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David Adickes (left) with Herb Mears at Studio School of Contemporary Art on Truxillo Street in Houston, 1951. Photo by Jim Erwin. Courtesy of David Adickes

What galleries?

Well, there really weren’t any galleries. I can’t remember any galleries except Ben’s [DuBose] at the Bute Paint Company. The company owned the whole square block, and Ben’s portion of it was about half the block, selling paint. Inside there was a room that was empty so he decided to make into a gallery, and he showed works by—I’m not sure—I know Dave [Adickes], and maybe Bill Condon. Not me—not at that time. I didn’t meet Ben for a year or two. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. I finally went with Ben when he moved out to the River Oaks Shopping Center. They took two bays in that shopping center and one was for the paint business. My first show with him was in 1954.

Ben got the idea that a frame shop would be a good thing for a multitude of reasons; most of the people who bought at the paint store were contractors. They’d buy ten gallons at a time or something—so at the front end, people would come in and select the type of paint they wanted, then hey, [the frames] were right there. People were coming in and getting frames and it became a good business. Ben died in the 70s. He was an extremely impulsive guy and there were occasions where you’d bring some work in and he’d get so excited he’d take it in the back and have them frame it right then! He’d call somebody in River Oaks and they’d come over and buy it that day. It was just really something. He’d never say, “Oh, that’s a beautiful painting…I love that painting.” He’d never say a damn thing, but he was crazy about selling work and manipulating customers, you know. He’d grab them by the arm and say, “Listen—if you don’t take this you’re going to regret it forever. This is a really important piece for you to have. This will change your life.”

He had studied psychology in college—not art—and so it was funny. He was marvelously successful and he really wasn’t interested in the art scene in New York or Paris. He was interested in the people here in Houston, which was lovely for us. We were youngsters and all kind of broke—and he made it an interesting time. We routinely dropped in there to see what was going on and to have a chat; there were always people coming in there.

Around that time it seems to me that Meredith Long expanded or moved into that building that he did. That’s the only two galleries that I know of. There may have been some little ones. Kiko and the David Gallery, they all came later.

Herb Mears at the Museum School of Fine Arts, c. 1960. Photo by Hickey and Robinson. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Archives.

Contemporary arts association

The CAA built this building on some property that the family that owned the big lumber yard owned…it was on West Dallas and Bagby. That’s where I met Ava Jean, and they had wonderful shows. There were only two employees and that was Ava Jean and Frank [Dolejska]. They had wonderful shows, all put on by volunteer help. We had a show—Miró and Sandy Calder came. I have pictures of Ava Jean and Calder dancing. I mean, it was great. And [there was a]Max Ernst show—a terrific show. They had Art in Nature, one of the most thrilling shows imaginable, just a wonderful show of things—showing how formations of rock or plant life were actually the inspiration for artwork over the centuries. It was just a terrifically interesting show.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Houston reflections: art in the city, 1950s, 60s and 70s. OpenStax CNX. May 06, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10526/1.2
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