PaperCity Magazine

October 2019- Houston

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Hood will be one of two headliners, alongside contemporary abstract painter Shane Tolbert, at McClain's Untitled fair booth in Miami. Next spring, expect to see Hood canvases in a prominent New York venue, showcased again through McClain Gallery. Why all this hoopla for a deceased regional painter? The answer is that Dorothy Hood was never merely a Texas painter. She had the ability to go epic with a signature style that paired psychological depth with an amalgamation of color-field abstraction and surrealism honed during her time at the center of the action in Mexico City. Hood, at her best, was every bit the equal of Helen Frankenthaler. One could argue she was often better. If Frankenthaler was the East Coast master of lyrical, powerful ab-ex and color-field painting mined from landscape, then Hood was the Southwest's proponent of a tough yet tender take on living in an environment defined by vastness. A Cinematic Life A Texas-born only child, Hood grew up in a prosperous middle-class family in Houston's Museum District. Her circumstances changed during adolescence, due to her mother's mental illness and bout with tuberculosis, and her parents' divorce. Hood decamped for the East Coast with a Rhode Island School of Design scholarship in 1936, after a teacher at San Jacinto High School submitted a portfolio of drawings to the national scholarship competition. A striking figure in stature, with red-blonde hair, after graduating from RISD she supported herself as a model, moving to NYC and attending the Art Students League. But another world called; she and a couple of pals decamped from New York, motoring in an old roadster to Mexico City. It was 1941, and she never looked back. Her ensuing double decades in Mexico added a formative, seminal layer to the narrative of Dorothy. She interacted with the figures of the day: Pablo Neruda (who penned a poem for the catalog of her first Mexico show), Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (she met her husband, Bolivian conductor and composer José María Velasco Maidana, whose father was vice president of Bolivia, at their compound), and José Clemente Orozco (who opened up his studio to share and daily gave her lunch). Hood's reach back in the day extended from California to New York, including representation in the Whitney and MoMA. When she and Velasco Maidana moved to Houston in 1962, she began teaching at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum school; soon she claimed her place as one of the leaders in a world dominated by big, brash male painters. A vintage photograph in the AMST collection shows her as a member of the Houston Five — the only woman alongside Richard Stout, Dave Hickman, William Anzalone, and Jack Boynton. Thanks to being picked up by gallerist Meredith Long the year she arrived in town, Houston notables became Hood collectors: Dominique and John de Menil, Fayez Sarofim, Nina Cullinan, John O'Quinn (a regular in her studio), Mavis Kelsey Sr., Carol Ballard, Isabel Brown Wilson, Diana and Bill Hobby, and Carolyn Farb. The latter served as associate producer of a 1985 documentary on Hood, The Color of Life, which won the American Film Festival Award in 1987 and was supported by the MFAH. In the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Hood continued to rule the Houston art scene along with fellow painters Dick Wray, Richard Stout, and Early Staley. There was not a major art collector who did not own a Hood — either one of her soaring paintings, which bridged the void and color field; an obsessive drawing with her signature Gothic-Surreal sensibility; or a collage that embraced globalism and sampled world cultures. The end of her life saw a rift with Meredith Long, her staunchest supporter, due to her selling work privately behind his back. Since her death in 2000, Hood has not exactly been forgotten — she's in 30-some American museum collections — yet few of the institutions, aside from the MFAH and AMST, devote wall space to her works. While Hood has been shown by Houston galleries in recent years — in exhibitions at the now shuttered Thom Andriola/New Gallery and with greater success and commitment at Deborah Colton Gallery, as well as group shows at Foltz Fine Art — the opening of "Dorothy Hood: Illuminated Earth" at McClain Gallery signals a new chapter in the artist's reappraisal. Today, with the icebox of art history now being raided and historic talents (especially black and women artists) being celebrated for their accomplishments, Hood's time is incontestably now. "Dorothy Hood: Illuminated Earth," October 12 – December 21, at McClain Gallery; Dorothy Hood works: Opposite page, Untitled (Abstraction), 1950s; this page, from top, Minoan Blue, 1973; Space Signals, 1970s. The artist and husband, José María Velasco Maidana, Houston, early 1970s Dorothy Hood and Velasco Maidana, Bolivia, 1978 77

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