Trotter & Luce: Expanding the Boundaries of Texas Abstraction

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Trotter & Luce

Ken Luce, The Game, 1989, assembled found wood, plastic, steel, 30 1/2 x 22 x 4 in.

McKie Trotter, Two Levels #6, 1964-68, acrylic on canvas, 51 x 46 in.

Expanding the Boundaries of Texas Abstraction January 14 - February 5, 2011


Trotter & Luce :

Expanding the Boundaries of Texas Abstraction Continuing with our mission to pled with variations in style, comdocument and share the evolution position and materials employed of twentieth-century Texas art, and by Luce and Trotter, underscore especially its post-war progressions, creative expansions in the boundWilliam Reaves Fine Art pays tribaries of abstract art, which gained ute to two Lone Star artists, each momentum in Texas during the prominent during the second half of 1950s and continues through the the twentieth century. This exhibipresent. By juxtaposing Trotter’s tion combines stellar examples of paintings with Luce’s found-objects McKie Trotter’s (1918-1999) abstract sculpture in a joint exhibition, we expressionist paintings from the invite viewers to reflect upon the 1950s and 1960s, with a compelling aesthetic approaches of two genera22. Trotter, Winterscape #4 selection of Ken Luce’s (1950-prestions of post-war Texas modernists. ent) found-object constructions from the 1980s This pairing also affords a stimulating opportunity and 1990s. for patrons to consider the evolution of threedimensional abstract sculpture, especially the use The differences in period of these works, couof found-object materials, which became increas-


ingly popular among Texas artists and collectors during the late twentieth century.

emerged as a professional artist in the 1970s, immediately garnering favorable reviews and showing in important Texas and New York galleries. His preferred form of abstraction reflects a more representational quality than Trotter’s, and his work shows his affinity for charismatic, three-dimensional stilllife and/or figurative subject matter. Luce skillfully uses wood, as well as a myriad of carefully selected objects to construct his sculptural renditions. The results are captivating in their creative composition and striking color.

As for the artists, Trotter was among the state’s pioneering modernists of the 1950s and a scion of post Fort Worth Circle abstraction. His expressionist paintings are deeply inspired by the Texas landscape, strong-lined, and imbued with rich color. In addition to his painting, Trotter was on the faculty at Texas Christian University, and already well-ensconced as artist and university instructor for some Both Trotter and Luce worked in Texas twenty-five years when the youngindependently of each other during the later Ken Luce graduated from the art 38. Luce, Diablo ter half of the twentieth century, creating program at the University of Housoriginal forms of abstract art in different citton. Luce, a generation younger than Trotter, ies, in different styles, and with prime production


periods occurring decades apart. Neither artist knew nor influenced the other; yet both men worked at the creative edge of their times and have presented compelling forms of abstractions in their respective periods. While these artists were not the first Texans to experiment with abstract painting or foundobject sculpture within our state, they were both among the earliest and leading proponents of their respective modes of abstraction during their times. Both show quality and originality in their creative production and have made meaningful contributions to expanding the boundaries of Texas abstraction. The works of these artists stand alone. To see them together, however, reminds us of the wide range and richness of abstract art that emerged

in Texas art over the course of the late twentieth century. Through this exhibition William Reaves Fine Art presents yet another piece of the astounding mosaic of post-war Texas art history. We encourage you to view these early expressions of Texas abstraction by McKie Trotter and Ken Luce with renewed pleasure and appreciation. Welcome and enjoy! Bill Reaves, Sarah Beth Wilson and Leslie Thompson



McKie Trotter Selected Biographical and Career Highlights • • • • • • •

1918, Born in Manchester, Georgia 1940, BA, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia 1943-45, Infantry Captain and P.O.W. 1950, MFA, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 1948-53, Instructor and Professor at Texas Wesleyan College, Fort Worth, Texas 1953-88, Professor of Art at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas 1999, Dies at Fort Worth residence

Selected Exhibitions • 1946-47, Pepsi-Cola Company’s Third annual Exhibition: Paintings of the Year, New York, National Academy of Design • 1949-55, Fort Worth Art Association Local Artists’ Exhibition • 1950-58, Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, Dallas Museum of Art • 1951-53, Texas Fine Arts Association General Exhibition, Austin, Texas • 1954, Young American Paintings, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York


• 1960, Southwestern Art: A Sampling of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, Dallas Museum of Art • 1961-67, Annual Exhibition of Artists of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Art Center

Selected Public Collections • • • • • •

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas Murray State College, Tishomingo, Oklahoma Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas


Exhibition Checklist Artist 1. Trotter 2. Trotter 3. Trotter 4. Trotter 5. Trotter 6. Trotter 7. Trotter 8. Trotter 9. Trotter 10. Trotter 11. Trotter 12. Trotter 13. Trotter 14. Trotter 15. Trotter

Title

Date

Medium

Sunrise Untitled Untitled Untitled Related Fragments/Fossils Blue Field Promontory Red Wall #6 Silverscape #2 Harbor Portent Mesa Summerscape #2 Skyscraperscape Two Tumbleweeds with No Moon

1950 1952 1952 1953 1954 1955 1955 1955 1955 1956 1956 1957-58 1958 c.1958 c.1958

oil/canvas oil/masonite oil/board casein/masonite casein/board oil/canvas oil/canvas oil/masonite oil/masonite casein/board oil/board oil/canvas oil/canvas casein/board oil/board

Size (Inches) 19 1/2x26 26x16 9 1/2 x 36 18x24 18 x 44 20x18 26 x 40 42x25 20 3/8x26 5/8 28 x 51 48 x 32 20x28 18x22 48 x 16 32x48


Artist 16. Trotter 17. Trotter 18. Trotter 19. Trotter 20. Trotter 21. Trotter 22. Trotter 23. Trotter 24. Trotter 25. Trotter 26. Trotter 27. Trotter 28. Trotter 29. Trotter

Title

Date

Medium

Earthscape #7 Fields at Dusk Natural Bridge Sea III Skylift #2 Ochre Field Winterscape #4 Earthscape with Sea Two Levels #6 Untitled Erre (2) Grotto #2 Magna Untitled

1958-60 1959 1959 1959 1960 1961 1962-63 1963-64 1964-68 c. 1965 c. 1969 n/d n/d n/d

oil/board casein/masonite oil/board oil/canvas oil/masonite oil/canvas oil/masonite oil/canvas acrylic/canvas mixed media/canvas oil/canvas casein/masonite oil/canvas casein/masonite

Size (Inches) 58 x 40 32x48 72 x 32 40x63 48x32 48x30 9 1/8x7 1/2 46x50 50x46 46x50 40x36 47x18 6 x 9 1/2 17x24


1. Trotter Sunrise, 1950 oil/canvas 19 1/2x26 inches


2. Trotter Untitled, 1952 oil/masonite 26x16 inches


3. Trotter Untitled, 1952 oil/board 9 1/2x36 inches


4. Trotter Untitled, 1953 casein/masonite 18x24 inches


5. Trotter Related Fragments/Fossils, 1954 casein/board 18x44 inches


6. Trotter Blue Field, 1955 oil/canvas 20x18 inches


7. Trotter Promontory, 1955 oil/canvas 26x40 inches


8. Trotter Red Wall #6, 1955 oil/masonite 42x25 inches


9. Trotter Silverscape #2, 1955 oil/masonite 20 3/8x26 5/8 inches


10. Trotter Harbor, 1956 casein/board 28x51 inches


11. Trotter Portent, 1956 oil/board 48x32 inches


12. Trotter Mesa, 1957-58 oil/canvas 20x28 inches


13. Trotter Summerscape #2, 1958 oil/canvas 18x22 inches


14. Trotter Skyscraperscrape, c.1958 casein/board 48x16 inches


15. Trotter Two Tumbleweeds with No Moon, c.1958 oil/board 32x48 inches


16. Trotter Earthscape #7, 1958-60 oil/board 58x40 inches


17. Trotter Fields at Dusk, 1959 casein/masonite 32x48 inches


18. Trotter Natural Bridge, 1959 oil/board 72x32 inches


19. Trotter Sea III, 1959 oil/canvas 40x63 inches


20. Trotter Skylift #2, 1960 oil/masonite 48x32 inches


21. Trotter Ochre Field, 1961 oil/canvas 48x30 inches


22. Trotter Winterscape #4, 1962-63 oil/masonite 9 1/8x7 1/2 inches


23. Trotter Earthscape with Sea, 1963-64 oil/canvas 46x50 inches


24. Trotter Two Levels #6, 1964-68 acrylic/canvas 50x46 inches


25. Trotter Untitled, c.1965 mixed media/canvas 46x50 inches


26. Trotter Erre (2), c.1969 oil/canvas 40x36 inches


27. Trotter Grotto #2, n/d casein/masonite 47x18 inches


28. Trotter Magna, n/d oil/canvas 6x9 1/2 inches


29. Trotter Untitled, n/d casein/masonite 17x24 inches



A Visit with Ken Luce: Perspectives of a Houston Artist Conducted by Sarah Beth Wilson and Leslie Thompson on December 7, 2010 SBW & LT: Let’s start from the beginning and talk about your art education. Who did you study with at the University of Houston? KL: I started at the University of Houston in 1968. I had a great drawing teacher with Bill Anzalone and at about the same time met Richard Stout, who became a life-long family friend. There was Walter Lodge, a great graphics teacher (although I had to promise him never to take his course) and very funny guy. I studied lithography with Bo Horack (one of the original lithographers who helped start Tamarind in L.A. before the institute’s move to Albuquerque). My friend Julian Schnabel and I took Experimental Painting from David Hickman, who was new then and painting

with acrylics in a more hard edge style. In our senior year Julian and I shared studios above a hair salon over on Taft. Dr. Peter Gunther was the art historian at the University of Houston. I took his art history course as a freshman and failed, which is ironic because I teach art history now. I had a private maestra from the age of ten until I married. I first began taking lessons with Helen Coffey at her studio on Main Street in 1960. I met her in Palm Center where she was doing pastel portraits. I told her “if you can teach me to do that my mom will pay you”. So she taught me everything. Coffey had a gallery in Houston in the 1960s - the Coffey Gallery. She showed Charles Pebworth and other early Houston artists. I ended up studying with Coffey from 1960-1970.


SBW & LT: What was your gallery experience like in Houston? KL: In 1985, I showed my large masks at DiverseWorks in Houston; this was my first big body of sculptural work and it was a real breakthrough exhibition. The high point was walking through the show with Mrs. de Menil. She owned a piece, too. Many years earlier I would get in trouble with my professors because I would show anywhere. When I was 20 or 21 I started showing at DuBose Gallery. That was a good gallery in Houston, and by 24 or so I was at David Findley Gallery in New York. SBW & LT: How often do you work in your studio now? KL: Not often. It’s hard to find time. For years and

years I produced work shown at many galleries, some here in Houston, but also in Dallas, Chicago, and New York. I had to do a tremendous amount of work…it was very demanding and after 25 years I sort of ran out of gas. I wanted to make something “modern” but couldn’t quite figure out what that was! SBW & LT: Do you mostly work in sculpture now or do you dabble in a little of everything? KL: I’m comfortable in any medium. I switch between painting, and sculpture, but mostly I’ve really just been fishing… SBW & LT: When did your interest in sculpture begin? KL: I took some sculpture in college from Bernie Limmel at the University of Houston. Then be-


tween undergrad and grad school, while waiting I switched to sculpture in 1984 after my for someone to start a graduate art program in first trip to New York, where I saw the PrimitivHouston, I apprenticed with Bob Fowler. I welded ism in the Twentieth Century show at the Modern and learned the business of art from with Picasso, African masks, and whatBob. But both of my degrees are in not. My trip to New York was a real eye painting. opener for me, and a great experience In graduate school I met John seeing all of the art in that city. I came Alexander, James Surls, and other Dalback to Texas and was inspired. I can do las artists. The 1970s was the heyday that. I’m primitive. So I started making of Texas art – “Texas Tough” is what primitive masks, very authentic, but we called it. Artists like Richard Stout then decided I’m not a really primitive and Dick Wray blazed the trail for me artist. And this was my switch to sculpand my generation. Graduate school ture. I got a studio at the ship channel helped me discipline myself to connear Brady’s Island, started picking up stantly make art. By putting myself found materials - picked up furniture around like-minded artists who were boards, objects with interesting patina striving to make great art in the late - and created sculpture. Picasso really 20th century, I thought I would make dominated twentieth-century art, so better art and become a better 31.Luce, Construction (Homage to Juan Torres it’s hard not to pay attention Garcia) artist. And I did. to his work, he was a very vital


and vibrant character. I was inspired by him. Kurt Schwitters was also an influence as was Torres Garcia, but my piece referencing the artist was titled after the work was finished (see Luce’s Construction, Homage to Juan Torres Garcia, 1987).

you use in making your sculpture? How do you start?

SBW & LT: Have you ever done any bronze casting or thought about doing some in the future? KL: I would like to work in bronze, and the wood pieces could easily be cast. Maybe I will do this one day. I would have to make an edition for the bronze pieces. But I have been thinking about it. I’ve talked with Joe Havel about using his foundry. SBW & LT: So what kind of process do

33. Luce, Deco Corn

KL: There are two ways you can approach your work. You can start with an idea and then realize that vision, or you can just start creating and hope the finished piece ends up what you want. I began with the masks, making faces. Then I made them large scale, ten to twelve feet. I would just start working with oak dunnage, tree shape pieces. But I found out if you flipped them over you could make this long V-shape base, and I would start here. Then I discovered I could make a big ear of corn from this (see Luce’s Deco Corn, 1988) – which thrilled me! The reason the pieces are so large, like the ones in my studio, is that they are


what I call exhibition pieces. If you are trying to going to make something beautiful, it never hurts be noticed in a visually chaotic world, I felt like a to start with the components being beautiful. And larger scale would give your work like I say, I’m from the old school. more presence. If you make a small It’s not about the angst. My work is cubist, primitive mask or sculpture, happy and it makes me feel better, I that’s one deal, but if you take that know that. The whole notion, to me and make it monumental it makes a anyway, of the painful, angst-filled much larger vibe. artist just isn’t me. I can’t imagine I was blessed in my friendwhy you would continue to create ship with John Mecom, Jr. He had art if you were in such pain. I’m haptons of French chateau interiors py when I make art, so I keep doing and architectural artifacts at the it. Perfectionism is a real drawback old Blimp Base in Hitchcock so I got to creativity – some people are the run of the place and got tons of never happy. French interior moldings and wood pieces. I love to combine these with SBW & LT: Even with the found found objects and debris. There’s materials, your work still has an ap39. Luce, Cubist Mask nothing like slamming this beautiful pealing elegance to it. stuff with heavy debris. I really liked this combination (See Luce’s Cubist Mask, 1992). If you’re KL: I may make it too slick. It could be more


natural and would probably be stronger if some of my pieces weren’t in slick frames, but there is a nice decorative appeal. I’m really interested in the aesthetics of pieces, how they look, how they balance, the placement - everything is critical - but I don’t think about it that much. I trust myself.


Ken Luce Selected Biographical and Career Highlights • • • • •

1950, Born in Houston, Texas 1973, BFA, University of Houston 1978, MFA, University of Houston 1981-1987, Instructor at High School for Performing and Visual Arts, Houston, TX 1987-Present, Professor at San Jacinto College, Houston, TX

Selected Exhibitions • • • • • •

1976, DuBose Gallery, Houston, Texas 1978, Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston 1979, Nave Museum, Victoria, Texas 1986, Eugene Binder Gallery, Dallas, Texas 1987, Found, DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas 1988, Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, Illinois


• 1989, A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889-1989, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas, Austin • 1993, Davis/McClain Gallery, Houston, Texas

Selected Public Collections • • •

The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont, Texas El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas


Exhibition Checklist Artist

Title

Date

30. Luce 31. Luce 32. Luce 33. Luce 34. Luce

Vet with Tbird 1986 Construction 1987 (Homage to Juan Torres Garcia) Sun City Soldier 1987 Deco Corn 1988 Moderne 1988 (after Brancusi)

35. Luce

Pirouette

Medium

assembled found wood assembled wood, acrylic on base assembled found wood oak, mahogany, zinc wood, tile, shellac

1988 wood,acrylic

36. Luce Grasshopper Mask 1989 (after Mondrian) 37. Luce The Game 1989

wood, croquet sticks, acrylic assembled found wood, plastic, steel

Size (Inches) 63x38x6 41x12 1/2x8 64 1/2x42x4 60x27x16 40x8x5 46x9 1/2x10 27x9 1/2x12 30 1/2x22x4


Artist

Title

Date

Medium

38. Luce Diablo 1990 wood/acrylic 39. Luce Cubist Mask 1992 assembled wood, acrylic, 18th c. chateau molding

Size (Inches) 64x11x28 67x31x18


30. Luce Vet with Tbird,1986 assembled found wood 63x38x6 inches


31. Luce Construction (Homage to Juan Torres Garcia),1987 assembled wood, acrylic on base 41x12 1/2x8 inches


32. Luce Sun City Soldier,1987 assembled found wood 64 1/2x42x4 inches


33. Luce Deco Corn,1988 oak, mahogany, zinc 60x27x16 inches


34. Luce Moderne (after Brancusi),1988 wood, tile, shellac 40x8x5 inches


35. Luce Pirouette,1988 wood, acrylic 46x9 1/2x10 inches


36. Luce Grasshopper Mask (after Mondrian),1989 wood, croquet sticks, acrylic 27x9 1/2x12 inches


37. Luce The Game,1989 assembled found wood, plastic, steel 30 1/2x22x4 inches


38. Luce Diablo,1990 wood, acrylic 64x11x28 inches


39. Luce Cubist Mask,1992 assembled found wood, acrylic, 18th c. chateau molding 67x31x18 inches


Houston’s Gallery for Early Texas Art

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