The Amon Carter Museum of American Art presents Invented Worlds of Valton Tyler beginning February 11 and running through April 30, 2017.
This exhibition brings together 60 of the Texas artist’s works, including a rare group of prints that were recently gifted to the Amon Carter by longtime friend of the museum, Dallas photographer David Gibson. For the first time, these prints will be shown in conjunction with Tyler’s elaborate drawings and stunning, large-scale paintings. Admission is free.
“The exhibition includes incomparable work from a local talent who defies artistic categorization,” says Shirley Reece-Hughes, paintings and sculpture curator. “For more than 40 years, Tyler has depicted visionary worlds from his fertile imagination. His captivating artworks feature unique interplays of identifiable, organic, mechanistic and surreal shapes.”
Born in Texas City on the Gulf Coast in 1944, Tyler turned to drawing as an emotional outlet during his troubled childhood. Although he never attended classes or received any formal training, he pursued his passion for art. “As I drew lines in a plain school notebook, I watched as, magically, they became something with a shape and a spirit of their own,” Tyler says. “I became aware that what I was doing was something special, something I would never want to stop doing.”
By his 20s, the artist was offering drawings to friends and relatives in exchange for room and board. Tyler would go out late at night and leave his pen-and-ink drawings on abandoned street corners in Dallas. The next morning, if the works had been taken, he would feel inspired to keep working, says Reece-Hughes.
In 1970, Tyler received the affirmation he needed. His brother, Robert, took some of his drawings to Valley House Gallery in Dallas to show the founder and director, Donald Vogel, who recognized a rich talent and secured an opportunity for him to create etchings in the printmaking department at SMU. With no prior knowledge or experience, Tyler began etching plates and pulling prints, working all night and sometimes sleeping on the floor of the print room.
At SMU, he created an original series of 54 intaglio prints that range from aquatints to soft ground and line etchings, most of which are on view in this exhibition and are part of the museum’s permanent collection, thanks to Gibson. From the haunting atmosphere of Homage to Galileo to the buoyant mood of the large-scale print A New Born Day (1971), Tyler revealed the depth and breadth of his thematic and formal capabilities in the SMU series. Suggesting a futuristic utopia in A New Born Day, the artist used a central, circular motif to radiate lines of emotional uplift towards biomorphic buildings bordered by checkered walls. Flag banners draped above and picket fences and striped barber poles planted below provide recognizable motifs in this imagined city.
Shortly after his successful print series at SMU, Tyler began his first foray into using oils on canvas. As he recalled, “When I started painting that was real freedom.” Working on a large scale in works like Guardian (1973), Tyler found that color aided his goal to express his otherworldly visions and personify his forms.
Throughout his career, Tyler has always made art primarily for himself. “I must draw and paint,” he says. “If I don’t, I become depressed.” Today, the artist continues to sketch and paint at his current home in Garland.
Invented Worlds of Valton Tyler is organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art as part of its ongoing commitment to showcasing regional talent. In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum is producing a signed, limited-edition book available in the Museum Store in February 2017 for $45.
Kevin Vogel, president of Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden and Fine Art Estate, will speak about the artist’s life and work at a free gallery talk on April 27 at 6:30 p.m.
The Amon Carter offers a renowned collection of American art housed in Philip Johnson’s masterpiece in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District. The museum is open Tuesday–Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursdays until 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12–5 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays.