Thanks in part to our new high-visibility website, Gallery 98 is increasingly being approached by artists and galleries who want their history to be part of our ever-expanding collection of art ephemera. Recently, we were fortunate to obtain a large collection of announcement cards from the Texas Gallery, courtesy of its principal owner Fredericka Hunter. For NY-centric art aficionados like us, the cards are an important reminder of the key role that the city of Houston played in the rise of challenging new art in the 1970s and 80s.
Houston’s embrace of art can be credited in part to John and Dominique de Menil, who were not only voracious collectors, but also the force behind Rice University’s Institute for the Arts, the Rice Media Center, the Rothko Chapel, as well as their own museum The Menil Collection. Big name contemporary artists were soon visiting Houston and the taste for innovative new art quickly spread amongst other wealthy Texans. Consequently, the 1970s saw a major expansion of Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum, as well as the opening of a number of galleries specializing in contemporary art. The Texas Gallery (originally founded as Contract Graphics in 1971), was perhaps the most significant of these galleries. It is still active today.
Texas-born Fredericka Hunter studied art history with Dominque de Menil in Houston before continuing her studies on the East Coast. Joining Contract Graphics, she helped transform it from a mere prints gallery to its rebranding as the Texas Gallery. A frequent visitor to New York, Hunter followed all the trends and consulted at first with innovative dealers like Klaus Kertess at Bykert Gallery. She also took an interest in California art after working with Ed Ruscha who introduced her to many of his friends.
Lovers of ephemera will also admire the originality and care that Hunter and the Texas Gallery devoted to their announcement cards. Below is a small taste of the ephemera that Gallery 98 has acquired from Fredericka Hunter. The full collection will be posted on our Collections page in a few weeks.
Billy Al Bengston
Size:4 x 6 inches
California artist Billy Al Bengston often had exhibitions at the Texas Gallery where his flamboyant personality, as well as his finely crafted work, helped attract attention to city’s still small art scene. According to Hunter, Bengston was one of the few artists who wanted to have a say in his mailers.
Size: 4.5 x 6 inches
This unusual announcement for an exhibition of prints by Ed Ruscha consisted of 13 small rectangular pieces of paper placed in an envelope. In addition to providing the basic information about the exhibition, the announcement uses some of the words featured in the prints that Ruscha was exhibiting.
Size: 4 x 4 inches
Hunter first became aware of Bruce Connor through Artforum magazine, which was originally based in San Francisco where Connor was a major star. This circular card was inspired by the Mandala lithographs that Connor was exhibiting in Houston. The front of the card rotates, revealing more information with each turn.
Size: 4.25 x 4.25 inches
William Wegman’s ability to infuse conceptual art with humor allowed him to reach audiences outside the traditional art world. The three cards that make up this announcement mailer show Wegman dressed as a fisherman creating abstract lines in space by casting a rod and reel.
This Texas Gallery announcement for an exhibition of Lynda Benglis’s work features “Smile,” a bronze-cast of the double-headed dildo that (along with Benglis’s related Artforum ad) had generated much controversy in New York just a few months earlier. Surprisingly, there was almost no reaction in Houston. Benglis was regularly featured at the Texas Gallery where the full range of her multi-faceted work was exhibited.
Billy Al Bengston
Billy Al Bengston Design for Handkerchiefs and Scarves, with Vija Celmins’ Quote “Less Duchamp more Cezanne”, Texas Gallery, Folded Tissue-Paper Announcement, 1976
Size: 14 x 14 inches
This somewhat deceptive mailer is not for an exhibition by Vija Celmins, but rather for a show by her friend Billy Al Bengston that included a collection of silk scarves and handkerchiefs that he designed using the Celmins quote “Less Duchamp More Cezanne.” Bengston is billed at the very top of the page with his initials B.A.B.