Perhaps the best critic ever to come out of Texas — certainly the wittiest — Dave Hickey will be lecturing March 29 at the Amon Carter Museum in connection with the current exhibition, Intimate Modernism: Fort Worth Circle Artists in the 1940s.
Author of the terrific essay collection, Air Guitar, and an art and literary critic whose work has appeared in such varied publications as Rolling Stone, Art in America, Harper’s and Vanity Fair, Hickey is a native of Fort Worth and a former arts editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He’s currently a professor of modern letters at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. His lecture is titled “Fort Worth: How Cowtown Became a Center for Art in the West.”
The Fort Worth Circle was a loose group of artists and friends, including Bill Bomar, Kelly Fearing, Veronica Helfensteller, Dickson Reeder, Bror Utter and Cynthia Brants who conscientiously broke with the traditions of realism and Texas regionalism. Championing Picasso, Modigliani and Klee among others, the iconoclastic circle did not advance any one style, politics or theory of painting but in general pioneered modern European abstraction and surrealism in Texas. The Carter exhibition features nearly 100 paintings and prints of the group, which was an influential force in area art from the ’40s to mid-’50s.
About the Fort Worth Circle, Hickey has written that it is reassuring “just to know that for one swift decade in this part of the country a group of functioning, contemporary artists who believed in the seriousness of their endeavor, lived and flourished in a community which believed in them, attended their exhibitions, and purchased their work.”
For those sadly unfamiliar with Hickey’s writing and who may wonder at the title “wittiest art critic,” here is he writing in Harper’s about his new home state, Nevada:
The state may be a rough jumble; the library may jangle with the tattoo parlor; Bagelmania-Vegas may jangle with Chicken-Ranch-Pahrump. But it is one culture and thrice blessed — first by volunteer inhabitants who prefer Nevada to the place from whence they fled; twice blessed by being a WASP-deprived environment and the only state in the union that is not run from a white-napkin country club; thrice blessed by being virtually farmer-free, a site upon which the Middle American equation of agricultural drudgery and Christian virtue has no traction, where mercantile virtues triumph and your average Nevadan’s experience of food production is confined to watching the ‘lobster plane’ land at McCarran airport every morning.
Nevada, in a word, is inauthentic. The mise en scene, whether it’s the eloquent desert or the glamorous Strip, is just that, a theatrical setting, an adaptable backdrop before which the theater of human folly is acted out — a usable drama in the midst of which the tricky business of extracting gold from ‘them thar hills’ or ‘them thar tourists’ transpires — and this raw inauthenticity has its virtues. It repels the cozy communitarians, the identity politicians, and the devotees of Jeffersonian agrarian utopianism who make up a large majority of Those Doomed to Be Perpetually Disappointed.”
Hickey’s lecture at the Carter is free — well worth the price! — but visitors are asked to register by calling 817-989-5057.