Collision: The Contemporary Art Scene in Houston, 1972–1985

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Texas A&M University Press, Sep 13, 2018 - Art - 480 pages
Winner, 2019 Ron Tyler Award for Best Illustrated Book, sponsored by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)

In this expansive and vigorous survey of the Houston art scene of the 1970s and 1980s, author Pete Gershon describes the city’s emergence as a locus for the arts, fueled by a boom in oil prices and by the arrival of several catalyzing figures, including museum director James Harithas and sculptor James Surls. Harithas was a fierce champion for Texan artists during his tenure as the director of the Contemporary Arts Museum–Houston (CAM). He put Texas artists on the map, but his renegade style proved too confrontational for the museum’s benefactors, and after four years, he wore out his welcome.

After Harithas’s departure from the CAM, the chainsaw-wielding Surls established the Lawndale Annex as a largely unsupervised outpost of the University of Houston art department. Inside this dirty, cavernous warehouse, a new generation of Houston artists discovered their identities and began to flourish. Both the CAM and the Lawndale Annex set the scene for the emergence of small, downtown, artist-run spaces, including Studio One, the Center for Art and Performance, Midtown Arts Center, and DiverseWorks.

Finally, in 1985, the Museum of Fine Arts presented Fresh Paint: The Houston School, a nationally publicized survey of work by Houston painters. The exhibition capped an era of intensive artistic development and suggested that the city was about to be recognized, along with New York and Los Angeles, as a major center for art-making activity.

Drawing upon primary archival materials, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, and over sixty interviews with significant figures, Gershon presents a narrative that preserves and interweaves the stories and insights of those who transformed the Houston art scene into the vibrant community that it is today.
 
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Culture on a Corner
9
2 Art Came to Houston
16
3 Lefty
50
4 10
68
5 A New Direction
80
6 Jim
86
7 12Texas
93
19 Surls
251
20 Brothers and Sisters
259
21 Pow Wow
265
22 1980
278
23 Sumfest The Panther and the Art Guys
291
24 Wobbling
305
25 A Houston Art Center
316
26 Collision
336

8 Museum Quality
107
9 The Art of Texas
118
10 Radical Chic
132
11 Intermission
142
12 Rebirth
160
13 Climax
171
14 The Womans Caucus
193
15 The Dinner Party
211
16 Mimi Versus the Museum
223
17 A Room of Ones Own
233
18 Fire
243
27 Marzio
357
28 Fresh Paint
362
29 Dynamic Pioneers
375
30 A Houston School
390
31 The Big Show
409
Epilogue
421
A Houston Timeline 197285
427
Notes
445
Selected Bibliography
459
Index
463
Copyright

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About the author (2018)

PETE GERSHON is the program coordinator for the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the author of Painting the Town Orange: Houston’s Visionary Art Environments. He resides in Houston.

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