Stout returns ‘home’

Richard Stout. “Passion (triptych), 1957, oil on canvas, 71 x 74 in., Collection of David Ellis, Fort Worth, Texas

AMSET hosts exhibition by influential Beaumont artist

American art in the 1950s exploded as works from abstract expressionists such as Pollack and Rothko made their way around Europe, exposing new audiences to new types of expression in painting that had never achieved before in figural works. Bold colors and unexpected juxtapositions of form and movement found in these abstract works paved a way for painters to more closely represent feelings and emotions. This new type of expression resonated with the Texas artists Richard Stout, who, like his contemporaries in New York, found abstraction as the best means to paint the intangibility of memories. The Art Museum of Southeast Texas has organized a traveling retrospective of 44 works by Richard Stout which opened on Sept. 29.

Art Museum of Southeast Texas curator Sarah Beth Wilson works to install “Sense of Home,” an exhibition of work by Beaumont-native Richard Stout., on display through Nov. 26.

While Richard Stout has established his career in Houston, his roots are in Beaumont and it is fitting that the retrospective is called “Sense of Home”. In fact, Beaumont Art Museum (AMSET’s former moniker) hosted an exhibition of works by a 17 year-old Stout, making him the youngest artist to ever have a solo show at the museum, said curator Sarah Beth Wilson. He was born in Beaumont in 1934 and lived there until he received a scholarship to attend the School of Art at the Art Institute of Chicago earning his Bachelors of Fine Arts. He returned to Texas to continue his studies and received his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Texas. From 1959 – 1996, Stout taught at various art institutions in Houston, with most of his career at the University of Houston where he taught from after his graduation from UT through his retirement.

Works like “Cave” and “Flowers” from 1957 present huge, 50” x 50” canvases smeared with vibrant patches of oil paint contrasted with muted tones applied in large gestural strokes. “Cave” appears not unlike a cave, offering viewers a colorful interior view abstracted by the clouds of forgotten, primal memories. This painting forms a triptych with “Flowers” and “Passion”, which match the intensity of colors in “Cave” and hint at their subject matter with white zips of oil paint. Such expressionistic works resonated with collectors and have been in private collections for years. “Sense of Home” will be the first time in a long time that many of these works will be seen publically, which will allow for new dialogue between his older and more recent works, said Wilson.

“From Richard’s perspective, it is the first time in years he has seen his own work and hung publically with a survey of the body of his work,” Wilson said. “Many of the large pieces have been statement pieces in people’s homes for all these years.”

In addition to the colorful, abstract canvases popular with collectors of mid-century Texas art, Stout’s body of work expands beyond representations of feelings and emotions featuring many interior scenes, such as “To Thebes” (1995), which presents a foggy memory of an entryway into a home. Like the abstract works, colors appear in patches of darker tones with pops of washed out color but with recognizable features like a rug, doorways and outside light illuminating the scene, the painting appears as a blur, giving a hazy effect reminiscent of a hot Texas day.

“Richard has always had an interest in home, a sense of home whether it applies to his memories and family history, and even landscape,” Wilson said. “What is interesting about this work is even though there is span of years between the works and style shifts, you can still see this continuity in the works. We can have a work hanging from the 50s or 60s hanging next to a piece from last year and there is still this cohesiveness coming from this same artist on his same path.”

Stout’s later work includes sculpture formed from bronze and mixed-media pieces to mirror some of the abstract forms in his earlier paintings. The smaller scale of these works encourages collectors to house their sculptures on bookshelves and mantels in their homes. Stout has a history of showing his artwork in his own home for house exhibitions, which Wilson aims to emulate in this retrospective at AMSET.

“He has this attention to memory and eye for detail that really plays out in the works he is creating,” she said. “He recalls his past and his home, but he also has this acute understanding with where he is going with his art.”

“Sense of Home” will run through Nov. 26 at AMSET, 500 Main St. in downtown Beaumont. After AMSET, the show will travel to Corpus Christi and finish in late 2018 at University of Houston, Downtown.

The artist will be in attendance at the opening as well as will be the guest of artist at AMSET’s thirtieth anniversary gala on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Accompanying the retrospective is a monograph of Stout’s work throughout his career which is published by Texas A&M Press and features essays and large color plates of his work from the last six decades.

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Story by Caitlin Duerler, ISSUE staff writer