Wall of Blight

Sean Scully's paintings at the Fort Worth Modern are retrograde

The maps represent a three-decade period in Texas of rapid urban development based on the railways. From 1870 to 1904 Texas shifted from 28th to first in the nation in the number of miles of railroad track, with 10,000 miles of track laid in the 34-year span. Fowler's "Decatur, Texas" (1886) includes small vignettes of monumental buildings suggesting that architecture as well as town development is a source of marketing, advertisement and, as a result, burgeoning urban pride. Of the 11 wanderer-artists who drew and published the views, three figure most prominently in the show: two Germans, Augustus Koch and Henry Wellge, and the native Pennsylvanian Fowler. Theirs was a democratic trade, in that one could seemingly teach himself how to draw perspective maps. Included in the show are the tricks of such trade, the how-to manuals from the period: John Gadsby Chapman's The American Drawing Book: A Manual for the Amateur and Basis of Study for the Professional Artistand Appleton's Cyclopedia of Drawing: Designed as a Text-book for the Mechanic, Architect, Engineer, and Surveyor.

These books and the mass-produced quality of the work lend a sense of autonomy and cool pragmatism to the exhibition that is sorely missing in the ego-centered Sean Scully: Wall of Light.

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