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The Prophet

The DMA presents a poignant reminder of the Dust Bowl disaster in the exhibition Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series.

Alexandre Hogue’s “End of the Trail”

Paradoxically, art and catastrophe aren’t strange bedfellows—artists have always responded creatively to current world conditions. Exhibit A: the Dust Bowl devastation of the 1930s, which paved the way for John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads and artist Alexandre Hogue’s (1898-1994) Erosion Series.

Now through June 15, the Dallas Museum of Art is hosting Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series—a harrowing visual memoir of the Dust Bowl as seen through the painter’s eyes. Best known as a regionalist and member of the fabled Dallas Nine—the group of creatives who sought artistic inspiration from the Southwest—the artist’s reputation was cemented when the series was featured in Life magazine.

“The works were well-recognized at the time,” notes Sue Canterbury, the Pauline Gill Sullivan associate curator of American Art at the DMA, who organized the Dallas presentation. “I’d say the Life article helped make him famous and infamous at the same time because it had national distribution, and suddenly his name was before everyone; he was referred to as ‘the Prophet of the Dust Bowl.’ But some considered him a traitor to Texas by doing these works.” And yet, Hogue was raised in north Texas. His sister lived outside Dalhart during the Dust Bowl era, and there he witnessed firsthand the man-made disaster at its epicenter.

This exhibition, which includes 11 paintings, 18 works on paper, plus ephemera from 1930s publications, speaks across the years, resonating with uncanny currency. “It’s prescient, and it seems very contemporary,” Canterbury adds. “The exhibition offers an opportunity to make people think about present conditions… the dust storms out in west Texas, Arizona and elsewhere, and some desertification taking place. Hogue’s work isn’t sympathetic to the human predicament. It’s more so to Mother Earth, the animals, the innocent beings that suffered because of man’s mismanagement of the land.”

Terrifyingly beautiful, Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series proves that the past is ever-present. Through June 15, 1717 N. Harwood St.