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DFW artist to watch 2014: David Bates

Posted 6:59pm on Wednesday, Jan. 08, 2014

Editor’s note: As much as we wish there were a fully functioning crystal ball in the DFW.com offices, there is no such apparatus.

But that won’t keep us from casting our gaze forward and forecasting who and what will capture our imaginations this year: a wonderful and weird artist who is finally getting his due (see below), a young pastry chef whose sweet creations could become the talk of the town, a fresh-faced newsman, an inspiring actor, a hip-hop queen in waiting, even a surprising drink that could propel the next craft craze.

Those are a just few of the stars we’ve got our eyes on for 2014.

The artist: David Bates

Why he’s a big deal: “David Bates, A Retrospective Exhibition” will be filling two museums this spring in a collaboration between the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas from Feb. 9 through May 11. The two institutions will share Bates’s enormous body of work. Most of the paintings will be in Fort Worth, the sculptures in Dallas. This retrospective will cover the 40-plus-year career of one of the area’s most celebrated artists.

Where he’s from: Born and lives in Dallas.

What he does: Bates paints, sculpts and is constantly drawing. His subject matter is often the swamplands of Louisiana, and the birds, beasts and people who live there. He also paints a yearly magnolia and self-portrait as a record of his changing style. His Katrina series that recorded the grim aftermath of the 2005 hurricane is the most powerful artistic response to the tragedy made by an artist. “I was trying to make beautiful paintings about a horrific topic,” he says. “I felt like a reporter. I felt I needed to report on the situation. I’m not a photographer, but I needed to make some kind of contribution.”

Twenty years ago he began making sculptures, and they are remarkably like his paintings — rough imagery with hard black outlines. By using lumber and chunks of cardboard, he is able to re-create his two-dimensional images into three. As his sculpture techniques have evolved into bronze casts, his materials have become more sophisticated, but the results are still quite raw.

Why there are more self-portraits than portraits in his exhibition: “I’m the only one who can stand what I do to people in my paintings. Most people don’t seem to understand I’m not making a likeness, I’m making a painting.”

Why he has never been a national art star: “I’ve never been hot, but then, I’ve never been out. My career has not been a bottle rocket. Or if it has, it’s a very slow-moving bottle rocket.”

Where you can see it: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth ($4-$10), 817-738-9215; www.themodern.org. Nasher Sculpture Center, 2100 Flora St., Dallas ($5-$10), 214-242-5100; www.nashersculpturecenter.org.

Gaile Robinson, 817-390-7113 Twitter: @GaileRobinson

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