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COLLECTING ONE OF TEXAS' GREATEST ON CULTURE PLACE T o d a y, t h e b i g g e s t excitement in both the museum world and the art marketplace swirls around contemporary and historic Black artists. Institutions and private collectors alike are laser-focused on seminal figures in the newly minted canon of Black art history, as well as current Black art makers who propel a prescient dialogue about race forward, commenting on and critiquing the African-American experience. Bert Long Jr. (1940-2013) is overdue for broader national recognition. In COURTESY THE ARTIST'S ESTATE AND DEBORAH COLTON GALLERY A RARE BODY OF WORK BY THE LATE TEXAS ARTIST AND ROME PRIZE WINNER BERT LONG JR. IS OFFERED EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH THE ARTIST'S ESTATE VIA HIS LONG-TIME DEALER, DEBORAH COLTON GALLERY. CATHERINE D. ANSPON TELLS WHY THIS TALENT NEEDS TO BE ON YOUR ACQUISITION RADAR. AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY ON CULTURE PLACE. much the same way that Dorothy Hood's limpid color field-meets-surrealist canvases have been rediscovered, now is the moment to take a closer look at Long's four decades at the center of the Houston art world — as well as his trajectory that took him from the Fifth Ward to the American Academy in Rome, from a banquet-chef gig to an all-encompassing life as an artist with dual studios in Texas and Spain. Along the way, the awards piled up, as did his contributions to our Texas cultural landscape. He co-founded Project Row Houses and published the magazine Houston Art Scene. He was a catalyst during the early days of the scene spun around Lawndale Art Center and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; years later, his best buddies were forged from those heady times, James Surls and John Alexander. He exhibited at the MFAH in "Fresh Paint: The Houston School" and was named Texas Artist of the Year in 1990. He also received the rare accolade of a Rome Prize residency (1990-1991) and was collected by important patrons and institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin; and in the private collections of Orange Show founder Marilyn Oshman and Texas Patrons of the Year Anita and Gerald Smith and Poppi Massey. A prolific painter who also often ventured into assemblage sculpture, he taught himself art history through exhaustive museum and book study but lacked a formal art degree. That did not stop Long: During his lifetime, he amassed a resume (which he often carried around to proffer to art critics or collectors) the size of a phone book, bursting with profiles, critical reviews, and invitations to gallery and museum exhibitions — more than 100 in number — that featured his outsized talent. Indeed, Long willed himself to become a patriarch of the Texas art scene and was one of its most original energies. Both Dwell and PaperCity featured Long's reimagined shotgun house in the heart of the Fifth Ward, designed by Brett Zamore. Above all, Long was a vivid presence in my own life. We connected from the day in 1998 when I sighted him, a charismatic presence wearing denim overalls and a bolo-style amulet in the Project Row Houses' installation devoted to his late wife, Connie. We became fast friends. I would often be invited to break bread with the artist at his Fifth Ward home and discuss future ideas and schemes, which were always on the grand scale: a performance artwork spun around an epic dinner party entitled Feast, creating an ad campaign for a luxury retailer where Long's ice sculptures in a vitrine provided an artful backdrop (Continued on page 72) Bert Long Jr.'s Quest, 1983, at Deborah Colton Gallery 70

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