Allan Houser would have been 100 years old this year, and in recognition of this centennial, museums and institutions across Oklahoma are celebrating his work.
Jackson Rushing, the Eugene B. Adkins Presidential Professor of Art History at the University of Oklahoma, describes Houser as a “a distinguished painter and sculptor and draftsman, a Chiricahua Apache modern artist who many people would agree was one of the founding fathers of Native American modernism at mid-century.”
Houser’s sculptures abound in Oklahoma, with one adorning the standard state car tag, but his drawings are not as well known.
When Rushing arrived on the OU campus in the summer of 2008, he shared his vision for the Houser centennial.
“I went to Ghislaine D'Humiere, who was at that time the director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, and suggested that we should do a Houser centennial exhibition about drawings,” Rushing said.
D’Humiere saw it as a way for a number of museums and organizations to work together in terms of publicity, marketing and educational opportunities.
“It’s turned out to be incredible. It’s a wonderful synthesis of a number of different institutions. The Gilcrease has a great exhibition up right now, the Oklahoma History Center has one opening soon, so it’s been exciting to see all of these museums and institutions working collaboratively,” Rushing said.
Houser’s sculptures are the main focus of the other exhibitions, so why an exhibition on his drawings?
“I wanted to give the audience a side of Houser and his creative output that they might not have been so familiar with,” Rushing said. “I knew that there were thousands of unpublished drawings in his estate in Santa Fe.”
Plus, Rushing said big sculpture shows are expensive and complicated. He wanted to find something “manageable” but exciting for the audience.
“Most of the drawings have never been published before, most of them have never been exhibited before,” Rushing said. “It’s the only large scale exhibition of his drawings that's ever been organized.”
Rushing said that in the last years of his life, Houser was focused heavily on drawing.
“He wanted very much to have a major exhibition and book of his drawings. Unfortunately his untimely death from cancer kept that from happening,” Rushing said. “So this exhibition is not only part of a celebration of his centennial but it’s the realization of a dream deferred.”
Rushing will present a lecture at 7 p.m. Friday, March 7, followed by an opening reception at 8 p.m. Both events are complimentary and open to the public. The show will be on display until May 18.
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