Sculpture Exhibit Opens in September

Aug. 29, 2007

by Karin Gilliam, director, Martin Museum of Art, (254) 710-6390

Baylor University's Martin Museum of Art will debut the exhibition of "Three Sculptors: Surls, Brosk, Tobolowsky" Tuesday, Sept. 4 on Baylor's campus. A lecture by one artist and a reception for all three artists will follow on Thursday, Sept. 27.

Texas artist James Surls is one of the most preeminent and prolific contemporary artists working in America today. Surls credits his early interest in drawing and sculpture to his father, a superintendent for a contracting firm. His father encouraged Surls and his three brothers to learn how to read a blueprint and become skilled with builder's tools. Surls took his first art class when he attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

He graduated from Sam Houston in 1966 with a bachelor of science degree and was accepted to the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he completed his master of fine arts degree in 1969. Surls taught at SMU in Dallas until 1975 when he was invited to teach at the University of Houston.

During the late 1970s Surls became well known for his primitive, abstract sculptures and drawings. His interest in experimental art lead to the establishment of the Lawndale Annex in Houston--an edgy, alternative space for UH students and Surls to produce exciting new art. In 1979 he organized Fire!, a massive exhibition to benefit the flood-damaged Contemporary Art Museum. In 1982, Surls resigned from the University of Houston and moved to Splendora where he built his dream studio, a 10,000 square foot building equipped for producing large sculptures, a clean studio for drawing, and ample display space for finished pieces.

Surls' art is owned by over 25 public collections, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York City; the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Miss.; the Stedelijk Museum, Amesterdam; the Whitney Museum of Art in New York; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Surls was given the Living Legend Award by the Dallas Visual Art Center in 1993. In 1991, he was named Texas Artist of the Year by the Art League of Houston. Surls is married to artist Charmaine Locke and has seven daughters. They reside in Snowmass Valley, Colo.

New York based sculptor, Jeffrey Brosk plans his annual trips to Texas around the Houston Livestock Show where he soaks up the cowboy atmosphere and draws inspiration for his contemporary art from the Texas landscape. Pieces of wood found among his travels are often inspiration for his work. The finished pieces celebrate the beauty of the land by fusing landscape with Zen-like minimalism. Each piece is uniquely handled to enhance the natural character of the wood. Black slate squares inserted within the organic undulations of the wood create a sense of man-made structure and purpose.

Represented in numerous public collections, Brosk's work can be found in collections at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Roanoke Museum of Art, Roanoke, Va.; and Hewlett Packard, San Francisco, Calif. Brosk lives and works in New York City and continues to make his annual journey through Texas.

Dallas native and entrepreneur George Tobolowsky got his first taste of art when he took an undergraduate sculpture class at SMU in the late 1960s under the tutelage of James Surls. But he majored in business administration and then studied law as a means to support himself and raise a family. Since then, his executive business career has included working for the Zales Corporation and being an owner and president of the Blockbuster Video franchise in the Washington, D.C. area.

Over the past 35 years Tobolowsky's love for art has compelled him to join several boards of various art organizations, but it was a meeting with a legendary sculptor back in the 1970s that changed the way he thought about art forever. When Tobolowsky was a law student at SMU, the Dallas Museum of Art had an exhibition by Louise Nevelson. Tobolowsky managed to get a temporary job assisting the artist and helping her uncrate the artwork. By the time the exhibition opened he was a devoted follower of her philosophy, "When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you're really bringing them to life..."

In 2004 Tobolowsky began seriously scouring scrap yards and realizing his dream of a second career as an artist. Soon, he was spending his nights and weekends creating "poetry in steel" and welding in his sculpture studio in Mountain Springs. Rusted industrial cast offs are transformed and testify to Tobolowsky's keen eye for balance and love of undulating rhythms. In acknowledgement to his day job, his artwork will frequently have "corporate" titles, such as The Auditors or Dealbreaker.

The museum will host a lecture by James Surls on Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 4-5 p.m. and a reception for the artists from 7-9 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. The exhibition will run through October 13, 2007.

The Martin Museum of Art is located in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center on the Baylor University campus. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and noon-5 p.m. on Saturday. The museum is closed during university holidays. Admission is free and all events are open to the public, unless specified. For more information call (254) 710-1867 or visit the museum web site at

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