Preview | “South and North of the Border” options separate however associated reveals from Houston artists


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Houston’s architecture is not designed to last. We get nostalgic about the Shamrock Hotel with its star-studded opening party and huge swimming pool, eagerly watching the flounder of Astrodome and Magic Island in architectural purgatory, and grateful that the 1915 Texaco building was converted into a luxurious high-rise. Even the flood-prone spaghetti warehouse seems to be saved.

But most of our iconic structures will not stand the test of time. Aside from photos, our only memory of the iconic witch hat house is the Victorian-era roof that has been converted into a dog park in the sixth ward.

It turns out that early Houston artists have documented Houston’s landscape all along. And now we can see more than 80 works from “South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Houston” from 1852.

“There are some that show certain buildings from the 1850s; those buildings have long since disappeared. Most of the work is from the 20th century,” says Randy Tibbits, coordinator of the Houston Early Texas Art Group, a group that co-sponsors the exhibition with the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texan Art and the two venues.

“”[It shows] The development of the city as artists have seen it, “says Tibbits.” You look at something and decide how you want to present it. “

No mattress shop in sight.  Jack Pagan's Montrose Boulevard, 1942, can be seen in

No mattress shop in sight. Jack Pagan’s Montrose Boulevard, 1942, is on view from August 16 to November 24 in the Heritage Society Museum’s gallery in South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Houston.

Photo by R. Tibbits

Tibbits says the work shows Houston progress, but also captures a sense of loss. It’s hard to imagine that Montrose Boulevard, with its narrow streets, clutter of neon signs, and a few too many mattress stores, would look like the Jack Pagan scene from the early 1940s.

“The Montrose Boulevard scene is like 1942, but even then it has a touch of nostalgia. I think the artist knew it wouldn’t be forever,” says Tibbits. “People will see the tremendous change in this city in terms of the skyline; it has skyrocketed.” (The youngest painting in the exhibition is from the early 1980s.)

The exhibit is shown along with a separate but related exhibit, “South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Mexico”. Together, this makes the largest exhibition of Houston historical art ever shown. Items have been loaned from nearly 25 lenders, including the Rosenberg Library and Bryan Museum in Galveston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Rice University, the Houston Public Library, and the Heritage Society.

Themes include the Houston Ship Channel, Refineries, Main Street, the Esperson Building, Buffalo Bayou, the downtown skyline, and cultural scenes like a farmers market and visiting circus.

“Even Ginger Berni [collections curator at The Heritage Society] said that when she saw the works, she was ‘blown away’, “says Tibbits.” And that’s her life when you look at Houston’s historical artifacts. To see the great number and range of visions of Houston. “

“The artists help us to get this vision of what the city was, what it is and what it can be,” says Tibbits.

The Houston Paints Mexico exhibition will be mounted in a separate location and will show more than 60 objects from 1905 to the early 1980s, many of them by the same artists in the Houston Paints Houston exhibition.

catacombs [Night Club], Mexico City, by Mildred Wood Dixon Sherwood, 1951, can be seen in

catacombs [Night Club], Mexico City, by Mildred Wood Dixon Sherwood, 1951, can be seen from August 25 to November 10 in the Julia Ideson building in “South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Mexico”.

Photo by R. Tibbits

The exhibition shows how long Houston artists have been closely associated with trips to Mexico to present their vision of Mexico – albeit from the point of view of a North American tourist – and to ignore the idea that Mexico should be perceived as a negative entity.

“It was only in the last ten to 15 years that the idea that Mexico was scary came up. I think it’s getting less scary now,” says Tibbits. “But there was a time when [early Houston artist] Grace Spaulding John went to Mexico alone with her young children. “

“Mexico has never been an enemy; it is a place. Only recently has it been viewed as an enemy,” Tibbits adds.

We will see works by Mildred Wood Dixon Sherwood (who passed away in June), Frank Reed, Bill Condon, Grace Spaulding John and Dorothy Hood, the scenes of flower sellers, the Saltillo cemetery and destination cities like Guanajuato, Mexico City and San Mateo .

“Houston is a city that looks to the future and at the same time finds out what is unique about Houston,” says Tibbits. “The art scene here wasn’t huge. In the early days there weren’t hundreds or thousands of [artists]. This is our job; It’s unique to Houston. We have an art history. “

Untitled [Guanajuato drawing], by Bill Condon, 1957, can be seen in

Untitled [Guanajuato drawing], by Bill Condon, 1957, is on view from August 25th to November 10th in the Julia Ideson building in South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Mexico.

Photo by R. Tibbits

Tibbits points out that the exhibits are in harmony with other regional shows that are helping to raise the attention of early Houston artists, meaning it’s time to move out of the classroom and into the galleries. The MFAH is showing “40 Years of Discovery: Gifts from Clint Willour” until October 14th. The Beaumont Art Museum in South Texas is showing “A Feeling at Home: The Art of Richard Stout,” the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum’s artwork through September 2nd. The gallery contains cotton-growing prints by Merritt Mauzey, and William Reaves | there is always something to see Sarah Foltz art.

“South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Houston” is scheduled for August 16 through November 24 at the Heritage Society Museum Gallery, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. 1100 Bagby, 713-655-1912,, $ 2 to $ 5.

“South and North of the Border: Houston Paints Mexico” is scheduled for August 25 through November 10 at the Houston Public Library, Julia Ideson Building, and Tuesday and Wednesday 10 am to 6 pm, Thursday 10 am to 5 am from 10 am open until 5am on Fridays and Saturdays, 550 McKinney, 832-393-1662,, free.

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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who loves to cover the vibrant arts and culture scene in the Houston area, bringing creatives together with Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.

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