poles pop from these tiny, impressionistic drawings dominated by an endless horizon line.

In contrast, San Antonian Mark Hogensen transforms tables into monuments in his large-scale drawings by using an architectural perspective. The low vantage point makes his picnic table and old-fashioned drawing desk appear to loom over the viewer. Known for his three-dimensional, geometric abstract constructions, Hogensen uses vigorous cross-hatching, some outside the lines, to give his drawings energy and vitality, perhaps alluding to atomic motion.

Fort Worth artist Marshall K. Harris, last year’s $50,000 Hunting Art Prize winner, enlarges a cat’s skull to the size of a basketball in nine meticulously detailed drawings that reveal every crevice and crack in the feline cranium. The actual cat skull is displayed under a small glass dome and the drawings have bolted, stainless-steel frames, which gives the series a mad scientist vibe. The realism demanded by the Hunting judges rests on a fault line among the state’s contemporary artists, between those who feel they have to master the traditional skills of an artist, and those who don’t, but Harris manages to add a conceptual twist to his undeniable technical virtuosity.

Portraiture has almost been pushed off the contemporary map, but two artists show it still has a place. Kermit Oliver, a Waco postman/painter and the only American artist to design scarves for Paris’ House of Hermès, uses crayons and colored paper in three portraits rendered so delicately they appear ghostly. Robert Pruitt of Houston uses high-art icons in his large portrait drawings on hand-dyed paper. An abstract painting is tucked under the arm of a voluptuous black woman wearing a blue dress in Black Curves Toward Newer Galaxies, and a young man has an elaborately carved Afro topped by a pyramid in Stone Cut.

Lubbock artist Tina Fuentes deconstructs the still life in her expressionistic drawings of a bowl of Mexican fruit. Kim Bishop of San Antonio explores inner space in “On the Rim” six surrealistic drawings, centered on a house shape in flowing, transforming dreamscapes. San Antonian Sara Frantz, supported by an Artist Foundation grant, mingles colorful architectural forms and gray landscapes in her graphite and gouache works on paper, suggesting fanciful new buildings derived from shipping containers and circus tents.

Obviously influenced by Star Wars and graphic novels, Corpus Christi artist Jorge Alegría’s small, intense drawings of alien dust storms and far-flung galaxies are hauntingly apocalyptic. The kitschy, middle-schoolish drawings and collages of Jeff Wheeler, who teaches at Texas Tech University, seem crude and immature compared to the other artists in this show—though that’s probably the philosophical point.

Texas Draws III

Free
9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun
Southwest School of Art
Russell Hill Rogers Galleries
Navarro Campus
300 Augusta
(210) 224-1848
swschool.org

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