Five (not so) Touchable Artworks at the Nasher's David Bates Retrospective

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

There's a cool museum collaboration happening between Dallas' Nasher Sculpture Center and Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum and it's in the name of a local artist. Painter, sculptor and sketch artist David Bates spent the last 40 years capturing the spirit of South in his varied mediums. Both exhibits opened this weekend, so I popped into the Nasher and spent about an hour observing the abstract facial features of his self-portraits, the floral still lifes that appear sharp to the touch, the nudes that very obviously recall pieces by Picasso and Matisse. And no, you can't touch the art, but his multi-layered wall reliefs and textured sculptures might make you impulsively reach out your fingers.

Self Portrait with a Hat One of the recurring themes in Bates' work is his own face. Of course, it is an abstracted version of himself, with glaring eyes and an angular face. From a distance, his self-portrait (above) looks like a flat painting on a canvas, but as you approach it, it becomes clear that it is actually stacked blocks of metal and wood painted in shades of blue and brown.

Magnolia I stood in front of this piece for a very long time, unable to quite understand what was so captivating about the shades of gray. At any moment, I expected the painting to bloom into color. It didn't, but I did learn that this gray scale technique is known as grisalle.

Female Head - R.P. If there's a defining quality to Bates' work it is this sense that things are unfinished. Certain pieces makes viewers feel as though they caught the artist halfway through a piece, even though its placement in a museum signals that this is the finished product. His work in white plaster makes me think of a maquette, or a sculptural first draft. It provokes the question, When is art really finished? With the follow-up question, Can I touch it?

Venus III His bronze nude series draws very clear inspiration from Matisse. Only less polished and more touchable.

Woodpeckers If you've exhausted the ground level galleries, head downstairs to see another full room of Bates' sculptures, paintings, sketches and more. Before you head to the cafe for a glass of wine or call it a day, don't miss these cute red woodpeckers tucked underneath the stairs.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.