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William Betts RICHARD LEVY GALLERY

info@levygallery.com 505. 766. 9888 http://levygallery.com/ Richard Levy Gallery LLC

Fall 2010


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William Betts Line Paintings Artist Statement My interest is in the exploration of the visual experience and how technology can enhance the sensation of seeing and provide views and allow for visual explorations we could not otherwise experience. These paintings have their roots in digital photography, industrial technology processes, and classical painting. Using personal photographs as source images the paintings represent a sample of digital information taken from these photographs and expanded to create an abstract work that maintains its organic origin and essence while being something entirely new and synthetic. The resulting paintings capture and amplify the essence of the view by focusing on their organic rhythms and color relationships while removing other objective information. Void of forms or context, the visual sensation is isolated from memory and association that would dilute the experience. Using a proprietary technology of my own development for paint application, I execute the work in acrylic or oil paint using colors mixed specifically for the image. While time consuming, the process allows for a high level of detail and resolution without which the paintings would fail to reach their potential. Bio William Betts was born and raised in New York City. In 1991 he graduated with honors from Arizona State University with a BA in Studio Art and a minor in philosophy.


26 CHICAGO READER | MARCH 3, 2006 | SECTION TWO

Galleries & Museums Jungerman, DVD projection, through Sat 3/25. EOpens Fri 3/3, 6-10 PM. Sat noon5. 773-344-1940 Portals 742 N. Wells. Jorge Simes, paintings and works on paper, through Sat 3/18. Tue-Fri 10-5, Sat 11-5. 312-642-1066 Prospectus 1210 W. 18th. Work by Ed Paschke, Roger Brown, Harold Allen, and others, through Fri 4/28. Wed-Sun noon-5, Fri till 6. 312-733-6132 Printworks 311 W. Superior #105. Bruce Thayer, works on paper, through Sat 3/11. Tue-Sat 11-5. 312-664-9407 Reversible Eye 1103 N. California. Nicholas Kashian, paintings, through Sat 3/25. EOpens Fri 3/3, 7-10 PM. Sat 1-5. 773-862-1232 Byron Roche 750 N. Franklin. Work by gallery artists, through Fri 3/10. Tue-Sat 116. 312-654-0144 Roosevelt Univ. Gage Gallery 18 S. Michigan. Work by members of the Chicago Alliance of African American Photographers, through Fri 3/10. Mon-Fri 9-6. 312-341-6458 Rowland Contemporary 1118 W. Fulton. Collaborative work by Kelly Kaczynski and Todd Matei, through Sat 3/11. Sat 11-5. 312421-6275 Saint Xavier Univ. 3700 W. 103rd. Patrick Miceli, installations of toys and fast-food packaging, through Mon 3/6 C. Mon-Fri 105, Sat 10-3. 773-298-3081 Judy A. Saslow 300 W. Superior. Work from Jean Dubuffet’s art brut collection, through Sat 4/1. Tue-Sat 10-6. 312-943-0530 Schneider 230 W. Superior. Janet Pritchard, George Ciardi, landscape photos, through Fri 3/31. EOpens Fri 3/3, 5-7:30 PM. Tue-Fri 10:30-5, Sat 11-5. 312-988-4033 School of the Art Institute Gallery X 280 S. Columbus. “The Contemporary Baroque,” work by ten artists, Tue 3/7-Thu 3/30. EOpens Tue 3/7, 4-6 PM. Tue-Fri 12:30-5:30, Sat 10-3. 312-857-7150 SAIC LG Space 37 S. Wabash #220. “Active Liberty,” politically themed group show, Thu 3/9-Thu 4/6. Mon-Thu 10:30-5:30. 312-899-5131 Schopf 942 W. Lake. Gabriella Boros, paintings and works on paper; Ryan Mandell, sculpture and video installations, through Fri 4/7. Tue-Sat 11-5. 312-432-1630 Carrie Secrist 835 W. Washington. Richard Hull, works on paper, through Sat 3/18. Tue-Fri 10:30-5:30, Sat 11-5. 312-491-0917 65Grand 1378 W. Grand. Jon Satrom, computer-generated wallpaper; Rebekah Levine, installation, through Fri 3/31. FriSat noon-5:30. 312-243-4325

Now Showing

Slices of Light W

illiam Betts’s ten paintings at Peter Miller were made by machine using pixel-high slices he chose from his digital photographs. In most cases he began with images of nature. “I’m attracted to gardens—to the formality of their intersection between man and nature,” he says. Threshold and Bird’s Eye View were made from photos of the same irrigated field in France “taken at different times of day so you have different kinds of light.” Myth of Insight comes from a shot of a Japanese maple in autumn. End of Certainty comes from “this grove of beautiful cherry trees blossoming in the spring in Copenhagen, a wonderful combination of budding green and little pink flowers and eggshell blue sky.” Viewed from different positions, the paintings change: lines visible up close sometimes blend, pointillism style, from afar. Betts first remembers looking carefully at things at age six or seven. As a boy living in New York City he drew cutaways of submarines, trying to understand how they worked. His architect father, who designed modernist homes, had blueprints and models in their house and also collected art: Calder, Kline, Tinguely, Albers. Betts’s mom was a photographer, and he began taking photos at ten. By his early teens he was “interested in surfaces and was photographing lawns, walls, fences, sides of buildings.” He also did some subway graffiti, and on a trip to the Bahamas one summer made drawings of palm trees—and sold them there. Having dropped out of Hampshire College after one semester, Betts started frequenting Studio 54 during the club’s heyday. “Here was this incredible amplified visual and William Betts auditory sensation. WHEN Through Sat 3/11 There was always someWHERE Peter Miller, thing to look at, some118 N. Peoria body’s costume, a creINFO 312-951-1700 ative energy, a sexual energy.” After several years in Manhattan he moved to Arizona and started a small company marketing natural gas. He was also painting abstractions at the time but felt that if he was going to continue painting he needed to “develop a point of view.” He returned to college, graduating from Arizona State in 1991 with an art degree, but found that the paintings he’d been making based on aerial landscape photos failed to interest galleries in Scottsdale. Though he continued to paint for several years, he took a series of technology jobs in Houston and eventually got too busy. Then in 2001, Betts’s job began to require travel throughout Europe. “The U.S. has become a fairly homogenized place,” he says. “I’ll see many of the same things on a street corner in Houston that I’ll see in Chicago. When I spent a Friday in Milan and then the weekend in Provence, the things that I would see would be very different. I started taking tons of digi-

Myth of Insight tal photos—fields, gardens, people shopping. I viewed this as gathering visual data. I think I was already making the decision to become an artist again.” He started playing with the images on his computer: he cut a pixel-high slice from one photo and “extruded” it, turning each pixel into a vertical line. Its mix of regularity and irregularity seemed to reflect both the digital and natural worlds. But the images remained in his computer until 2002, when the company Betts was working for was sold and he returned to Houston to make art. Tackling the problem of translating his extruded

images to paint, he designed and built a computercontrolled machine that applies paint with miniature rollers, permitting lines as thin as 1/100th of an inch. Once he had a body of work that satisfied him, he started looking for galleries to represent him. Having worked in sales, he knew that “you have to make cold calls. Some artists say, ‘I can’t deal with rejection.’ But I know it’s a numbers game. Being rejected is positive, because if ten people reject me I’m closer to acceptance.” He approached more than 100 New York galleries over eight months before finding one, and he now has galleries in eight cities. —Fred Camper

Skestos Gabriele 212 N. Peoria. Melissa McGill, photos and sculpture, through Sat 3/11. Tue-Fri 11-6, Sat noon-5. 312-243-1112

Steelelife 4655 S. King, 2nd fl. Work by local African-American artists, through Sun 3/5 C. Tue-Sat noon-7. 773-538-4773

Three Seasons 648 W. Randolph. Work by Peter Gustav Lofstrom and Ender, through Fri 3/3 C. Mon 11-6. 312-2854533

Walsh 118 N. Peoria. Group show of work addressing architecture and urbanity, through Sat 3/11. Tue-Sat 10:30-5:30. 312829-3312

South Shore Cultural Center 7059 S. South Shore. Senior Artists’ Network exhibit, through Fri 3/31. EReception Sun 3/5, noon-2 PM. 312-744-4551

33 Collective 1029 W. 35th, 3rd fl. ChengYung Kuo, Jennifer Moore, Megan Harrigan, photos, through Fri 3/3 C. Sat 1-4. 708337-4534

Three Walls 119 N. Peoria #2A. Andrea Cohen, installation, through Sat 4/8. Part of the multisite project “The Happiness I Seek” (see Special Events). Tue-Sat noon-6. 312-432-3972

Linda Warren 1052 W. Fulton. Joshua J. Van Wie, photos, through Fri 3/17. Tue-Sat 11-5. 312-432-9500

Uncommon Ground 3800 N. Clark (cafe). Work by Kim Frieders, Marc McGowan, and Lacey Windschitl, Mon 3/6-Sun 4/2. EReception Thu 3/9, 5-8 PM. Daily 9 AM-2 AM. 773-929-3680 Univ. of Illinois Art Lounge Student Center West, 828 S. Wolcott. “Artwork of the Oppressed,” work by Jessica Aiken, Mia Garcia-Hills, Sheelah Grace Murthy, and Amy Rigg, Mon 3/6-Thu 4/6. EReception Thu 3/9, 3-7 PM. Mon-Fri 8:30-5. 312-4135180 UIC Ward Gallery Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted. Work by Anna Holm, Mon 3/6-Thu 4/6. Mon-Thu 11-8, Fri 11-5. 312-4135070 Vespine 1907 S. Halsted. Michael Goro, prints, through Sun 3/26. Fri 4-9, Sat 10-4. 312-962-5850 Painting from the “Moon Series” by Jenine Clevenger, whose show opens Friday at Thomas Masters

Vonzweck 1626 N. Humboldt. Jenny Walters, videos, through Thu 3/30. Thu 6-9. 773-208-7222

Western Exhibitions 1648 W. Kinzie, 2nd fl. Mark Wagner, collages and books made from dollar bills and clothing tags; The Buddy Cycles, Volume 1, video by Derek Fansler and Scott Wolniak featuring the artists as marionettes; artists’ books by gallery artists, Sat 3/4-Sat 4/8. EOpens Sat 3/4, 6-9 PM. Wed-Sat noon6. 312-307-4685 Woman Made 685 N. Milwaukee. Annual invitational exhibit; art by gallery volunteers; group show of masks, through Thu 3/30. EReception Fri 3/3, 6-9 PM. Wed-Fri noon-7, Sat-Sun noon-4. 312-738-0400 Donald Young 933 W. Washington. Gary Hill, video installations, through Fri 4/14. Tue-Fri 10-5:30, Sat 11-5:30. 312-455-0100 Zg 300 W. Superior. Beth Reitmeyer, paintings and an evolving installation, through Sat 3/11. Tue-Sat 10-5:30. 312-654-9900 Zolla/Lieberman 325 W. Huron. Stephen DeStaebler, ceramic sculpture;

Cheonae Kim, paintings, through Sat 3/25. Tue-Fri 10-5:30, Sat 11-5:30. 312-944-1990

Suburban Art Center 1957 Sheridan, Highland Park. Work by local artists of Mexican descent, through Tue 3/28. EOpens Fri 3/3, 6:30-8 PM. Mon-Sat 9-5. 847-432-1888 College of Lake County Wright Gallery 19351 Washington, Grayslake. Eleanor Spiess-Ferris, paintings, through Sun 4/9. EOpens Fri 3/3, 7-9 PM. Mon-Thu 8 AM-9 PM, Fri-Sat 9-4:30. 847-443-2240 Elmhurst College Founders Lounge Frick Center, 190 Prospect, Elmhurst. Sandra Perlow, paintings, through Wed 3/29. EReception Tue 3/7, 4:30-6:30 PM, with a talk by Perlow at 5 PM. Mon-Fri 8 AM-midnight, Sun noon-midnight. 630617-3033 Evanston Art Center 2603 Sheridan, Evanston. “Flattened,” work by five artists, some “literally coming off of the wall or up from the floor,” through Sun 4/2. Mon-Thu 10-10, Fri-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-4. 847-475-5300 Lake Forest College Sonnenschein Gallery Durand Art Institute, 555 N. Sheridan, Lake Forest. Matthew Girson, paintings, through Sun 4/2. Daily 2:30-5. 847-735-5194


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March 26, 2009 Contact: Viviette Hunt, Gallery Director, (505) 766-9888

William Betts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Simpatia é Quase Amor April 10 – June 5 Richard Levy Gallery is pleased to present Simpatia é Quase Amor (friendliness is almost love), an exhibition of conceptual landscape paintings by Houston based painter William Betts. This exhibition runs from April 10th – June 5th with an artist reception on June 5th from 6 –8 pm. The series Simpatia é Quase Amor is a study in contradictions. William Betts chose Rio de Janeiro as ideal site for his examination of contemporary social issues. As the subject of songs, films and endless travel images Rio de Janeiro is an iconic reference of the exotic escape. Betts was influenced as a child by Pan Am travel posters, which promoted this city as a magical destination. This perception is a stark contrast to the reality of a metropolis teeming with overwhelming social problems including a rampant drug trade, violence, and one of the world's highest incidents of HIV. As a study in contrasts, Rio is dangerous and extremely poor while simultaneously home to some of the world's wealthiest individuals and an enticing destination on the global party circuit. The aerial perspective in each painting allows Betts to preserve the romantic aspect, using a point of view typically reserved for the elite recreational or technical, geographic, and demographic examination. An initial glance conjures fantasy, offering an abstracted and exquisite view of an exotic location. Sparkling waters, exotic beaches, and majestic mountains are juxtaposed with any urban delight that one could possibly desire. Upon closer inspection, the paintings also include the slums and barrios –depicting the under belly with the same exquisite care. This contrast underscores the many contradictions that envelop Rio de Janeiro. Simpatia é Quase Amor has been in the making since 2007. What started as a project on social inequity quickly took on a personal aspect when a group of men armed with machine guns ambushed the artist and his wife during one of their trips to Rio. Fortunately they exited the situation unharmed and only stripped of a few objects of material value. Rio has always captured Betts' imagination for its visual splendor. Simpatia é Quase Amor is a reconciliation of this beauty with the street level reality. For additional information or images, please contact the gallery at (505) 766.9888. Images from this exhibition are available on our website: www.levygallery.com Dates: April 10 – June 5 Reception: Friday, June 5th, 6 – 8 pm Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 – 4 PM and by appointment Contact: 505.766.9888, info@levygallery.com


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William Betts Education 1991 Arizona State University, Bachelor of Arts, Studio Art, Cum Laude, Tempe, AZ Solo Exhibitions 2010 Jennifer Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver, BC Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas, TX Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 2009 Simpatia é Quase Amor, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM 2008 Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago, IL 2007 Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY View from the Panopticon, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas, TX Kostuick Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Canada 2006 Anne Reed Gallery, Sun Valley, ID Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago, IL 2005 Bentley Projects, Phoenix, AZ Texas State University, San Marcos, TX Gallery deSoto, Los Angeles, CA Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas, TX Plus Gallery, Denver, CO 2004 Poissant Gallery, Houston, TX Group Exhibitions 2010 Mechanistic: William Betts, Ron Laboray, Relja Penzic, Peter Miller Gallery Ltd., Chicago, IL 2008 Pixelated, Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York, NY New American talent 23, Arthouse, Austin, TX Invisible Omniscience: Seeing and the Seen, Baltimore Art Place, Baltimore, MD Group Show, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX Houston Area Show, Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston, TX Group Show, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI Assistance League Celebrates Texas Art 2008, Dr. Salatino, LACMA juror, Houston, TX The Sky is Falling, Spur Projects, Portolo Valley, CA Group Show, Spur Projects, Portola Valley, CA 2007 Collector’s Gallery, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY Chill, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY Texas Biennial, Austin, TX Vertigo, Plus Gallery, Denver, CO Fab Ab, Salt Lake City Art Center, Salt Lake City, UT Los Americanos, Arcaute Arte Contemporaneo, Monterrey, Mexico


2006

2005

B & W, Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX New Houston Painting, Blue Star, San Antonio, TX Texas Paint, Part Two: Abstraction, Arlington Museum of Art, TX Biennial Southwest, Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM OPENDraw, OPENSOURCE Art, Champaign, IL 2006 Works on Paper National Competition, Long Beach, NJ Summer Group Show, Anne Reed Gallery, Sun Valley, ID 5 Angles on Abstraction, Addison Arts, Santa Fe, NM Ripped from the Pages, Gallery 125, CACHH, Houston, TX Red Dot, Blue Star, San Antonio, TX Blurring the Line, University of Texas San Antonio, TX Assistance League of Houston Celebrates Texas Art, Houston, TX Watch it! Television’s Influence in Art, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY Gallery Artists, Addison Arts, Santa Fe, NM Selections from New American Painting, Plus Gallery, Denver, CO New Texas Painting, Diverseworks, Houston, TX Clothesline Exhibition, the Hospital, Covent Garden, London Three Landscape Painters, Morgan Lehman Gallery, Lakeville, CT Summer Group Show, Bentley Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ Inaugural Group Exhibition, Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas, TX Incremental Disruption, NAO Gallery, Boston, MA 20th Annual International Exhibition, University of Texas, Tyler, TX Texas Biennial, Austin, TX Assistance League of Houston Celebrates Texas Art, Houston, TX DPI:2004 Competition, Kellogg University Art Gallery Cal Poly, Pomona, CA Gensler Architects Rotating Artist Program, Houston, TX Sizzle, Diverseworks, Houston, TX The Big Show, Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX William Betts and Kay Nguyen, Poissant O’Neal Gallery, Houston, TX

Awards 2008 Finalist, 2008 Hunting Prize 2008 First Place, Assistance League of Houston Celebrates Texas Art, Dr. Kevin Salatino, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Juror and Curator 2007 Finalist, Hunting Art Prize 2006 Best in Show, Biennial Southwest, Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque NM, Neal Benezra, Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art juror 2006 Third Place Prize, Assistance League of Houston Celebrates Texas Art, Jeffrey D. Grove, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, High Museum of Art Atlanta Juror 2006 Individual Artist Grant, Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County 2005 Third Place Prize, Assistance League of Houston Celebrates


May 9, 2006, 4:24PM William Betts makes art -- and a profit By BILL DAVENPORT For the Chronicle William Betts sounds like any successful businessman with a start-up. He invented a "digitally controlled paint application process" that he uses to manufacture "high-end luxury products." Sales are strong, and he's continually refining his process, products and marketing strategy. He worries about his brand. The thing is, Betts' business is art. And artists don't usually talk like that. Betts — who's traded natural gas, sold real estate and marketed software — learned his approach from the business world. It's a startling contrast to the idealistic, impractical non-approach of most artists, but for Betts it's just common sense. His paintings are just as surprising. He creates them not with a brush, but with a special computer-controlled painting machine. Described as products, they can sound like chilly technical exercises, knocked out with an eye toward making money. But Betts has the heart of an artist; the paintings are unreasonably complex, too carefully orchestrated to be sensible in a strictly business sense. Betts, whose art often concerns sharply drawn lines, inhabits a fuzzy gray area, a new-feeling space that lies somewhere between art, business and high-tech. William Betts looks for a bottle of paint

in hisand studio. Tall stringy, Betts moves with a restless intensity around the neat, white-walled Bill Olive: For the Chronicle studio atop his glass-and-metal house in the stylish West End. Touches of gray at his temples seem at odds with his rock 'n' roll uniform: blue jeans, white T-shirt, black sneakers.

He looks like a former rocker, and he is. Born in New York in the '60s, he submerged himself in the New York nightlife instead of going directly to college. He worked in galleries, he says, and lived "in a gross little walk-up." The scene's famous hedonism took its toll, and by 1984 the party was over. According to Betts, drugs and clubbing were literally killing him. ''My family intervened and saved my life," he explains.


continued He escaped New York for Phoenix, to explore opportunities in the gas marketing industry, his grandfather's business. Newly deregulated, the field was wide-open. His partner, a high-school friend, bought the gas; Betts signed up industrial end users in California. They had some luck, and sold out to a bigger player a year and a half later. Betts at his studio computer. Bill Olive:

Betts took a job selling new homes in the desert, helping a California builder clean For thethen Chronicle up a failed project. "It was hard-core sales," sighs Betts, but "until you have college, your options are limited." With the homes sold and money saved, Betts finally got the education he yearned for, earning a B.A. in studio art from Arizona State University in 1991. Art was a natural choice. His father was an architect and art collector; his mother, a photographer. In Betts' high-powered family, he says, "there was always the impression that being an artist was no different than being an architect, a doctor, or a lawyer." He and his sisters were driven to succeed. Kate, two years younger, is now the editor of Time Style&Design; Elizabeth, four years older, is art director at Us Weekly. But it took William awhile to find his calling. In his senior year, driving through Oklahoma, Betts took a photograph many will recognize. "It was the most banal picture you can imagine," he says. "Edge of highway, yellow line, some scrub grass, field, horizon, blue sky. I painted it by hand. As I started playing with digital in '96, I found that there was an elasticity to these images. You could slice it and stretch it, and it was the same. It didn't change." He carried that stretched landscape in his head for years as, out of college, he once again set his art aside for business. His gas-marketing connections got him a job with Panhandle Eastern in Houston. When the company spun off a technology group as a software business, Betts went along. More time passed, and Betts changed companies and cities. In 2001 he was a software marketing executive in London. "Business was taking its toll on me," he says. "It wasn't me. I felt like I was compromising myself." When his company was bought and reorganized, he took a severance package and decided to make a career in the art world.


continued His wife, Yvonne, worked for the same company. She stayed on, and together they transferred back to Houston. Betts was determined to do his career right this time. "I'm lucky," he says, '"because all the mistakes I've made have been in other places and other times and in other fields." Betts insisted that art pay its own way. He points to one of his medium-size paintings, priced at $4,800, on the studio wall: "There's no way, just looking at it purely on economics, that if I'm selling that painting for a thousand bucks that I'm going to make a living. So then what happens is you take another job, and that job starts to bleed away time, and the work suffers." He experimented with his digitally stretched photos, seeking a paint-application technique as precise as the digital data he wanted to represent. He attached paintings to a rotating drum like a wood lathe, but the drums wobbled. The turning point came when he invested $8,000 in a computer-controlled industrial robot. The machine looks like a large flat table with heavy steel rails along its sides. Another steel beam rides these rails, spanning the table's surface. The machine's head crawls along this beam on a cogged track, allowing Betts to place the head at very precise locations anywhere on the table. All this is off-the-shelf equipment more often found in industry than in an artist's studio. Betts' baby, what he calls his ''secret sauce," is an attachment for the machine that makes very narrow, razor-sharp lines of acrylic enamel. The last link in Betts' direct digital-image-to-painting technique is the custom-made software that controls the machine. Like a medieval master craftsman, Betts guards the details of his process. He hasn't patented them, and doesn't plan to. Secrecy, he figures, is better security. The line paintings Betts creates with this set-up, representing a total investment around $20,000, are striking. Cascades of impossibly narrow stripes in vivid constellations of color seem to fluctuate forward and backward in space, with a tightly controlled energy that perfectly mirrors Betts' personality. They combine the precision of computer graphics with the physicality and intense color possible only with paint. It's self-evident that the paintings are machine-made, as is the fact that they're painted. The contradiction arouses viewers' curiosity and consternation. Are they prints? Paintings? Sculptures? How did he do that?


continued He produces the paintings in sizes ranging from typing paper to mural, with prices from $1,000 to $8,000. Sometimes he makes them in editions — that is, a limited number of exact copies, something usually impossible for paintings. The very existence of Betts' work assaults a nest of assumptions about what paintings are supposed to be. Good artists are often fanatics about their work, but Betts extends the same extreme, selfconscious control to his marketing strategy. He began by making 16 paintings. ''I realized that it was really important to have a full body of work," he says. ''Sixteen paintings seemed like a good number. It's not a complete slide set, but it's most of the sheet." He showed them to Meg Poissant, and in 2004 he had his first solo show at Poissant Gallery in Houston. In an intense, nationwide marketing blitz, he contacted more than 100 galleries and netted himself four more shows. Contacts through art fairs got him two more. To produce the 60 paintings he needed for his six solo shows in 2005, he bought a faster machine. Betts says his business plan is working. "So now I've got the galleries out there. I've got the throughput. I've got the process down, so I can cut back supply. I used to do a lot more editions. Now I've cut those off." He shows in galleries elsewhere, but represents himself in Houston. "Part of the reason I don't have a gallery here is because I felt like I have to control my brand," he says. "I watch my Web traffic like a hawk. I can watch what images people react to. It's like putting a survey on every piece of art." He's as open about his marketing techniques as he is secretive about his process. "It's not a manipulation; it's just managing," he says matter-of-factly. "What I'm doing is not rocket science. A real marketing person would come in here and just shred me." As for the convergence of art and business, he quips, "I'm pretty comfortable leveraging the capitalist system." Bill Davenport is a Houston artist. You can reach him at borabora@wt.net.

William Betts  

Autumn 2010

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