Dorothy Hood: Is she Texas' greatest painter ever? (Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)
For years, debate has swirled around who should be hailed as Texas’ top 20th-century painter (notwithstanding the Dallas Nine and the great Alexander Hogue). From the middle of the century onward, this contest has been waged in Houston.
In this historic year for women, it’s fitting that the person we nominate for this title is Dorothy Hood (1918 – 2000), who’s at last taking a bigger stage in American art history. The curator, art historian, and author to thank is Houston-based Susie Kalil; the institution responsible is the Art Museum of South Texas (AMST), in Corpus Christi, which has mindfully tended the archive of the late artist.
Hood was a remarkable woman: Rhode Island School of Design-educated, she enjoyed a colorful life in Mexico for double decades as a member of an illustrious circle of writers (Pablo Neruda penned a poem to her), musicians (she married the foremost Bolivian composer of the day, José María Velasco Maidana), and artists (sharing a studio with José Clemente Orozco and meeting her future husband at the casa of Diego Rivera) before she settled in Houston, doing so in 1962.
In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Hood ruled the Houston art scene along with fellow painters (all male) Dick Wray, Richard Stout, and Early Stanley. Since her death, Hood has not exactly been forgotten — she’s in the collection of MoMA and the Whitney, as well as 28 other museums — but she’s been on the back burner while the art world moved on.
With historic female artists being celebrated for their accomplishments, Hood’s time is now. Her canvases soar this fall in a years-in-the-making traveling retrospective at AMST. The 288-page exhibition catalog — gloriously illustrated with the best of Hood’s abstract, color-field, deep-space-evoking canvases — is a fitting companion for the blockbuster, which rumor has it may be traveling to Houston in the coming years.
Take note: AMST is organizing a Houston Collectors Weekend, all about Dorothy, during the run of this show.
“Dorothy Hood: The Color of Being/El Color del Ser,” Thursday, September 29 through January 8, 2017, at Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi. Exhibition catalog: Dorothy Hood: The Color of Being/ El Color del Ser ($45, Texas A&M University Press)