A Uniquely Texan Modernism in the Paintings of Otis Dozier

Artsy Editorial
Jan 15, 2015 9:04PM

Otis Dozier painted uniquely American moments, reflecting shifts in the cultural consciousness of the Southwest throughout the 20th century. His paintings, depicting subjects in bright colors and active compositions, elevate animals, plants, and landscapes into touchstones of the pioneering spirit of a bygone era. 

Born and raised in Texas, Dozier decided to pursue art after seeing a Diego Rivera painting at the state fair. “It looked like blood and buttermilk to me,” he remarked. “I just looked and looked; the newspaper said it was so great. I was willing to learn but couldn’t understand why it was so great.” This impulse to understand Rivera’s work led him to study in Dallas, where he would become an important member of the city’s—and state’s—burgeoning arts scene. 

As part of a group of mid-century painters in Texas known as the Dallas Nine, Dozier and his contemporaries filtered the precepts of European avant-garde movements, including surrealism and cubism, into dynamic subject-based works. They painted wide-open spaces, ghost towns, and close encounters with nature. Dozier’s painting technique matured throughout his life, developing from a surrealist-influenced realism of shifting tones, shadows, and extensions of form, to more experimental techniques while attending Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He eventually acquired a style characterized by a loose hand, vibrant colors—and in his later works—a move towards abstraction. While often dedicated to translating the buoyant energy of windswept landscapes or animals into visual compositions, Dozier’s painting also reflected more somber subjects, such as displaced families, reflecting the unavoidable climate of a time and place that was marked by periods of hardship, including the Great Drought, the Great Depression, and World War II.

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