Guys will be guys

There's art for the Everyman at two local galleries

In a one-man show over at Edith Baker Gallery, another Texan has graced this city with undeniably impressive work in a "Well, I'm back now" display. Painter Roger Winter, veteran and almost-fixture of the area (he taught art at SMU for 26 years) tried to freshen his perspective by moving to Maine, and ended up pretty much hating the change of scenery (remember that flora-and-fauna threat?). Up there in the merciless cold, his once-warm, painterly landscapes took on a creepy, isolated quality with nearly surrealistic overtones--a red fox arched in mid-air over a snowy field, a tiny set of flames in the distance, a pronounced angel swooping through the stark and empty sky. Mesmerizing work to be sure, but coming from the imagination of a considerably homesick man.

He's since moved back to a Texas ranch, and his newest paintings reflect a joyous relief in these familiar, scruffy horizons: wide-screen visions of greased railroad tracks that underline a string of rural homes; a lavender-red sunset framed by telephone poles and their gracefully swaying connective wires; hell, even a trio of glassy-eyed cows nosing up against a barbed-wire fence to get a better look at you as you pass them from your car. His smaller works, jewel-like in their intense, precise application of color, seem to glow from within like a fire opal. But his monumental works, "Union Square" in particular, are his masterworks, and several are on display here.

Winter spends part of his year (presumably this wretchedly boiling part) in Manhattan, and the giant work buzzes off the wall with Winter's depiction of Midtown noises and smells and textures. From 10 feet back, the painting nearly comes off as a crystal-clear photograph, but up close, an Impressionist quality comes to fore: dappled, rhythmic, gestural. Winter paints from photos he's taken, and he can take time to inject any work with heightened, subjective light-play.

In fact, the small companion series taken from his Union Square visits are really a set of snapshots--close-up and cropped glimpses of a mangy mutt, a lone bag lady, a young coed emerging from the cover of a newsstand. Without a doubt, that was a cold day in the Square, brisk and windy in the shade, yet everywhere the sun hits, there's a calm, skin-soothing warmth.

Impressively, for a regional artist painting regional subject matter, Winter deftly avoids the unfortunate cliches of much Southwestern landscape art--his visions pack a knowing, sophisticated, visceral observation that seems more akin to Chuck Close, Richard Estes, and Lucian Freud.

Welcome home, Mr. Winter.

One more thing
At the MAC on Wednesday, July 8, at 7pm, art critic Charles D. Mitchell will lead a panel discussion titled "The State of Installation Art, Regionally and Nationally." According to the MAC press release, Mitchell and others from the local art scene will discuss the process of installation, artists who employ such methods, its impact, etc. It's free, and anyone who digs the Art Guys, Good/Bad, Connemara and the like may want to check this out. Call (214) 953-1212.

The Art Guys are at the Barry Whistler Gallery through July 25; call (214) 939-0242; Roger Winter is at the Edith Baker Gallery through July 17; call (214) 855-5101.

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