at Martin Museum of Art through august 25
by Todd Camplin
Bus Tour to Baylor University Martin Museum, Exhibition opening June 22
One of my artist friends in Waco told me that the Paul Fontaine retrospective at the Martin Museum
of Art was a must see exhibition. So, I found my way to Baylor University to visit their fine arts building
which had a theater, the visual arts department, and the Martin Museum. I am baffled by the
small size of the museum at such a prestigious and large University like Baylor.
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|You would think a school seeking to be a tier one school would have a respectably impressive
museum. Waco really needs a museum that showcases the culture of central Texas. A free
standing building that acts as a beacon, much like the Tyler Museum of Art or the DMA in
Dallas. Well, despite the tiny space, the Paul Fontaine show was an interesting glimpse
into the color field artists of the High Modernist period.
|When I look at purely non-objective paintings on canvas, I tend to focus on just the paint, the
texture, or the surface of the canvas. Especially during the Modernist period, abstract artists
attempted to create a more universal language that transcended time and space. Fontaine
was among this school of thought, but like his contemporaries, his experiences with the places
he lived seeped into the work. Maybe more so than other artists who didn’t move around the
globe as much as Fontaine, because I can see how his life in each country changed his work
dramatically. In Germany, geometric shapes and darker more introspective paintings were
produced, whereas, in Mexico his paintings have brighter colors, thicker textures, and
less defined shapes. Even with the move to Texas, subtle changes in colors and composition
crept in to distinguish a change of his surroundings.
|For a retrospective I was a little dismayed by the large chunks of time that were missing between
artworks and his paintings in the 1980’s were heavily represented. However, I think there was just
enough of his body of work to see a great amount of style shift in each period of his life, and this
made the show engaging. For me, many contemporary color field painters seem to be playing
it safe with Modernist innovations, but Fontaine was in the trenches as one of many vanguards
of this kind of abstraction and for that I can appreciate the work he created. I think Fontaine’s
Mexico work, with his rhythmic textures repeating across the canvas and the bright cheerful
colors caught most of my attention.
|It is my understanding that the Martin Museum of Art is in the planning stage to construct their
own building, so maybe in a few years Waco will have an art institution that will show how
serious Baylor is about their cultural surroundings. A place where people can go to enrich
their lives and see more historically significant artists like Paul Fontaine. A book about
Fontaine and his work is now available at the Martin Museum of Art along with a
reception this month on the 22nd. You have until August 25th to see his