Works of art depicting scenes around Dallas line the walls of the historic Turner House in Oak Cliff. Largely depicting areas on the urban fringe in the late 20th Century, the paintings make up an exhibition titled North Texas Recalled: The Painterly Chronicles of Jack Erwin.
The paintings are a treat. Erwin painted plein-air and executed hundreds of paintings during a decade spanning roughly 1973 to 1983. Curated by Houston gallerist William Reaves, the week-long exhibit provides opportunity to take a fresh look at Texas regionalism that traces its North Texas roots to a group of painters known as the Dallas Nine.
Reaves wasn’t about to drive up from Houston to tell Dallas art fans about the painters their city knows so well, however. Rather he used a Thursday night lecture titled The Regionalist Legacy in Contemporary Texas Art to provide an overview of the characteristics of the art and draw a line forward as the legacy is carried later and today by contemporary artists painting in the realistic style of regional art.
These contemporary Texas regionalists include artists like Jeri Salter who we met previously exhibiting at the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival. Salter, like Erwin, often depicts the man-made environment. Others like Robert Harrison depict the natural world, in this case the well known subject of hill country Bluebonnets.
Bluebonnets may be timeless, but the Texas landscape isn’t. This fact makes the works by artists like Erwin particularly engaging. Still some painterly impressions, like Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, look much the same today. You can likely still identify a view of downtown from what was likely in East Dallas somewhere. Paintings of landscapes and buildings in Addison and Grapevine may be less identifiable.
A lecture on Saturday will give further insight into the life, times and works of Jack Erwin followed by a reception. The exhibit remains on view through February 28.