Texas-based artist Jon Flaming grew up watching TV westerns and now portrays that world on big, bold, colorful canvases, conveying those narratives in a simpler but sophisticated way. Here the artist talks about his new series, Modern Cowboy, the subject of an exhibition on view May 2 – 31 at David Dike Fine Art in Dallas.
“My new series, Modern Cowboy, pays homage to the Western artists of the past, but it most certainly breaks with the tradition of accepted artwork in the Western art genre.
“As a kid, I loved watching cowboy shows. Fury, The Rifleman, The Lone Ranger — these were a few of my favorites. Playing cowboys and Indians with toy rifles and bows and arrows was also something I loved to do. I still love doing it, except now I play out the scenes on canvas with brush, oil, and turpentine.
“As a designer-artist, I often tend to want to simplify. “Creativity is subtraction” someone once said. These large canvases are one or two steps away from complete abstraction. Another few rounds of simplification, and I end up at Stella, Rothko, or Newman. Picasso never ended up at complete abstraction, but his cubist paintings came very close. Modern Cowboy takes cues from cubism and abstraction, but like Picasso’s work, it is still very much a representational image with a narrative.
“These paintings are stripped away of superfluous elements — the narrative conveyed with the least amount of visual information. Unlike my legendary predecessors — Remington, Russell, Dixon, and Dunton — these paintings are void of depth, gradation, and extravagant settings. They are big, bold, graphic images that in my mind convey a strong sense of who the cowboy and the country really were.
Modern Cowboy With Rattler
“(Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of painterly quality to the work once you are up close and personal with the paintings. The brushstrokes and movement of paint are very evident.)
“Modern Cowboy respectfully pays homage to each of the Western artists who have gone before me, but hopefully with the same independent and gritty spirit with which they painted.
“Breaking with tradition in the Western art world is certainly bucking the trend, but I am more than willing to risk falling off that old horse a few times.”
Modern Cowboy, a new exhibition of roughly 25 of Jon Flaming’s paintings exploring both the cowboy and the country, opens at David Dike Fine Art in Dallas on Thursday, May 2, with an artist reception from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. that includes wine and hors d’oeuvres. The show runs through May 31. For more information: 214.720.4044, daviddikefineart.com; jonflaming.com.