Carnago II, 1994. Acrylic on canvas, 31 x 43 in. (78.7 x 109.2 cm). Private collection
ModernDallas.net repost from my article.
One of my artist friends in Waco told me that the Paul Fontaine retrospective at the Martin Museum of Art was a must see exhibition. So, I found my way to Baylor University to visit their fine arts building which had a theater, the visual arts department, and the Martin Museum. I am baffled by the small size of the museum at such a prestigious and large University like Baylor.
You would think a school seeking to be a tier one school would have a respectably impressive museum. Waco really needs a museum that showcases the culture of central Texas. A free standing building that acts as a beacon, much like the Tyler Museum of Art or the DMA in Dallas. Well, despite the tiny space, the Paul Fontaine show was an interesting glimpse into the color field artists of the High Modernist period.
When I look at purely non-objective paintings on canvas, I tend to focus on just the paint, the texture, or the surface of the canvas. Especially during the Modernist period, abstract artists attempted to create a more universal language that transcended time and space. Fontaine was among this school of thought, but like his contemporaries, his experiences with the places he lived seeped into the work. Maybe more so than other artists who didn’t move around the globe as much as Fontaine, because I can see how his life in each country changed his work dramatically. In Germany, geometric shapes and darker more introspective paintings were produced, whereas, in Mexico his paintings have brighter colors, thicker textures, and less defined shapes. Even with the move to Texas, subtle changes in colors and composition crept in to distinguish a change of his surroundings.
His paintings in the 1980’s were heavily represented. However, I think there was just enough of his body of work to see a great amount of style shift in each period of his life, and this made the show engaging. For me, many contemporary color field painters seem to be playing it safe with Modernist innovations, but Fontaine was in the trenches as one of many vanguards of this kind of abstraction and for that I can appreciate the work he created. I think Fontaine’s Mexico work, with his rhythmic textures repeating across the canvas and the bright cheerful colors caught most of my attention.
It is my understanding that the Martin Museum of Art is in the planning stage to construct their own building, so maybe in a few years Waco will have an art institution that will show how serious Baylor is about their cultural surroundings. A place where people can go to enrich their lives and see more historically significant artists like Paul Fontaine. A book about Fontaine and his work is now available at the Martin Museum of Art along with a reception this month on the 22nd. You have until August 25th to see his Centennial Retrospective.
ModernDallas.net for more images