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She said, “Well after you left we discovered he had not lived in Houston for a full year and that disqualified him for the prize.”

Lester said, “That’s not fair,” and she said, “We’ll make it up to him somehow.”

So one day the phone rang and Ruth Uhler said, “Would you like to have a one-man show in the museum?”

And I said, “Is the Pope Catholic?”

So I had the first show. It was called a corridor show, and it was upstairs. I didn’t have much stuff…mostly washes from Paris because I’d just gotten back from Paris. Nina Cullinan bought one, so it was a great success. That was the beginning of my little career being launched and realizing I could make sort of a living. I had another job—I was a draftsman for an oil company by day, but was painting by night. But that gave me the confidence to quit that job and paint full time. And that was all due to luck. If I had just won the prize I would [not] have had a one-man show, and that was such a prestigious thing.

Selling shares

I needed to go to Europe (in ’53 and ’54) and didn’t have any money, so I developed this idea of selling shares in myself. I wrote up this document and printed it on blueprint paper and sort of padded the edges so that it would look like a document. It outlined what I wanted to do: go to Europe, paint, bring back paintings and guarantee everyone who bought a $50 unit one painting and one copy of any lithos I did while I was there.

I went…stayed in Europe 14 months on $1800…and while I was there bought a car for $400, then sold it for $400! I lived in Barcelona for $25 a month in a penthouse—couldn’t spend a dollar for a meal, that sort of thing.

When I got back, we had a party at which I was to deliver all the stuff. So we put 36 numbers in a hat and had the people that had bought shares [draw]. A plastic surgeon that I knew bought five, and my cousin Lucille bought two. Henri Gadbois was another artist…his wife Leila McConnell bought two. Bill Condon bought two, I believe, and Nina Cullinan bought two. Anyhow, they were all there—oh, and Jane Owen was one of those. Somebody put the word out to Time Life magazine that it was going to be one of those deals where very wealthy ladies in hopsack clothing were going to be there. Of course they all showed up dressed normally, but the photographers were there and interviewed extensively…but it was never printed. Some other story bumped it. But I have all the photographs: pictures of all these people choosing their paintings.

Galleries on the go

In about ’53 Bute Gallery moved from downtown to River Oaks, and they were doing very well. River Oaks Shopping Center was showing good signs of being a deal, so James Bute took a space out there. It was a tight little neighborhood, and the restaurant of choice was One’s a Meal. We were there every day for breakfast—it was a little artistic nucleus. But Bute never paid Ben DuBose any money. He was on a salary far below his level of service to the company. I went to Japan and around the world for two years while they were there at West Gray, and when I came back from Japan in about 1960 I talked Ben into opening the gallery on Kirby. I had put up the money, and Ben was the expertise. He announced to Bute one day that he was leaving the gallery and opening his own and they closed the doors, locked up all records so nobody could steal the addresses and all that. They fired Ben summarily on the spot…so it took us about two months to get the other building ready and open the gallery.

Ben had gotten a pretty good group of 12 to 15 artists. Other than myself there was Herb Mears, Charles Schorre, Charles Tedwood, Lamar Briggs, who was working just down the street at Evans-Monical…and then there were several women. Patty Waldrip Taylor was one of the best, one of the biggest.

Other galleries opened. Meredith Long Gallery opened out on Westheimer next to the railroad track near what is now Highland Village. Artists like Dan Windgren and others were his mainstay people. There was the Louisiana Gallery over on Louisiana near Brennan’s, and Kiko Gallery opened down on Lubbock—it was a very good gallery, very good—next to Alliance Française near the middle of the block. Parker Cushman had a very nice gallery down on Montrose off of Westheimer, about where Numbers night club is now. Parker was importing Paris School stuff.

Those were the big days; that’s when the gallery business really started to flourish. They had great openings. They were showing international stuff. The openings themselves were on Fridays primarily, and were the social event of the week. That was where you saw and met everybody. They were good and they a lot of fun and very active. The shows were covered by the press—Maxine Mesinger in the Post—and it was very exciting.

David Adickes, Christmas 1954. Courtesy of the Artist.

Love street light circus

I opened Love Street Light Circus and Feel Good Machine in ’67—it was the hottest psychedelic club in town. It was down on Allen’s Landing in an old white building; a night spot for kids. It was a big room with giant mattresses and hundreds of colored pillows, and everyone would lie horizontal looking at the light show. This was the same year that the whole thing started in San Francisco with the Philmore Auditorium…I was out there that New Year’s Eve of ’66 and just fell in love with that projected light of psychedelic light shows. It was the hottest thing going—it went wildly one summer and we tried to stay open through the next year, but the following summer I opened one just like it in San Antonio for the Hemisfair ’68 expo, and it failed. The first band we had in Houston was called The Red Crayola and they were just a bunch of kids from Rice, but we had some of the big bands. Anyone who got close to it will never forget it. There are people I have run into today who remember.

How it felt

We were young. If I were young today, that age, I’d probably feel that it was the greatest time…the biggest thing going. Going to Europe was hot stuff for everybody in the summer in those years. So they got interested in European art. A lot of people brought back French stuff and art galleries just popped up because that’s what was happening. Everybody was building new houses then…the post-war boom was in full swing and people were building houses in Tanglewood…Meyerland…and they all needed paintings. It became a hot business then.

David Adickes was interviewed on August 1, 1997. Listen to the interview here .

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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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