As we move along with Focus: Suzanne Paul we continue to uncover rare photographs and gems from Houston’s complex and compelling art history.
Recently, we uncovered some incredible charming portraits of artist Dick Wray, whose earlier portraits convey the charm and wit with which Wray navigated the tight-knit social scene of an earlier Houston and with which he imbued his artwork.
Dick Wray, a native Houstonian, born in Heights Hospital in Houston, was primarily educated in his Texas hometown. He took free art lessons at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in his early teens, graduated from Lamar High School and, following military service in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955, enrolled in the School of Architecture of the University of Houston from 1955 to 1958. He finished his studies at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, Germany in 1959.
Wray took off for Europe in 1958 to discover the center of the art world, beginning his journey in Paris. The two years he spent in Europe laid the foundation for his painting career. Inspired by the art of the abstract expressionists, the work of the artists of the CoBrA group and the New York Abstract Expressionists, all of which he saw for the first time in Europe, Wray returned to Houston at age 26 knowing for certain that he wanted to be an artist, not an architect. Little did he know that one day he would be referred to in the Houston Chronicle (1989) as an “Old Master of Texas Art” (Kalil).
Wray’s first competitive show was at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont in 1959. Since then, Wray exhibited consecutively for 51 years in galleries and museums. He was awarded the Ford Foundation Purchase Prize in 1962, was the guest artist at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1964, and received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1978.
Wray has had extensive solo exhibitions including the One Man Show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 1975, Dick Wray at The Station Museum in Houston in 2003 and Dick Wray – 2000 Houston Art League Texas Artist of the Year exhibition at the Art League Houston in 2000 (Baylor University).
He is among the major talents that shaped the evolution of Modernism in Houston, and was featured in the show Artists’ Progress: Seven Houston Artists, 1943-1933 at the Glassell School of Art, MFAH in 1993. In 2006, Wray was featured in the exhibition Texas Modern: The Rediscovery of Early Texas Abstraction at Baylor University in Waco, which acknowledged him as one of the first Texas Modernists. Despite his vast achievements, Wray continued to work comfortably out of his studio/home in the Houston Heights until his death in January 9, 2011 (Edward). Many consider Wray to be among the very best painters in Houston during the pivotal 1960s and 1970s, along with contemporaries Dorothy Hood, Richard Stout, Earl Staley, Charles Schorre, and Jack Boynton.
Above is one of the most enigmatic photograph of an artist produced by Paul, featured in Deborah Colton Gallery’s 2012 exhibition A Moment in Houston.
Content originally published by Theresa Escobedo, here, on 11.18.16