There is in the painting of Dorothy Hood, this desperate interrogation, an aesthetic of human pain which runs through the path of all the arts.

(Pablo Neruda)

McClain Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of paintings by the late artist Dorothy Hood. Best known for her large-scale paintings that bring together elements of Surrealism, Modernism, and Abstraction, Hood created works that drew on her fascination with outer space, the terrain of the southwest, poetry, and mysticism. Illuminated Earth will feature a series of paintings that depict both physical and metaphorical landscapes, emphasizing Hood’s deft use of color, geometric forms, and spatial depth. The paintings on view will speak both to the time Hood spent in Mexico and to her eventual return to exploring the Texas landscapes of her youth, highlighting the intrinsic connection in her work between abstraction, landscapes, the cosmos, and the psyche. This exhibition will also include seminal examples of early abstractions from the 1940-1950s along with a selection of archive materials, including Hood’s personal correspondence, photos, and writings.

While Hood’s work is included in the collections of more than thirty museums, her oeuvre and legacy are oft overlooked. However, Hood was a prolific and dynamic artist, creating paintings and drawings that were exhibited to critical acclaim in Mexico City and throughout the U.S. since the mid-1940s. She exhibited widely in Mexico City, which led to an acquisition of one of her works by the Museum of Modern Art, NY and a solo exhibition at the legendary Willard Gallery in New York in 1950. The MoMA drawing was included in a number of group shows in the late 1940s-50s, and most recently in their 2016 exhibition Soldier, Spectre, Shaman: The Figure and the Second World War.

In Illuminated Earth, Hood’s continued exploration of landscape is a celebration of varied inspirations; this grouping turns an eye toward the influence of saturated hues of the buildings, flora, and fauna in Mexico and the vastness of her native Texas, along with the enormity of possibility of space exploration and her insatiable curiosity into the metaphysical. It was in the late 1960s, once back in Texas, that Hood began to experiment with large-scale paintings and developed a visual vocabulary that she would expand upon for the rest of her life.

Hood was a master of scale, conveying intimacy in even her grandest paintings. Employing abstraction as a vehicle for expression, the works included in the exhibition reveal Hood’s ability to create spatial planes within her work, building up surface texture through richly layered painting and juxtaposing geometric forms with large swathes of washes that vacillate between water-like and velvety textures. Paintings like the exhibition’s namesake work, “Illuminated Earth” evidence Hood’s skill in creating illusion within her paintings, moving deftly between light and darkness to create the impression of gazing into another realm. A silken skycaps an area of crystalline-like decalcomania and broad washy flows in mineral blue that seemingly erupt from a black inky void. The painting at once conveys something earthly and otherworldly, creating the tension between hope and despair, vibrancy and stagnancy, life and death with which Hood loved to infuse her paintings. Works like “Single Blue” shed further light on Hood’s prowess as an abstract painter, as the work reveals tremendous depth and nuance through a largely monochromatic painting. Its curvilinear forms call to mind the unbridled nature of sea, the sumptuousness of a flower in bloom, and the vast mystery of space – embodying Hood’s fascination with the idea of the mind’s eye, her quest to convey the place beyond the visible in her work. In the 1990s, approaching the last decade of her life, paintings such as this one shift towards more simplified and atmospheric explorations of pure color.

A pioneering painter, Hood bridged European and Latin Surrealism with New York abstraction, developing a mode of painting that was at once singular and expansive. In 2012, the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi (AMST), and independent curator Susie Kalil began a project to organize a major retrospective of Dorothy Hood's works and publish a monograph about her life and career which culminated in the fall of 2016 with the exhibition and book entitled The Color of Being/El Color del Ser: DOROTHY HOOD (1918-2000) showcased at the AMST. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and curator Alison de Lima Green organized an exhibition which opened in the fall of 2018 (the 100th anniversary of Hood's birth), entitled Kindred Spirits, Louise Nevelson & Dorothy Hood, mounting an unprecedented visual dialogue between the works of both artists. In collaboration with the AMST, McClain Gallery is working to restore and exhibit major works by this seminal artist, and to bring to light her tremendous contributions to art history.

Dorothy Hood (b. 1918, Bryan, Texas; d. 2000, Houston, Texas) established herself as a pioneer of Modernism from 1937, first as a scholarship student at the Rhode Island School of Design, and briefly at the Art Students League in New York City, before settling in Mexico City in the 1940s, and eventually in Houston. Talented and quick-witted, while in Mexico Hood befriended leading artists and intellectuals such as Pablo Neruda, Leonora Carrington, José Clemente Orozco, Remedios Varo, Mathias Goeritz, Diego Rivera, and Rufino Tamayo, among others. In 1946, she married famed Bolivian composer and conductor José María Velasco Maidana. In 1962, Hood moved to Houston and started teaching at the School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Moving into a new, larger, light-filled studio in the late 60’s, Hood felt emboldened to scale-up her work with a body of paintings measuring as large as 8 by 12 feet, ultimately creating the works of art that would again garner her national attention with solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Rice University, Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; and Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.