Allan Houser centennial brings art to new places in Oklahoma

Along with placing monumental sculptures in interesting spots like Will Rogers World Airport, the yearlong statewide celebration of the acclaimed artist’s birth also is giving new perspectives into the Chiricahua Apache painter and sculptor’s body of work.
by Brandy McDonnell Published: May 4, 2014

Between his birth near Fort Sill on June 30, 1914, and his death on Aug. 22, 1994, at his home in Santa Fe, Houser produced more than 1,000 sculptures in stone, wood and bronze, 500 paintings and 2,000 matted drawings, along with filling 233 sketchbooks with more than 30,000 sketches.

The drawings in the Norman exhibit and accompanying catalog range from Southwestern landscapes to genre scenes of American Indian life. While some were rendered of pencil or charcoal, Rushing said, others were done in oil sticks or pastel chalks, revealing Houser’s remarkable and perhaps surprising skill as a colorist.

“He never made any effort to exhibit the drawings, and it was only after 1979 that he really began thinking of drawing in and of itself. Up until then, drawings were things that got him ready for other things, for paintings or for sculptures,” Rushing said.

“Increasingly, he recognized the importance of making drawings and basically gave up painting to focus on drawing and began to think about a book and an exhibition like the one that we have now. He really wanted to see his drawings collected and presented in a unified way, but unfortunately ... he died fairly quickly after he became ill.

“So, his dream of having an exhibition and a book of drawings was never realized in his lifetime. That’s part of what we think is important about our show, is that it gives the audience a Houser that they didn’t know before, and it realizes a dream that he had.”

Abstract up top

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is showcasing a lesser-known aspect of Houser’s sculptural work with “Allan Houser: On the Roof,” an exhibit of six bronzes that opened Thursday on the downtown landmark’s Roof Terrace.

“The sculptures ... highlight really the last 10, 15 years of his artistic career in sculpture, so our exhibition will be different because you’ll be able to see some of the fully abstract works he created,” said OKC Museum of Art Curator Alison Amick.

The exhibit highlights how Houser skillfully melded aspects of his Chiricahua Apache heritage with elements of European modernism. He was influenced by artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, whose works are included in the museum’s permanent collection.

Amick said the museum is happy to help honor an Oklahoma artist who has achieved such national and international acclaim.

“His work was very groundbreaking ... just in terms of his portrayal of Native American content, the fusion of abstraction and representation, but through his lens of his experience as a Native American,” Amick said. “Yet it transcends being that specific and speaks to the broader human experience as well.”


by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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TO LEARN MORE

For more information on the many exhibitions included in “Celebrating Allan Houser: An Oklahoma Perspective,” a yearlong collaboration marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the state’s most renowned artists, go to www.okhouser.org.

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