This December, Felder Gallery in San Antonio, Texas, is hosting a cool contemporary show, ripe for iconic, edgy Western pickings.
When Robby Felder got the idea for his first annual Contemporary Western Group Show, he went right for the big guns.
The first artist who signed on? Billy Schenck. The trio of featured contemporary artists for the show at Felder Gallery in San Antonio also includes S.C. Mummert and Skylar Fein.
“All three artists come from diverse backgrounds and use very different techniques,” says gallery owner Robby Felder. “Not your typical Western art show, these artists’ works depict the American West through a contemporary sense and the culture and significance of 1950s America shines through.”
Selected based on their recent accomplishments in Western or contemporary art, the three artists may use different styles and techniques, but their distinctive works all draw attention to color, powerful composition, and Western symbolism.
Billy Schenck, an original founder of the Western pop art movement, uses pop art and photorealism techniques throughout his works to animate iconic images of the West. San Diego-based S.C. Mummert, best known for his romanticized paintings of the American West from the 1930s through the 1960s, paints oils in a representational style that blends narrative detail and strong tonal design. Skylar Fein, recognized for his pop sensibility as well as political commentary, creates two- and three-dimensional works that incorporate bold imagery and found materials.
“Through this annual exhibition, we aim to bring together various sorts of collectors who take interest in both contemporary and Western art,” Felder says. “The exhibition’s theme portrays the ethos of the 1950s as well as the iconic imagery, romanticized attitude, and grit of the American West.”
If you’re thinking about gifting art — or maybe buying yourself something truly special — during this season of giving, stop clicking around Amazon and check out this show at Felder Gallery.
It runs December 1 – January 5, with an opening reception on December 1 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; S.C. Mummert will be in from San Diego from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on opening day. Private tours can be scheduled.
We talked with Robby Felder about the show (see the slideshow below), his gallery, and what makes contemporary Western a powerful art statement.
Cowboys & Indians: What a great trio of artists you pulled in for your first annual Contemporary Western Group Show. What’s the underlying thing that ties Billy Schenck, S.C. Mummert, and Skylar Fein together in your thinking?
Robby Felder: I mix styles. What I feel it’s about is putting together a mix of quality pieces. I might have something very graphic in nature and a little on the edge, but the artist created it at a very high level. I might also have very academic paintings also executed at a very high level. The common denominator is the quality and the high degree of execution. What I don’t do is chase trends.
C&I: And the idea for a contemporary show?
Felder: The contemporary Western idea didn’t really come from the salon-wall idea, where you hang a lot of pieces in a sort of “more is more” fill-the-wall manner. Attracting the 40-something crowd to fine art can present some challenges: They’ve got kids, careers, social engagements and might be so busy they’re not actively thinking about acquiring fine art for their home and their own legacy. Lots of people my age have inherited a legacy painting and might be working with a designer to incorporate it into their space. The idea for a contemporary Western show came from a lot of traditional work and some heirloom pieces, but mixing them with some more modern interiors.
C&I: Tell us a little about each of the artists, all of whom execute at a very high level. Let’s start with Schenck.
Felder: I reached out to some big names that I was interested in and was very happy to get Billy Schenck. When he responded it kind of took me by surprise. Billy really encompasses an attitude that’s both very intellectual and fun. His images are just easy to read and embrace this attitude that a lot of people my age relate to. It really exemplifies the attitude of the West. His attitude and his caption paintings in particular grabbed me.
C&I: How about Mummert?
Felder: I had already been in conversation with S.C. Mummert. He portrays these cowgirls — fierce, beautiful women with holsters. Lipstick and Lead was the name of his recent show at Trailside, and that kind of expresses it. The paintings have interesting background lighting — almost an advertising feel, a powerful image and really easy read.
C&I: And Fein?
Felder: You know in advertising, a campaign comes with putting things together in threes. Skylar Fein is the third in the trio. His work isn’t related to Western art at all, but he’s a contemporary artist who is getting a lot of attention. He’s based in New Orleans and often tackles dark subject matter. But the pieces I’m bringing in are simple, pop, colorful memories to him — a reprieve from his dark stuff. And again, we’re back to the idea of an easy read. The works are three-dimensional in the sense that while they are wall paintings, the oversize matchbooks he’s portrayed actually open up. He was the ideal artist in the triumvirate to create a certain tension.
C&I: It sounds pleasantly provocative. A calculated risk?
Felder: I do feel like in some ways it’s a risk. But this show was built on bold attitude, strong imagery, and easy reads. You see how powerful this work is and how easily and quickly it stops you. You can “read” the pieces fast, but because of the quality, these works aren’t digested and forgotten. There’s an iconic nature there that’s lasting.
For more information about the Contemporary Western Group Show and Felder Gallery, visit the gallery’s website.