Springtime in Houston means the Rodeo comes to town, and
area galleries trot out their (usually token) stable of
photographers. In general, ninety-nine percent of the
offerings are visually intriguing, well-made imagery
presented with some aesthetic sense. Robinson Galleries'
offering this year was Blair Pittman's "My Texas Icons,"
which unfortunately does not sit well within even these
easygoing parameters. If I had not known better, I could
have sworn I had walked into a Texas visitor's center. The
work consists largely of the kind of images found in Sunday
newspaper supplements or mall "art" galleries.
From the exhibition title, one should understand that these
images are the artist's idea of Texas icons-the state flag in
neon, L.B.J. and other Bubbas, cowboy images, glorious
sunsets and other stereotypical views. This is the Texas I
thought I knew before I moved here (the artist is also not a
by R. Eric Davis
native Texan). Perhaps Pittman grew up during a time when
his Texas icons really meant something. But times have
changed; his Texas is not the Texas that exists today. Sure,
the glorious sunsets and beautiful wildflowers abound, but
Pittman's work is so overly sentimental, it appears artificial
and kitschy. His training as a photojournalist and freelance
photographer may have stagnated Pittman's "eye." Annual
reports and happy news reportage demand a specific type of
imagery, one that lets us know that everything is beautiful
Perhaps Pittman's work should be viewed as a positive
statement about the wonders of Texas, wonders we could
lose if we fail to protect them. But Pittman's work fails to
challenge or examine the Texas myth. The photographs are
too easy to look at, and consequently to forget.
artl i e s RESPONSES
Chandler, Wade & Schwab, Eric Jonah. Art Lies, Volume 2, May-June 1994. Houston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228035/. Accessed December 19, 2013.