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The Concrete Cowboy

How much do I love stories about David Adickes, famed local sculptor of giant Presidential heads? Enough so that two of my friends were kind enough to forward me that link (thanks, Ellen and Erica!).

Texas sculptor David Adickes looms large in the art world — and for no small reason. His gigantic concrete statues of historical figures have become tourist attractions from South Dakota to Virginia to his home state of Texas.

But as he celebrates his 79th birthday this week, Mr. Adickes is feeling mortal. “I don’t have that many productive years left,” he says matter-of-factly. So he is in a rush to round out his colossal legacy.

Near his studio in a warehouse on the edge of downtown Houston, he has bought several vacant lots bordering freeways, perfect for his very public style of art.

On one lot, he’s erecting 36-foot-tall statues of the Beatles. On another, he plans huge busts of four Texas and national historic figures, which he’ll call “Mount Rush Hour.”

“You’ll be able to see it coming and going for miles,” he says with unabashed delight.

Excellent. Looks like I need to drive by again. Anyone up for another excursion into Large Statue Photoblogging? Leave a comment and let me know.

There’s always someone to criticize a visionary:

Mr. Adickes’s statues don’t bring him much approval in the world of serious art. The sculptor’s skillful, Titan-sized likenesses of historical figures may have a big “gee-whiz” factor, but they’re of “minimal aesthetic interest,” says University of Kansas professor of art history David Cateforis. He likens Mr. Adickes’s statues to such artifacts of roadside Americana as the 80-foot-high Uniroyal tire outside Detroit.

Pfui, I say. If you can’t find something to like about giant Presidential heads, then I can’t help you.

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8 Comments

  1. Heh, we’re in town soon. I’ll see what Ginger thinks…

  2. matth says:

    Sounds like fun to me.

  3. Charles Hixon says:

    Adickes need to hurry up and do one of David Cateforis.

  4. Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible says:

    It could be that the monumentality of Mr. Adickes’s art peppering a landscape may come close to the effect and perhaps some meaning of Christo’s monumental umbrella art in landscape. Monumentalism is its own impact.

    Of course, there would be differences in that Mr. Adickes’s larger than life presidential busts, like much of portraiture art in history, or more recent abstract corporate art, is an easier art of tribute. He takes less risk; though as you mention, there is always the risk of an unhappy art critic.

    However, to get to the greatest art there often is an element of challenge. Art should burden itself to engage and challenge the observer, the culture, the times. And like a great novel, if very powerful, art should move a person or move events from one place to another, literally changing the person and changing the times.

  5. Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible says:

    But, please pardon me as I have not yet seen the heads close up. And, there is also great portraiture art which may seemingly be an easier art of tribute, but is not.

    Are the faces symmetrical in expression? If not, then you have complex emotions (like the Mona Lisa), perhaps full of even contradictory states of emotion or thought. Asymmetrical expressions can indicate the subject’s conscious presentation and a very different unconscious truer state. Did the artist capture a face that has its own veneer?

    Is the face though of an individual, somehow universal? Does the face carry the weight of an archetype of an idea, like power or abuse or some aspect of the times during which the person lived?

    I am sure there is much more to this. And, I should not say without seeing the art. But, since Dr. David Susuki reported a study that indicated what you prefer artistically and politically is genetic, really no one can tell another what each person should prefer.

  6. Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible says:

    But what you prefer can be more or less moved by ideas in words and images, cirumstances, feelings, engagement, more…

    Surely, one of the purposes of this site…

  7. Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible says:

    Of course, Abstract Art Is Great Art. Also, an artist does not have to create a new type of art to perform at exquisite, achingly beautiful, or unsettlying levels in existing forms.

    I just sometimes wonder; if current abstract artists with all their visual and intellectual talent would for a while turn to stories (memes), needed stories of and for our times, it would be great. It would be taking on the burden of interpreting our own selves rooted in current events and history.

    The early abstract artists were pioneers taking heaps of criticism for what they created, for their influence on other artists and for the very meaning of abstract to a society, an unknowable image and symbol for the times.

    from:
    http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/rebels/painters.htm

    “Yet for all, as Mark Rothko eloquently postulated, “art was not about an experience, but was itself the experience.” As with the poets of the period who challenged accepted literary standards to envelop their personal experiences within new formats, the painters of the 1950s created unique and distinctive images by merging their private states of imagination and feeling with innovative compositional structures.”

    Maybe after 50 years it can be time for an art of experience again. Time to lead to fill the need for more reality, to uncensor the censored, to arrive like science to try to know the knowable and effect change that enhances the survivability of all of us.

    from:
    http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/rebels/painters.htm

    “Rebel Painters of the 1950s”

    In the years following the end of World War II, a small group of American painters living in New York seized the spotlight of artistic innovation–which for the past century had focused primarily on Paris–and rose to preeminence in the national and international art world. “Rebel Painters of the 1950s” highlights those artists–among them Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still-who challenged the aesthetic establishment and created the style of painting known today as Abstract Expressionism. In addition to these individuals and other artists in their circle who comprised the first generation of the New York School, “Rebel Painters of the 1950s” also provides portraits of the critics and writers, notably Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Thomas Hess, who articulated the significance of this artistic movement, and the dealers, such as Peggy Guggenheim, Betty Parsons, Charles Egan, Samuel Kootz, and Sidney Janis, who afforded patronage and public access to the work.

    Like any historical phenomenon, Abstract Expressionism defies precise definition. Even the term itself is subject to debate. “Action painting,” “American-type painting,” and the “New York School” are phrases often used synonymously, although for most scholars and the public, Abstract Expressionism remains the most convenient and instantly recognizable umbrella under which to discuss the collective qualities of advanced American art at the midpoint of the twentieth century. Moreover, while the artists subsequently labeled Abstract Expressionists frequently resisted categorization and often stressed the philosophical and formal distinctions among themselves, there is nevertheless a consensus among scholars that Abstract Expressionism was a cohesive intellectual and artistic experience. It possessed a geographical center–New York; the individuals affiliated with it knew each other and frequently interacted; and, most important, they shared a common approach to making art, even though the appearance of their paintings varied widely, from the intensely gestural to the highly restrained.

    Those associated with Abstract Expressionism were linked by their rejection of both social realism and geometric abstraction, two dominant strains in American art in the 1930s, and by their interest in aspects of European-based Cubism and Surrealism. For them, art was no longer about copying forms in nature but was the expression of intangible ideas and experiences. For some artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline, the subject of art was autobiographical and emerged from the sheer act of making a painting. For others, among them Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, the motivation was a search for the sublime. Yet for all, as Mark Rothko eloquently postulated, “art was not about an experience, but was itself the experience.” As with the poets of the period who challenged accepted literary standards to envelop their personal experiences within new formats, the painters of the 1950s created unique and distinctive images by merging their private states of imagination and feeling with innovative compositional structures.

    more…
    http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/rebels/painters.htm

  8. Phyllis says:

    Hello,I am trying to locate a large cowboy statue,looks like it may be made of concrete. Ant help you can give me is GREATLY!!! appreciated. Thank you