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Arts / Galleries

Drawing Your Attention

Two Texas Artists Work Wonders With Graphite, Command Notice

BY // 02.20.16

Two shows this year made us return to the drawing board and think about the medium in a fresh way. Both artists are intuitive, and idiosyncratic. Each exhibition is among the best of 2016, so far, in Houston. One recently closed. The other remains on view through today, Saturday, February 20, 2016.

Although the aesthetics of each artist couldn’t be more different, there’s an intimacy, sincere stance and a profound connection to family, which their respective ways with graphite address.

One of these artists is a past recipient of a hefty Hunting Art Prize $50,000 purse, and one of Houston’s most respected (yet refreshingly unassuming) talents, an artist’s artist so to speak. The other, based in Austin, deserves to be better known; it would be intriguing to see him step into the limelight or perhaps even attempt transferring his quiet, nuanced vision to large public artwork.

Now we begin with our first talent: A Michael Bise exhibition at Moody Gallery is always an intricately epic occasion. His densely woven lines of graphite come together to tell a story that’s hauntingly biographical, as in the case of a previous series that relayed moments from his own transplant surgery that successfully resulted in the receiving of a new heart.

Always, in year’s past, there was a sense that the viewer via Bise was floating over a scene, observing it from above as an omnipresent onlooker. Now, the master of drawing returns to a previous theme — his evangelical-leaning family, directed by his father, a staunch adherer to a literal interpretation of the Bible. But what is new now is Bise’s perspective in “Born Again,” which also marks Bise’s seventh solo with Moody Gallery. The audience enters the world of familial scenes evoked by each drawing through a literal and metaphorical perspective that is more accessible perhaps than his previous drawing, and also more immediate, hence more impactful.

In contrast to Bise’s densely packed narratives, W. Tucker, or simply Tucker as he is known, is a drawer of economy. Childlike, reedy lines wobble across his surfaces. In the case of Tucker’s recent show at Koelsch Gallery — “In a Quiet Moment”  — some of the mark-making tilted towards the unschooled yet spontaneous drawing of a child, or possibly an outsider artist.

While small-scale drawings in frames paired with ephemera were hung in an understated manner in the main gallery entrance space, the side room, with its site-specific wall drawings, stole the show.

Visiting Tucker during his solitary, nocturnal installation process one evening late during a break from proofing at the office yielded an appreciation for his introspective, intuitive gift for channeling a childlike state. In making a repetitive strand of text phrases, he revealed, he was creating a work that was inspired by his late mother, Mary Jane Tucker, who had recently passed away, especially her interest in creative work and supporting all of his endeavors. (She was a teacher, and as a member of a military family, enjoyed a peripatetic life in many places.)

Tucker confided he would probably end up camping out at the gallery that night in order to complete his room of wall drawings.

When returning a week later to check out the result, the finished drawing made a nice domestic touch in Koelsch’s space — like a kid’s unauthorized crayoning on a living room wall. This classic Montrose bungalow, now turned into a white-cube gallery, was charmingly enlivened by the unexpected touch of a few seemingly unschooled scrawls of purity. In this case, Tucker’s taking up a pencil and drawing with his non-dominant left hand.

While Tucker’s show has since closed at Koelsch (and the colored walls painted over), you can still see Bise’s exhibition at Moody Gallery (through Saturday, February 20, 2016), and both galleries represent the artists year-round and stock available works either on view and/or in the stacks.  

Home, chic home.

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