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Bated Breath

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center offer art-lovers two points of view with a joint exhibition of David Bates’ oeuvre.

Bates’ “Self Portrait in Winter”

Photo courtesy of The Artist

Dallas’ acclaimed visual arts luminary David Bates is recognized nationally and beyond for his modernist depictions of contemporary Southern life. Eschewing the sentimental trappings associated with Regionalism, his paintings speak of people, places and things with the same quiet dignity that informs a Walker Evans’ Dust Bowl photograph—unvarnished life.

Now, marking a first-time-ever coup, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center will present a joint Bates exhibition—a 40-year retrospective featuring 45 paintings at the Modern, and 45 sculptures (plus 20 related two-dimensional works) at the Nasher. The show is a rare opportunity to explore the full spectrum of Bates’ mastery. “David never rests in one place too long,” says the Modern’s director Marla Price. “His paintings will inspire him to do sculptures, and his sculpture will inspire him to go back to painting with a new angle.” Nasher director Jeremy Strick notes that Bates is in a tradition of painter-sculptors, with artists like Matisse and Picasso. “David really made his reputation first as a painter, and I think there was surprise even among his most devoted followers when he turned to sculpting.”

Bates was born and raised in Dallas, but his family often visited the Gulf Coast and the wilds of Arkansas, where he developed a passion for nature, fishing and the everyday people who populate that world. These experiences have long been evident in his work, from his Arkansas-rooted Grassy Lake paintings, to his coastal series, to his haunting Hurricane Katrina canvases. Bates continues his journey of creativity with unbridled verve, eager every day: “It’s like getting in the car and somebody says, ‘We’re going to go on a ride today,’ and you say ‘Alright!’ I don’t know where we’re going, but let’s get in the car and go!” Feb. 9-May 11