PaperCity Magazine


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 57 of 135

Artworks Exclusively Available on for high jewelry, and an endgame for a massive Vegas-style ice spectacle combining performance and a multi- ton ephemeral sculpture that would be wildly embraced by the public and enchant a broad audience. Long passed away in 2013, and our art world still feels diminished. As a tribute in his honor, two weeks after his death, The Menil Collection screened John Guess Jr.'s biographic film Bert, narrated by John Alexander. That same year, a definitive book came out: Bert Long: The Artist's Journey, written by a former Rice University professor, the late Thomas McEvilley. Since Long's death, Deborah Colton Gallery has represented the estate and kept the artist front and center with inclusion in two art fairs (most recently, the 2014 edition of the Dallas Art Fair) and seven gallery exhibitions, including the now-on-view "20 in 20: Part 2." The gallery also collaborated with the Houston Museum of African American Culture on a museum retrospective for Long in 2019, "Riding the Tiger: The Art of Bert Long, Jr., which saw the exhibition's title piece — arguably his magnum opus — the painting Riding the Tiger, 2000, acquired by Houston art patrons Craig and Tatiana Massey. Emblematic of his tenacious approach to life as an artist, Long said of his self- portrait, "Every day we wake up, and we get on this tiger. It's on fire. There is no ground below it. The ocean is above it … The tiger has ferocious claws and a mouth full of teeth that will hurt you. Life is not easy. Life will chew you up, claw you up, set you on fire, toss you off a ravine, and pound your ass. And what you have to do every day is wake up and say okay, I'm ready to get on that tiger!" Colton tells PaperCity: "Bert Long believed that as an artist, he had an obligation to enhance people's lives through his art. Having been included in prominent exhibitions and recognized throughout Texas, nationally, and internationally, Bert Long did accomplish much of his objectives during his lifetime. The power of his art has yet to reach its full potential though, and I am confident that his impact will reach far beyond what [even] he had dreamed." THE CULTURE PLACE COLLECTION For Culture Place, Colton, in tandem with the artist's estate, selected a ten- piece portfolio encompassing the artist's major themes about growing up Black in America and carving out a life as a creator. Key works from Long's most significant decades are represented mirroring the topics that the artist held to be the most urgent — concerns that still powerfully speak to our time. The earliest piece in the collection curated for Culture Place is The Force or Bottom Bound. Dating from 1977 and displaying the image of a storm- tossed clipper ship —which we read as bearing a cargo of slaves — the canvas is painted in a tight realist style with an exquisite, almost ghostly surface that harkens to 19th-century techniques and aesthetics. Colton says of the canvas: "It's known as one of Bert's very first works ever exhibited and is a very important painting. The sculpture Quest, 1983, highlights Long's gift for assemblage. "Quest has been in many institutional and museum exhibitions [as well as published in Texas Artists Today] and is a trademark work of Bert's," Colton says. Look closely at Quest, and the viewer will discover Long's high/low universe, with offerings attached to a suitcase traveling on a pair of feet; the valise has burst open to reveal an array of worldly contents, from a Diner's Club credit card, steering wheel, and keys to liquor bottles, orange peel, a frying pan, a bone fragment, harmonica, and Long's own publication, Houston Art Scene. From three decades later comes Happiness, 2010, an unsettling portrait that can be read as a likeness of the artist, delicately delineated with thin washes of color, contrasted with its robust, handmade Hydrostone frame bearing text. The face in Happiness is anything but, with eyes crookedly placed upon the head and an expression of unease. Discover the complete Bert Long Jr. estate portfolio at Deborah Colton Gallery exclusively through Culture Place. Concurrently, see — and acquire — a curated exhibition of important Black contemporary artists offered by Culture Place galleries, live January 20 through February 3. Bert Long Jr., circa 2008, in his Field of Vision, 2000, at Project Row Houses, Houston (Continued from page 34) Bert Long Jr.'s Happiness, 2010, at Deborah Colton Gallery 36

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - PaperCity_Houston_January_2021