Arts / Galleries

The Return of a Master

James Surls Gets His Own New Place in The Heights

BY // 05.02.16

It’s time. “We’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile. It was time James had a presence again in Houston,” confides Gus Kopriva, a partner in an art venture that proposes a new model for representing a senior master. Kopriva is referring to the mighty James Surls, who’s considered the founder of the Houston contemporary art scene as we know it, and the man who birthed Lawndale. Now the seminal sculptor who hails from Splendora has a permanent showroom in Houston.

A little background: In 2011, Surls took control of his career, left his galleries, and tapped Linda Clarke, former director of the Houston Annenberg Challenge, to coordinate commissions and oversee sales. The arrangement flourished, yet Houston-based Clarke realized that patrons could not always travel to the artist’s Aspen studio. Kopriva entered the equation; the retired engineer from Dow has curated exhibitions for Texas talent around the world, Peru and Germany to India and China, and also organizes monthly exhibitions from Redbud Gallery in the Heights.

He and Clarke are partners in the new endeavor Clarke & Associates Fine Art Consulting, adjoining Redbud in a space formerly occupied by G Gallery (which has now relocated to 9th Street). The expansive, gray-walled 3,500-square-foot interiors in the 1920s-era shopping center — which was once the boat-repair business of Red Ortman, the father of Gus’ wife, artist Sharon Kopriva — make for an ideal backdrop for a rotating series of recent works. Featured are creations executed in metal and wood, the latter Surls’ signature material.

The showroom, handsomely lit and beautifully installed, boasts wall sculptures, mobiles, small objects (a Surls’ “salad” bowl filled with symbolic totems), a commanding drawing, and the pièce de resistance: a suspended torque of a twisted tree that harks back to the sculptor’s early days, in which wood exerted its primacy. Stay tuned this summer: The artist’s Splendora studio north of Houston will be revived by West Texas creatives Jeffrey Wheeler (of Wheeler Brother renown) and Maisie Marie Alford presiding as residents.

James Surls Showroom at Clarke & Associates Fine Art Consulting, 301 E. 11th St., 713.254.2998 (Clarke) or 713.854.4246 (Kopriva), clarkeassoc.com.

James Surls’ sculptures grace the new space in the Heights. (Photo by Max Burkhalter)

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