350 Words: “Terrell James: Citizen” at Barry Whistler Gallery

by Lucia Simek October 6, 2011

There is always way more worthy art on view in the Great State of Texas than any one publication could ever cover. But with the goal of reviewing more shows, more often, Glasstire launches the series “350 Words.” It features reviews that are, well, 350 words.


Terrell James, Miami, 2011 oil and acrylic on canvas 47" x 65"

Terrell James
’ paintings at Barry Whistler Gallery are each a testament to paint’s pure, fleeting urge to make merry on some surface. Full of blotchy, color-pop dynamism, they recall much of the abstract expressionistic work that populates Modernity’s canon, with specific roots in Arshile Gorky’s tangled mind-musings and Clyfford Still’s spiked masses. As with Gorky and Still, the body of James’ work in Citizen is elusive, suggesting a psychological groping, though its almost Fauvist palette is largely cheery, sunny even. Peaches, yellows, minty greens and turquoise swarm in configurations that are either loosely linear, as in Pleasure Dome, which feels like the memory of a map, or as in Miami, robust with rounded color masses that feel like camouflage for a sun-drenched field of poppies.

Terrell James, Pleasure Dome, 2011 acrylic and oil on canvas 30" x 60"

These paintings convey a grasping sort of wanting that reveals itself in breathy washes between more resolute surfaces. Hesitant marks and scribbles search out nameless shapes and places, with occasional swathes of empty, echo space at the edge of the canvas. Sometimes, deep maroons and burgundies are peppered amongst the cheerful pastels and cheeky tertiary colors. They provide a thankful counterweight to what could otherwise be an unsatisfying surface in too good of a mood. The deeper colors carry the space down into necessary, brooding depths that serve as a compositional and emotive segue into more varied terrain.

Terrell James, FS 541, 2010 oil on paper 20" x 16"

The series Field Studies is beautifully installed on the back wall of the larger gallery, featuring eleven of James’ painting studies on paper. These are marvelous. Employing the most potent colors in this body of work (smoky grays, rich indigos, bright fuchsias) mixed with delightful snarls and doodles. All on vellum, these studies feel intimate, as studies always do, and force a close inspection. I enjoyed these more than many of James’ larger works, truth be told, though that may have more to do with my own palette preferences than anything else. Gathered as a body, the studies create a fantastic landscape with peaks and valleys of color and explorative dimension that carry the show.

Terrell James: Citizen
Barry Whistler Gallery
Through October 13, 2011

Lucia Simek is an artist and writer based in Dallas. She and her husband, Peter Simek, founded the much-loved, short-lived arts and culture site Renegade Bus in 2009. She has also written for THE Magazine and People Newspapers, and is currently a frequent contributer to D Magazine‘s arts blog, FrontRow. She also acts as the arts commentator for the kids blog Tiny Dallas.


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Terrell James Reviews | Austin Art Blogs October 9, 2011 - 03:00

[…] received great reviews! Check out this review from Monday’s Dallas Morning News, and this review featured on Glasstire today. Then come check out the show and see what everyone is raving about […]

Ben Lima October 14, 2011 - 16:42

Thanks — I enjoyed reading this.


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