Straight From the Art

From Fort Worth’s Kimbell to Houston’s Menil, Texas’s museums are home to a diverse and exquisite collection of masterpieces. To devise a list of our ten greatest works on view, we asked more than sixty curators, gallery owners, critics, and other insiders for their favorites. So come along on the ultimate art tour of Texas.

October 2011By Comments

Donald Judd’s striking aluminum boxes in Marfa reflect the afternoon light. 
Photograph by Justin Clemons

The boom is on in Texas—and for once we’re not talking oil. The state is in the middle of an all-out arts explosion that is boosting our cultural capital and reinvigorating our civic life. Consider the once-in-a-lifetime blockbuster exhibitions we’ve been landing: the 2008 J. M. W. Turner retrospective at the Dallas Museum of Art, for example, and this month’s Caravaggio exhibit at Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum (the only showing in the country). Or think of the buzz around starchitect-led projects like Rem Koolhaas’s 2009 Wyly Theatre, in the Dallas Arts District, and Renzo Piano’s impending 2013 addition to the Kimbell. Then there’s the recent raft of major acquisitions—a 2005 gift to the DMA from three collector couples of works worth $300 million is still causing ripples—and lauded curatorial hires, from Peter Doroshenko at the Dallas Contemporary to Thomas Kellein at Marfa’s Chinati Foundation. Not to mention, of course, the artists, both homegrown (Dario Robleto, Trenton Doyle Hancock) and adopted (Katrina Moorhead, Francesca Fuchs), who are becoming increasingly sought-after.

All this in spite of the fact that the Texas art world is still trying to overcome the perception that it is full of rubes. We come in nearly last in state funding for the arts (we rank forty-sixth in appropriations per capita), and thanks to the slow attrition of newspapers, we have less cultural coverage than ever (even the longtime Texas visual arts journal Art Lies gave up the ghost this year). And artists within our borders must continually fight the suffocating stereotype that our tastes are limited to cowboys and cacti.

So what has sparked this burst of creative achievement? One answer is our ingrained boosterism. “The conservatism of Texas politics makes people assume that this is an unsupportive environment for the arts,” says Alison de Lima Greene, who has been a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston since 1984. “But there is such a tolerance here for private funding that our giving is extraordinary.” This kind of support, together with pride for all things Texan, has meant that we’ve become an incubator for talent. And with internationally renowned fellowships like the Core Program at Houston’s Glassell School of Art—not to mention affordable studio spaces—more and more artists are putting down roots. As Trenton Doyle Hancock said during a Texas Biennial panel discussion in April, “You get a sense that there’s a great support and respect here for art, which is passed down from generation to generation. So you can get spoiled.”

Yet perhaps the most significant factor in solidifying our artistic standing has been the commitment of our museums and galleries to acquiring and preserving a vast cache of masterpieces (did you know that Michelangelo’s earliest known painting is at the Kimbell?). Our treasure trove is so rich, in fact, that we decided to see if we could put together a definitive list of the most significant pieces in our possession. We went straight to the experts, surveying more than sixty museum directors, curators, gallery owners, critics, and historians across the state. The question was simple: Which works of art on public view in Texas would make your “must-see” list and why? (Out of curiosity, we also asked our virtual panel to single out some of the individuals who are currently shaping the Texas arts scene.) The impassioned responses poured in from all corners—from Canyon and Corpus Christi to Beaumont and El Paso—and though they varied widely, clear favorites did emerge.

On the following pages, we take a closer look at the top vote-getters: ten disparate works that range from classic to cutting-edge. Despite their scope, they all have one thing in common: each rouses an intensity of feeling—be it delight or vexation—that will compel you to stand in front of it or walk around it or step inside it again and again. “Some of the works that stay with you the most powerfully are those that you don’t grasp immediately but that nag you and take time to unroll in your mind,” says de Lima Greene. “Good art isn’t always about instant gratification.” As you make your way around the state, give yourself time to dwell on each of these favorites. Whether or not it’s the first time you’re seeing them, it certainly won’t be the last.

 

DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART

The 
Icebergs (1861)

FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH

What the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre, The Icebergs is to the Dallas Museum of Art. The monumental canvas (it’s a stunning five by nine feet) has been a crowd-pleaser ever since Frederic Edwin Church, who was as skilled a self-promoter as P. T. Barnum, unveiled it at a Civil War fund-raising exhibition. In 1979 it was gifted to the DMA by oil scion Lamar Hunt just days after he’d bought it at auction for a headline-making $2.5 million (at the time, more than twice what any other American artwork had ever fetched). Church spent a month sketching glaciers from a ship off the coast of Newfoundland, and to see The Icebergs up close is to appreciate his technical virtuosity. “He paradoxically portrays an inhospitable landscape with warm light, glowing surfaces, and a multitude of small, active areas to discover,” says Bridget Marx, the associate director and curator of exhibitions at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Museum. “My favorite way to view this work is with a pair of binoculars. You feel as if you too are standing at the bow of Church’s boat.”

 

Photograph by Justin Clemens. 100 Untitled Works in 
Mill Aluminum, Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

CHINATI FOUNDATION, MARFA

100 Untitled Works in 
Mill Aluminum (1982–1986)

DONALD JUDD

The one hundred aluminum boxes that Donald Judd arranged in precise rows of three in two renovated artillery sheds in Marfa may have been fabricated in Connecticut, but they are irrefutably Texan. By the time they were all put in place, in 1986, the Missouri native was already an international art icon and had been living in West Texas for more than a decade. He’d long been arranging other boxes in tidy rows, but it wasn’t until he installed these silvery waist-high structures—each identical in their dimensions but unique in their construction—that Judd achieved a legacy-affirming feat: “He totally changed the relationship of humans and art in the third dimension,” says Thomas Kellein, the director of the Chinati Foundation, the 340-acre complex dedicated to Judd’s work. Typically, he says, “you walk around an object once, and you have seen it.” Not so with Judd’s mirrorlike boxes. As the sun floods in through the enormous windows, the cubes essentially become multidimensional landscape paintings, reflecting not only the peculiar light of the Chihuahuan Desert but also its golden grasses, scrubby trees, and limitless horizon. “As you walk among them, they don’t end to surprise you,” says Kellein, who moved to Texas from Germany. “Every day I see them again, and I am overwhelmed.”

 

MODERN ART MUSEUM OF FORT WORTH

Vortex (2002)

RICHARD SERRA

The monolithic sculpture that sits outside the Modern is made of seven sheets of oxidizing Cor-ten steel, measures 67 feet tall (that’s 27 feet higher than the museum), and weighs 233 tons. Despite its extraordinary heft, the structure is remarkably graceful. The Modern’s chief curator, Michael Auping, has described the commissioned piece as the “vertical yang for the horizontal yin” of the museum’s elegant Tadao Ando building. But to merely gaze at the gently curving rust-colored tower is to fail to realize Richard Serra’s objective: Vortex is as much a physical experience as it is an art object. You can slip into the 20-by-21-foot space at its base via two openings, and as you look up at the sky through the 10-foot-wide aperture, you feel as if you’re at the bottom of a very deep well. And since every sound reverberates off the metal with astounding force, you won’t be able to resist talking, clapping, singing, stomping, and banging on the walls to create your own sonic symphony. “The person who is navigating the space, his or her experience becomes the content,” Serra has said of his work. “The content is you.”

 

MODERN ART MUSEUM OF FORT WORTH

Ladder for Booker T. 
Washington (1996)

MARTIN PURYEAR

Inspired by homemade ladders he saw 
in the French countryside while working at Alexander Calder’s studio, sculptor Martin Puryear—whose geometric pieces often feature natural materials such as rattan, rawhide, and dried mud—returned to his Hudson Valley home and cut down a long ash sapling. With a simple drawknife, he began to shape the knobby stem into this 36-foot-long ladder, which narrows rapidly; its top rung is little more than an inch wide. The ladder now hangs, suspended, in its own double-height concrete gallery, which has a translucent ceiling that seems to glow with light. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the spindly form stretches to infinity, a visual trick that doesn’t lose its potency even if you’ve been staring at it for hours. “One time we had to remove the piece because it was on tour with a retrospective of Martin’s work, and people got upset,” says Andrea Karnes, a curator at the Modern. “It’s one of the most sought-after works in our collection.”

 

AMON CARTER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, FORT WORTH

Swimming (1885)

THOMAS EAKINS

In 1925 this oil-on-canvas was purchased for the Fort Worth Art Association (which would become the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) from Thomas Eakins’s widow for $700. Called a “pictorial manifesto,” Swimming had been famously returned by the patron who commissioned it. In the bucolic scene, five bathers are identifiable as Eakins’ students—with the artist himself at bottom right, watching them. It was this penchant for graphic realism—ironically, the very trait that would turn him into an icon—that led Eakins to resign as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where his use of nude models stirred up controversy. In 1990 Swimming incited passions again when the Modern put it up for auction to raise money to buy more-contemporary art. The citizens of Fort Worth protested so loudly that the Modern found a buyer close to home, selling Swimming to the Amon Carter Museum for $10 million on two conditions: that Eakins’s once rejected work never be sold and that it remain on permanent view.

 

KIMBELL ART MUSEUM, FORT WORTH

The Cardsharps (c. 1594)

MICHELANGELO MERISI DA CARAVAGGIO

Likely bored with the fruit and flowers he’d been sketching as a pupil of a Milanese master, young Michelangelo Merisi (better known as Caravaggio, after his hometown) shocked the art world when he started painting novelistic scenes ripped from everyday life. His richly hued portrayal of a duplicitous game of primero, in which a well-dressed boy becomes the mark for a pair of sketchy cheats, was audacious in its bracing realism and earned Caravaggio his first important patron. (A slew of religious commissions followed, and he didn’t spare biblical heroes either: The Calling of St. Matthew, for example, has the future disciple mingling with lowlifes in a tavern.) With its stark lighting and taut psychological drama, Caravaggio’s first bona fide masterpiece in many ways presaged a modern-day voyeuristic fixation: reality TV. And it’s a wonder the rascally revolutionary’s own life story—overnight celebrity prone to drunkenness kills a tennis opponent, is disfigured by an enemy, and dies prematurely from a fever, at age 39, while walking on a beach in Tuscany—hasn’t inspired a movie of the week. Even The Cardsharps itself has had its share of drama: the painting went missing for ninety years, until it was rediscovered in 1987 in a private European collection.

 

MENIL COLLECTION, HOUSTON

Untitled 
(Say Goodbye Catullus, to 
the Shores of Asia Minor) (1994)

CY TWOMBLY

When you walk into the Cy Twombly Gallery, an eight-room building on the Menil campus, you can start your tour chronologically by heading to the left to see the artist’s earliest paintings, from 1959. Or, as is more likely, you may catch a glimpse of this monumental, late-career canvas off to the right and be powerless to resist its pull. Inspired by Robert Burton’s seventeeth-century book Anatomy of Melancholy, it measures more than 13 feet high and 53 feet wide and displays many of the hallmarks of Twombly’s genius, including his graffiti-like scrawlings, his appreciation for epic literature (he quotes Keats), and his uncanny ability to convey space and ephemerality. “Its appeal is that it takes you out of your moment of time,” says Josef Helfenstein, the director of the Menil Collection. “It doesn’t represent anything, but there are strong elements of destruction, very powerful moments of physical presence, and poetry.” Since Twombly’s death in July, at the age of 83, there has been renewed interest in the famously divisive (and press-shy) legend, who was born in Virginia but moved to Rome in 1957 (“a symbolic act” of his outsider status, says Helfenstein). The Renzo Piano–designed gallery, which Twombly provided the initial sketches for, feels even more sacrosanct now, as does its meditative crown jewel. “Say Goodbye is vast in its layers of meaning, and it triggers different reactions,” says Helfenstein. “We’ve had visitors who have literally danced in front of it.”

 

HOUSTON

Rothko Chapel (1971)

MARK ROTHKO

In 1964 Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil commissioned Mark Rothko to create a series of murals for a Catholic chapel that was to be designed by architect Philip Johnson and built on the University of St. Thomas campus. But that’s not exactly how things turned out. Johnson withdrew from the project after clashing with Rothko on the plans. The de Menils decided to build the sanctuary, which they intended to use as an interfaith gathering space, on property they owned in Montrose. And Rothko, who wrote to the couple that the project “exceeds all of my preconceptions,” never saw the chapel: he committed suicide a year before it was completed. Despite this inauspicious beginning, the sanctuary has since become one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the state. Though the brick building’s exterior is as humdrum as a DMV office’s, the interior is a different story. Standing in an intimate octagonal cocoon, you are surrounded by Rothko’s fourteen gigantic rectangles of black pigment. As you stare into the nearly monochromatic canvases, subtleties of color rise to the surface, and your eye begins to pick up on underlying purples, maroons, and deep browns. Though the paintings are devoid of images or symbols—or perhaps because of this—they’re like Rorschach tests: everyone sees something different in the inky surfaces, a fact that matches up with the de Menils’ ecumenical vision. As Dominique said to the crowd who gathered forty years ago for the chapel’s dedication, “We are cluttered with images, and only abstract art can bring us to the threshold of the divine.”

 

NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER, DALLAS

Tending, (Blue) (2003)

JAMES TURRELL

One of the most beloved works of art in Dallas is tucked away in a terraced hill in the back of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s garden. To access James Turrell’s site-specific “skyspace,” you pass through a small illuminated vestibule into a room that is lined with stone benches and has a square aperture cut into its roof. The opening, which measures nine and a half feet across, is framed by a rim so thin it’s hard to perceive depth. In addition, programmed permutations of red, blue, green, and yellow lights bathe the smooth ceiling. The resulting optical effects—colors appear more intense, the sky seems close enough to touch—are spellbinding. “On a clear day, it looks like there is a color-field painting above you or as if the sky has been pulled, like a sheet, across the opening,” says Jed Morse, the Nasher’s curator. Unfortunately, clouds and the occasional bird aren’t the only things you can see from inside the contemplative space these days: a 42-story condo development going up nearby has begun to obstruct the view. This means Tending, (Blue) has been temporarily closed, but visitors need not fear—Turrell is devising a new concept that the museum hopes to implement as soon as possible. “This work is of particular significance for Turrell because it introduced several of his innovations,” says Morse. “He’ll make sure that it continues in some way.”

 

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON

Portrait of a Young Woman (1633)

REMBRANDT VAN RIJN

No one knows for sure who she was. But this flame-haired woman, who had her likeness captured by a 27-year-old Dutch painter named Rembrandt, invites continual scrutiny. Her portrait, painted onto an oval wood panel, is a well-​preserved example of Rembrandt’s technical prowess and begs for closer inspection—much to the dismay of the security guards at the MFAH, which purchased the work in 2004 for somewhere around $14 million. You’ll want to pore over every nuance, from the ultrafine touches of hair at her temple to the thick sweeps of white across her collar. Though Rembrandt was prolific, producing hundreds of paintings and etchings and thousands of drawings, Portrait of a Young Woman is one of only two of the old master’s paintings on permanent view in Texas. (The other is Bust of a Young Jew at the Kimbell.) Rembrandt “was able to evoke a personal presence beyond that of the more static portraits of his peers,” writes Edgar Peters Bowron, the MFAH’s Audrey Jones Beck curator of European art. “It is easy to see why the artist was in such demand at this moment of his career.”

 

•••••

Art © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The 
Rauschenberg 
Roundup

A PRIMER ON THE TEXAS MASTER AND WHERE TO SEE HIS WORKS

There were early signs that Milton Ernest Rauschenberg, born in Port Arthur in 1925, had a creative bent: when he was ten he painted his bedroom with red fleurs-de-lis, and in high school he designed theater sets. But incredibly, Rauschenberg (who changed his name to Robert as an adult) didn’t lay eyes on his first painting until he was a nineteen-year-old Navy medical technician stationed in San Diego. A growing passion for art eventually took him to Paris and Black Mountain College, in North Carolina—where his pals included Cy Twombly and Merce Cunningham—and in 1951 he had his first solo show, in New York. From that point on, he churned out works in a range of media (newsprint, Plexiglas, junkyard finds), constructions (painting-sculpture hybrids, solvent transfers, silk-screen prints), and themes (isolation, pop culture, challenge to authority), doing so with such imaginative flair that by the time he died, at age 82, his obituary in the New York Times hailed him as “irrepressibly prolific.”

Though Rauschenberg’s last visit to Port Arthur was in 1984 (he spent his final decades in Florida), just about every major museum in Texas now owns works of his, and you’d be well served to seek out a few key pieces. Start in his hometown, at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, to see 21 signature originals, including Can House, a collage of tarnishes on brushed aluminum that he donated in honor of Ann Richards. Then make your way to Houston’s Menil Collection, which has several of his defiantly abstract early works, such as Crucifixion and Reflection, a layered piece that includes newsprint and enamel paint. From there, stop by San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum for a look at Black Mail, one of his distinctive “combines,” a mash-up of oil paint, solvent transfer, and mirror on canvas. Finally, head to the Dallas Museum of Art, where his vast eighteen-by-sixteen-foot Skyway, an array of iconic sixties images (from astronauts to John F. Kennedy), towers over diners in the cafe.

 

•••••

THE ART SCENE

A CONSTELLATION OF SOME OF OUR VISUAL AND VISIONARY MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Fairfax Dorn, 36, and Virginia Lebermann, 42
Co-founders of Ballroom Marfa, Marfa
Since converting an old dance hall into a sleek contemporary gallery in 2003, Dorn and Lebermann have helped perpetuate West Texas’s allure as an arts destination with concerts, film screenings, and dance performances. Their latest project, still in the works, is a drive-in theater in Vizcaino Park.

Rick Lowe, 50
Founder of Project Row Houses, Houston
In the early nineties, the artist and activist spearheaded an effort to buy more than twenty abandoned shotgun houses in Houston’s Third Ward, turning some into exhibition and workshop spaces for visiting artists and others into residences for single mothers. PRH, which showcases new artwork every four months and now hosts after-school classes for local kids, has revitalized the neighborhood.

• Lowe found the inspiration for PRH in the work of late muralist John Biggers, who came to prominence after the Harlem Renaissance and later founded the art department at Texas Southern University.

Margarita Cabrera, 38
Artist, El Paso
It’s been her experience as an immigrant—she moved to the U.S. from Mexico at age eleven—and her proximity to the border that have shaped Cabrera’s sculptures, which range from a series of cacti made from Border Patrol uniforms to soft vinyl replicas of domestic appliances made in maquiladoras. Last December she formally launched Florezca, a for-profit corporation that employs Latin American immigrants to make and sell traditional crafts. A ten-year retrospective of her work runs through August 2013 at the El Paso Museum of Art.

• This fall 
Cabrera will be working on an installation for Austin’s Mexican American Cultural Center that incorporates alebrijes, Oaxacan wood carvings of fantastical creatures.

Annette Lawrence, 46
Artist, Denton
Using mundane household items—brown paper bags, a year’s worth of junk mail—Lawrence crafts conceptual collages that probe notions of race, gender, and time. A professor of drawing and painting at the University of North Texas, the New York native is best known for her intricate, site-specific string installations, which she has exhibited in museums around the country.

• Lawrence’s 
installation String Works originated 
in 1994 at Project Row Houses.

• A Lawrence-designed vortex of steel cables stretches above a VIP entrance at Cowboys Stadium.

 

Vernon Fisher, 68
Artist, Fort Worth
With more than eighty solo shows and works in upward of forty museums, Fisher is easily one of the state’s most internationally acclaimed postmodern artists. The arc of his four-decade career, which has gone from abstract paintings and text-saturated faux blackboard canvases to narrative-driven multimedia pieces (often featuring pop-culture icons like Mickey Mouse and Dairy Queen), was celebrated in a retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth last fall.

James Magee, 65
Artist, Cornudas
For more than thirty years, the sculptor—known for his scrap-metal reliefs and the folksy oil paintings created by his alter ego, Annabel Livermore—has been constructing his magnum opus on two thousand acres east of El Paso. The Hill, a four-building complex filled with texture-rich installations (think steel, wood, cinnamon, flower petals), was opened to the public (by appointment only and for $250 a head) last year and is being hailed as “one of the most extraordinary artworks of our time.”

Joseph Havel, 57
Director of the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The sculptor was featured in the 2000 Whitney Biennial and named the 2010 Texas Artist of the Year by Art League Houston. Since 1991 he has overseen the Glassell’s Core Program, one of the world’s most prestigious residency fellowships for artists and critics (David Aylsworth, Francesca Fuchs, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Annette Lawrence, and Katrina Moorhead are alums). “It used to be difficult to have an international career based out of Texas,” he says. “Now we get applicants from all over the globe.”

Trenton Doyle Hancock, 37
Artist, Houston
Hancock, who was raised in the East Texas town of Paris, has been racking up the accolades for his shockingly bright and often dense prints, drawings, and collages, which tell the tale of the Mounds, a group of mythical “half-​
human, half-plant mutants” he dreamed up in college. He’s been featured in the Whitney Biennial twice; in 2000 he became one of the youngest artists ever included in the show.

• Hancock created a 45-by-98-foot mural for Cowboys Stadium.

Teresa Hubbard, 46, and Alexander Birchler, 48
Artists, Austin
Working under the name Hubbard/Birchler, the duo are known for the oblique narratives in their hyperrealistic video installations and photographs. In 2008 the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth premiered Grand Paris Texas, a 54-minute film about an abandoned movie theater in East Texas. Then came this year’s ​Méliès, a looping 24-minute piece recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston about a silent film thought to have been shot near the border town of Sierra Blanca. Now the pair are working near Marfa on the final 
installment of their trilogy.

Richard and Nona 
Barrett
Collectors, Dallas
The Barretts own one of the most comprehensive personal collections of Texas art, a sizable chunk of which is being doled out via lottery to more than a dozen museums across the state. Among the masterpieces the couple has gifted are two seminal works by Forrest Bess, housed at the Dallas Museum of Art, and One Rabbit Feeling the Pain of Another, a 1982 oil-on-linen by Melissa Miller recently acquired by the Blanton Museum of Art, in Austin. The first work of art Nona acquired was by Vernon Fisher; the Barretts are now also big supporters of James Magee.

Rainey Knudson, 38
Founder and director of Glasstire.com, Houston
For ten years, Knudson has been covering the state’s visual arts scene with “non-stuffy” writing. Her site’s reviews, virtual studio tours, news stream, and think pieces (whether about dueling art fairs or museums’ financial reports) get more than 100,000 page views a month and fill the void created by a dearth of professional critics and the recent demise of Texas journal Art Lies.

• Knudson is married to Michael Galbreth, one half of the Art Guys, Houston’s zany conceptual art duo.

Dario Robleto, 38
Artist, Houston
The San Antonio native has had more than two dozen solo shows, and several of his labor-intensive pieces—which often include historical artifacts and explore themes of survival, loss, and DJ culture—have been acquired by national museums. This fall he’s a guest lecturer at the Yale School of Art and a fellow at the Smithsonian Institution.

• Alternative-rock band Yo La Tengo used three of Robleto’s works as album art for Popular Songs (2009).

•••••

 

You 
Want 
It? We Got It.

TEXAS MAY NOT HAVE AS MANY WORLD-RENOWNED MASTERPIECES AS NEW YORK OR PARIS, BUT THE POTENCY AND DIVERSITY OF ITS HOLDINGS IS INDISPUTABLE. HERE ARE SOME WORTHWHILE MUSEUM STOPS.

 

For Greek and Roman antiquities, go to . . . the San Antonio Museum of Art
Housed in what were once the engine and boiler rooms of the 1884 Lone Star Brewery, this Greek and Roman trove is the largest in the southern U.S. You’ll see black- and red-figure Greek vases (with scenes from the Trojan War), Roman busts (is that Empress Domitia with the Texas-size hair?), and very elaborate sarcophagi. But the showpiece to really ogle is the Lansdowne Marcus Aurelius, a nearly eight-foot-tall marble likeness of the curly-headed emperor that stands sentinel in the Denman Gallery.

 

For Longhorns and bluebonnets, go to . . . the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
The only permanent gallery in the state devoted to Texas art, in Canyon, features a glut of dusty cowboys and certain violet blooms by the likes of H. D. Bugbee, Jerry Bywaters, and Julian Onderdonk. The rustic landscapes may seem trite today, but they offer a lasting impression of the untamed frontier. The Approaching Herd (1902), by Frank “the Rembrandt of the Longhorns” Reaugh, is so emblematic of the state’s spirit that Laura Bush borrowed it for the White House.

 

© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

For photographs of the American West, go to . . . the Amon Carter Museum of American Art
The Fort Worth institution boasts nearly 230,000 photographic works, including daguerreotypes from the U.S.-Mexican War and 124 of Richard Avedon’s iconic portraits of miners, oil field workers, and others. Because of their fragility, most of the images are shown only occasionally, but a permanent gallery is devoted to rotating exhibits of “masterworks,” like Lee Friedlander’s California (2009), a silver gelatin of a tangle of tree limbs, currently on view.

 

For brand-new works by up-and-comers, go to . . . Artpace
Each year, nine artists—three from Texas, three from around the country, and three from abroad—are invited to live at the San Antonio contemporary art center that was the brainchild of late picante-sauce heiress Linda Pace. The two-month residency encourages artists to hatch their most experimental works yet, which are then exhibited for eight weeks. Among the now-famous participants: Tokyo’s Chiho Aoshima, New York’s Teresita Fernández, and Houston’s Katrina Moorhead. Creations from the latest class go on view November 17.

 

For rare pieces of Asian jade, go to . . . the Crow Collection of Asian Art
Dallas real estate mogul Trammell Crow bought his first piece of carved jade in the sixties. By the time of his death, in 2009, he and his wife had acquired over 1,200 jade objects—from delicate hairpins to mountain-shaped sculptures—about a tenth of which are on view. Also showcased are treasures from across the Asian continent, including twelfth-century Cambodian temple sculptures, Tibetan figures made of gilt bronze, and Japanese snuff bottles from the Meiji period. A sculpture garden will open this spring.

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