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Rachel Hecker, untitled note

Rachel Hecker, untitled note

1. Rachel Hecker is the most consistently great artist on this list. In different bodies of work she’s waved the feminist banner, illustrated the arcade game of love, examined life’s pocket lint, and flirted with genuine piety. Her works are have always treated serious themes with overwhelming technical polish and pointed pop humor.

Mark Flood,<em>25 ADDITIONAL PAINTINGS</em>, 2009. Spray paint and acrylic on cardboard, 48 x 48"

Mark Flood, 25 ADDITIONAL PAINTINGS, 2009. Spray paint and acrylic on cardboard, 48 x 48″

2. Mark Flood. For decades, Flood has been using painting as a conceptual weapon in a passive-aggressive war on artworld pretensions. His churlish antics have recently propelled him into the art stratosphere; this year he was named the most desirable emerging artist in the US. Whether that means he’s failed or succeeded, or both, his stealth approach to fame is fascinating, horrifying, and unprecedented.

David Aylsworth, <em>Moon of Alabama</em>, 2011. Oil on canvas, 14 x 14"

David Aylsworth, Moon of Alabama, 2011. Oil on canvas, 14 x 14″

3. David Aylsworth plies painting like a sailboat, holding a true course against the fitful headwinds of artworld fashion. His quiet, genial abstractions are free of bombast and full of alert, inventive byplay.

Susie Rosmarin, <em>Variation Study (#295)</em>, 2003. Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 30"

Susie Rosmarin, Variation Study (#295), 2003. Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 30″

4. Susie Rosmarin. Eye-bending op art with a mad scientist’s monomaniacal discipline.


Francesca Fuchs, <em>Framed Painting: Chackas Fish</em>, 2012,  Acrylic on canvas, 17 x 32.5"

Francesca Fuchs, Framed Painting: Chackas Fish, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 17 x 32.5″

5. Francesca Fuchs tackles the uncomfortable reality of paintings beyond galleries, presenting the panoply of images that furnish our lives on subdued, uncannily colorist canvases. (Full disclosure: I’m married to her. A complete list of other disclosures is below.)


Aaron Parazette, <em>Kook</em>, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36"

Aaron Parazette, Kook, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″

6. Aaron Parazette makes visual puzzles, interlocking curious geometry with dazzling, off-key colors, exquisite craftsmanship, and an earnest, almost fanatical, work ethic.


Daniel Anguilu mural

Daniel Anguilu mural

7. Daniel Anguilu. A few months ago, I called street artist Daniel Anguilu a Houston treasure. Prolific and more than citywide, Anguilu’s ubiquitous, vivid murals convey the hope of beauty and social justice on an environmental scale.


Geoff Hippenstiel,<em>Murder Ballad</em>, 2013, oil on canvas, 10 x 6.5'

Geoff Hippenstiel, Murder Ballad, 2013, oil on canvas, 10 x 6.5′

8. Geoff Hippenstiel uses paint as if it were colored clay, building up surfaces that shock and awe.


Seth Alverson, <em>Useless Hand</em>, 2013. Oil on canvas, 40 x55"

Seth Alverson, Useless Hand, 2013. Oil on canvas, 40 x55″

9. Seth Alverson is a painter of greasy flesh and ambiguous, uncomfortable situations. Specializing in the grotesque, his paintings have matured from album-cover surrealism to dark, psychological vignettes.


Shane Tolbert,<em>Mother's Day Flowers</em>, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 15 x 11"

Shane Tolbert, Mother’s Day Flowers, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 15 x 11″

10. Shane Tolbert is the best of a crop of new-nothing abstractionists. Smears, pools, blobs and scrubs fill canvasses with a peculiar semi-decorative materialism that keeps you guessing.

Part II: The Caveats

How to use this list: If you’re an artist and find your name absent from the top ten, you’ve been unjustly overlooked. Choose a caveat from the list below to explain why.

1. Like any list, mine is arbitrary, and it gets more arbitrary as it gets longer. Only the first seven places are firm. I could just as well have put any of the following painters in spots 8-10, if there had been a west wind blowing or my bagel was a shade browner this morning.

Kent Dorn

Earl Staley

Will Henry

Jeremy DePrez

Brian Portman

Harvey Bott

David McGee

Perry House

Marcelyn McNeil

2. My list is limited to living artists working and showing in Houston, and is in part based on recent activity. Several of the artists on the lower list either earned their spots years ago, and are less active currently, or, conversely, are relative newcomers who have not yet had time to exert as big an influence as those nearer the top.

3. This is a list limited to painters. Artists like Trenton Doyle Hancock, Michael Bise and Dario Robleto don’t count. Don’t worry about what painting is— you’ll know it when you see it.

4. Disclosures: As mentioned above, I’m married to Francesca Fuchs. I’m friends with David Aylsworth. Susie Rosmarin baked my son a birthday cake yesterday. I’ve known Rachel Hecker since 1990 when she brought me to Houston as a Core Fellow. I’ve also known Mark Flood and Aaron Parazette since 1990. Earl Staley was my boss when I taught at Tomball College in 1994. Harvey Bott gave Francesca and I his wicked cool 1979 Toyota Celica with the futuristic digital speedometer for a wedding present in 1999. Shane Tolbert worked on our building renovation. I gave him a show at Optical Project in 2012. The rest of the painters on the lists are merely professional acquaintances.

That Houston’s painterly pride rests on the shoulders of a basketball team of artists is cause for both fear and celebration: if I were an ambitious young painter, looking at that team, I’d realize that there is still room at the top. Writing this list made me appreciate just how few really good painters there are in this city, and how valuable their contributions are.

This is my list, limited by my knowledge. For sure, there are painters in Houston whose work I don’t know. Artists like Pat Colville and Alika Herreshoff are on my curious list: I’ve seen single pieces, or an interesting photograph, and want to see more. My ten list is also, inevitably, biased by my tastes. All I can say for it is that it reflects my honest opinion. Feel free to write your own list in the comments section below.







also by Bill Davenport

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63 Responses

    1. Bill Davenport

      I considered Kermit Oliver, who is great, and has a lot of history in Houston, but he lives in Waco.

        1. Joe Reems

          I don’t know exactly where Flood ‘lives’ but what can best be described as his corporeal substance is here in Houston somewhere. Both his studio and his harem of artists live here too.

  1. Jimmy Castillo

    This is a good list, Bill. This whole thing made me think about my own list, as I’m sure it did for everyone. I don’t know if I can really come up with “top” painters or how I would even determine what “top” means. It just makes me think about the work that I’ve seen and what stands out for whatever reason. So, in no particular order,here’s my list of 10.

    Kelli Vance
    Casey Arguelles Gregory
    Beth Secor
    Jesse Sifuentes
    Nathaniel Donnett
    Dixie Friend Gay
    Dawolu Jabari Anderson
    Lovie Olivia
    Seth Alverson
    Julie Zarate

    Some overlap, I’m sure; and there are plenty of other artists on my caveat list. I’d like to see other people’s lists.

  2. Donna Tennant

    Dixie Friend Gay
    Beth Secor
    Alfredo Scaroina
    Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak
    Mark Flood
    Rachel Hecker
    Geoff Hippenstiel
    Kelli Vance
    Daniel Anguilu
    Patrick Palmer

    Others I considered:
    Lynn Randolph
    Michael Meazell
    Aaron Parazette

      1. Donna Tennant

        Harvey, it was just a quick list off the top of my head from the front of my brain! Who knew this story would elicit so much attention and commentary! I still love my pilgrims, whether they are in this life or the next. Love, Donna

  3. I am so happy to be working in a city where I couldn’t begin to call out just 10 painters I like. Although I would like to know who are the 10 Best-Selling artists in Houston. That could be objective.

  4. I tried for 45 minutes to narrow down my list and couldn’t do it. Its too many really active new and established artists making solid work. Give me a few days maybe I can crank it out

  5. I would like to submit Robert Hodge and Brian Moss to the list..
    Notables: Kelly Moss, Luc Sokolowski, Eric Ockrassa

    Mix media artist/sculptor: Troy Stanley, Rabea Ballin, Paul Horn

    Photographers: Terry Suprean, Galina Kurlat

    Off the top of my head.

  6. Mark Mathis

    If we are talking art in general, it is super hard to limit a list of living, Houston artists to ten…so here we go…

    Christian Eckart
    Paul Kittelson
    Joe Havel
    Harvey Bott
    Dario Robleto
    Sharon Kopriva
    Ed Wilson
    Gael Stack
    Dixie Friend Gay
    Mark Flood

    cont…beyond ten

    The Art Guys
    Anthony Thompson Shumate
    Aaron Parazette
    Rachel Hecker
    Trenton Doyle Hancock
    Troy Stanley
    Elaine Bradford
    David Medina
    Robert Pruitt
    and the list could go on…

    If Al Souza and John Alexander were still around Houston they would be up there too

    …to bad Bert Long, Luiz Jimenez and Ed Kienholz have left this world.

  7. Best painters in Houston

    1. CertaPro Painters of Central Houston
    2. First Choice Painting & Remodeling
    3. New Living
    4. CertaPro Painters of Bellaire
    5. 1-888-WOW-1DAY! Painting
    6. Magic Painting And Remodeling
    7. Midtown Painters
    8. The Marquis Downtown Houston Lofts
    9. Houston Interior Painting
    10. Design Tech Homes

    1. Bill Davenport

      It’s too bad Bernard Brunon’s That’s Painting Productions has left town. He would have made both your list and mine!

      1. The Art Guys

        Speaking of lists, painters and Bernard Brunon, for those not in the know…


        And this:


        Bernard’s That’s Painting Productions first painting show was at The Contemporary Art Guys Museum in 1993. The Art Guys also commissioned Bernard to make a painting for their current World Headquarters. That painting may be seen by appointment only (The Art Guys Collection is strictly a private museum and for-profit enterprise. As such, it’s not necessarily open every day and not necessarily to everyone). More about Bernard’s painting at The Art Guys Museum of Fine Art Guys may be found here (starting on page 22):


        That’s Painting Productions painted the Absolut Art Guys billboard in 1998-99.


        Thanks for mentioning Bernard, Bill. Bernard is not just a painter’s painter, but an artist’s artist. The best.

    2. ROBERT, how did you leave off Don Localio House Painting, the artist we breakfast with on Fridays? He’s on a footing close to that of Bernard as you also witnessed at Zoya Tommys not so long ago.

      Is Yelp the sound of a dog?

  8. Travis Hanson

    Lane Hagood
    Baslios Poulos
    Geoff Hippenstiel
    Rachel Hecker
    Mark Flood
    Gael Stack
    Marcelyn McNeil
    Daniel McFarlane
    Robert Pruitt
    Jeremy Deprez

        1. brad tucker

          Of course HJ, I know that. I was only making a dumb joke about the “Hines and His Circle; Tragic Fading Supergraphic” exhibit at Art of This Century in 1996.

  9. Nice list Bill! So looking forward to checking them out! Hey, OUR “Top 10 Painters List” consists of artists who: we don’t know, have not exhibited, are known only to a very lucky few AND we absolutely cannot wait till they BLOW OUR MINDS!

  10. I’m not familiar with the work of Shane Tolbert and Daniel Anguilu. I’m looking forward to learning more about them.

    I put forth Liz Ward, who used to live in Houston, but now resides in San Antonio.

  11. My list of top painters living and working in Houston – and it’s just as biased and favored as the rest of the lists. For numerous personal and professional reasons, I believe these artists are among the Houston-based painters whose impact will be felt across the globe.

    Floyd Newsum
    Lucinda Cobley
    Chong-Ok Matthews
    Myke Venable
    Nazar Yahya
    Antonio Farfan

    1. WADE, does this mean that each gallerist will/should enter this fray of lists with those they represent? And what of your other artists you have NOT listed?

  12. Paula Newton

    Schmaeling!!! Walk out your front door. Throw a rock. Now, tell me you didn’t hit one of Daniel’s murals.
    (But I’m totally with you on Liz. Wanna give me a ride to Moody? I wanna pick up her book; do you have it yet?)

  13. Gee, I haven’t been in Houston for almost 20 years and I know all but one of these artists and a number were close friends. It is a great list of course and shows that Houston, unlike many other cities still ranks painters as among the top notch artists of its region, that said it would be interesting to have a counter list written by someone who is, ahem, young—you know in their mid to late twenties as these artists were when they started doing work just as good as it is now and as I recall you started writing about em.

    Maybe that person is in the comments section….I suppose I should read them, huh.

    I think my only serious must addition to the list would be Beth Secor, the intense emotional content of her mesmerizing off kilter portraits is unmatched but she is much more than a painter, but then again so is Mark Flood much much more than a painter, so…..

    Also kudos to you Bill for admitting the seriously incestuous nature of your art world relationships and the list. It is a bit worrisome as it does call into question your ability to really be unbiased but it has always been this way in art land people just usually don’t fess up.

  14. Hmmmm. One more thing.

    I wonder what your top ten list for deceased Houston painters would be. I am not trying to be morbid just curious as to how work has changed, if it was informed by previous artists or had commonalities, etc.

    I also second Liz Ward if she counts and forgot to mention Marco Villegas should be on any such top ten list.

  15. Planet A is full of pretty diversions. Planet B is complex and inaccessible. I get it. That’s great…but your list isn’t full of new truths. I see revivals of well worn movements of day gone by:

    • gimmicky op art
    • robert indiana typographic pop
    • organic versions of de Kooning-like expressionistic figures
    • flat post-impressionistic/expressionistic puzzle piece still lives
    • tired hyper-realistic surrealism
    • ho hum geometric abstraction with edges sloppy enough to be noticed but not interesting enough to be expressive.
    • more stenciled spray paint throw away art

    That’s all very judgmental and I don’t mean to be. Who the hell am I? No one. It’s just that my mind isn’t blown. You made me think last week that you were going to blow my mind with Planet B.

    1. Bill Davenport

      You’ve got the wrong list! “Top Ten Mind-Blowing Artists of Houston”is coming out in February.

    2. MOE, obvious big clue you know only too well, relative to the descriptive finesse of your dismissive bullet points: ART IS FROM ART. It’s such a tired cliché to simply discount anything that doesn’t knock-you-on-your-ass as the NEXT BIG THING to simply be derivative. That’s what artists in my generation denigrate all too often. FOLLOW the $$$$$$$$

  16. Patricia Johnson has also provided a list for the 2014 HFAF first Artists Hall of Fame that is very PC & network oriented. Of course the precedent of Halls of Fame is from early forward. So, does it count as a list to compare with the aforementioned lists? What are its caveats? Bill, you are a brave art writer providing parameters AND caveats that should be meaningful for everyone, if they are read. It’s probably nice to be on a couple of these lists. Obviously collectors and gallerists make their own lists. How do these lists compare? Todays’ lists will be quickly forgotten until newbies make their lists of their very own newbies. And so it goes, in every human endeavor. Lists are magnets of attention.

  17. Yes, Miss Paula. I snagged “Unchopping a Tree” – the gallery had to re-order because so many people wanted a little Liz. You are right in that I probably have seen Daniel’s work around the city – but I didn’t know it was by Daniel until Mr. Bill told me so.

  18. Katie Mulholland

    Yikes. I’ll admit, when I think of Houston greatest painters I’m at a loss. It’s not that I don’t know great painters… it’s just few strike me with ultimate next level type of painting.

    My stretched list in no particular order:
    Katrina Moorhead
    Gael Steck
    Francesca Fuchs
    Daniel McFarlane
    Seth Avlerson (begrudgingly, but damn he’s good)
    Chris Cascio
    Darcy Rosenberger
    Brandon Araujo
    Kevin Peterson (I may not like the subject matter, but this guy is a machine)
    Dylan Roberts

    Dan Sutherland (if he lived in this city)
    Trenton Doyle Hancock (but he doesn’t really count, neither does Mark Flood)

    I’m reaching a bit into friend stock with this list. I genuinely love everyone’s work… but if I’m being 100% brutally honest- this city seriously lacks personal hero material. I know it’s a popularity contest anywhere you go… but when I think of greatest painters I know of, or just know, I think of people rooted in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati… continue east or west. Like Matt Dayler, Jimmy Baker, David Ellis, etc. Maybe that’s my shortcoming for living longer elsewhere.

    I’ve also noticed Houston’s a bit of a small pond with quite a few seemingly big fish. And a lot of these fish swam in many ponds and came back to Houston to grow old… and maybe snag tenure at a local university. I know very few people who will never leave that have seen much success outside of friend circles. This goes for all artists. Even those my age. Even myself.

    I have my favorite illegals in this city too… all of them painters of a different variety- but unlike the rest of the US, there’s too many half baked politics here to list their aliases. Being that Houston is the odd duck, I’ll keep them off the list, for fear of it reading like an inside joke. People tend to get whiney anyways. We don’t want any butchered, grammatically shameful, mostly off topic, and embarrassing rants in response to things like this. Do we?

  19. Emily Hollister

    Thanks for posting – I’m discovering new artists I didn’t know about. I did hear that Daniel Anguilu tends to bash other artists if he doesn’t like them … he has even splashed buckets of paint on other artist murals, but other than that I do love his work.

      1. Katie Mulholland

        HJBOTT & Emily Hollister: If anyone finds a need to include an artist’s personal life in their assessment of the quality of work produced… maybe they should meet the artist and make an assessment for themselves in person. Right?

        Most of these accusations are true and are all up on facebook for the world to see (albeit in the form of half deleted conversations)- but it’s not up to other artists to judge the quality of work by how big of a dbag someone may or may not be to work with…or around. It’s up to the people who love the work. Most people don’t care about art drama like that and the people who do are a part of a very small club. Frankly, the art should speak for itself. My personal opinion does not matter. Nor do any of my contemporaries. If artists controlled every aspect of what people thought about artwork- well, it wouldn’t be very interesting… now would it?

        1. Art should speak for itself, sure, but I don’t blame people who decide they don’t want to support an artist who turns out to be a nasty piece of business. (I don’t blame them, but I don’t necessarily agree–I often find myself seduced by art even when I know for a fact that the artist is a total scumbag. I’m too much of a hedonist to turn away.)

          1. Katie Mulholland

            In the same vein: I love Daniel’s work- I always have… and maybe this is like taking candy from a baby, but I find it sad when when someone’s being a brat on the internet or via text message and is unable to spell themselves out of a paper bag. In neither their first nor second language. Aaaaannd despite an education. Also, the ending a heated discussion with a non sequitur like “f* the police” or “prisons are wrong” is mind boggling. Maybe that makes me a wee bit pretentious, but to me ignorance and laziness is just uninteresting.

            If someone’s going to throw raging hissyfits as a semi-respected artist…and have me respect them after reading it- at the least be insane, witty, funny, knowledgeable, informed, brutal, catty…or don’t throw tantrums at all. I know dyslexics that will take longer, but can do it better (myself included). It’s just a sad waste of space, our time, and the internet when someone can’t do it with dignity. My bottom line is: if someones gonna be a dick, be a savagely eloquent dick… and I’ll love you forever. But hey, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

          1. Troy Schulze

            I’m there with Harvey, Ms. Mulholland. Thank you for your time on Glasstire today.

  20. Dan Havel

    If you want trash talking art criticism and shady personal histories, how about doing the Top 10 Sculptors of Houston……just sayin’……….and thank you Katie for your intelligent responses and sharing a bit of new generation artists to this Houston old timer who does’t get out much. I’ll be looking for their work.

  21. Clarence Highland

    In the sophomoric spirit of a “Top Ten” list, presented without comment are the Lists from the 2014 Houston Art High School Yearbook….

    1. Alfredo Scaroina
    2. Kia Neill
    3. Tommy Gregory
    4. Carl Suddath
    5. Jonathon Leach

    1. Debra Barrera
    2. Joseph Cohen
    3. Michael Galbreth
    4. Kia Neill
    5. Selvon O’Keef Jarmon

    1. Kia Neill
    2. Kelli Vance
    3. Anthony Schumate
    4. Kent Dorn
    5. Casey Arguelles Gregory

    1. Mark Flood
    2. Trenton Doyle Hancock
    3. Dario Robleto
    4. Christian Eckart
    5. Shane Tolbert

    1. Aaron Parazette
    2. Cody Ledvina
    3. Rick Lowe
    4. Elaine Bradford
    5. Jillian Conrad

    1. Joseph Cohen
    2. Geoff Hippenstiel
    3. Carl Suddath
    4. Dylan Roberts
    5. Forrest Prince

  22. David

    No list is complete without Dune-Micheli Patten. How an anyone miss this wonderful artist? Though, I also agree with some of the gentleman Dan Havel

    Best regards

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