“My ego is fed!”
The 36 foot high semi abstract concrete sculpture, The Virtuoso, which stands in front of Houston’s Lyric Center building was Texas’ artist David Adickes first foray into large scale public art. Completed over 30 years ago, Adickes still enjoys the public feedback he receives about the work.
As he told the University of Houston’s Center for Public History in 2004 “I've painted a lot of pictures in my life, and they're in everybody's house, but only the people that live there and see them, see them. So, you get a lot of feedback, but it's not from the general public, and The Virtuoso was the first one to give me that. That's a very pleasant feeling, which I call the Johnny Appleseed complex, or the David Sculpture-seed complex (Laughs) or syndrome, I guess is the right word. It gave me a lot of positive feedback, which led to other things.”
Adickes started his career as a painter in the 1950’s. After serving in the Army Air Corp during World War II, were he made regular trips to Paris, he gained a double major degree in math and physics and then indulged his childhood passion for art attending the Kansas City Art Institute.
As he told The Houston Chronicle "I was pretty much addicted to art school, the art ambience. Then I headed straight back to Paris.”
“How you going to keep them on the farm when they've seen Paris?" he quipped to the Houston Newswire earlier this year.
Using his GI Bill, Adickes studied under the legendary artist Fernand Leger for two years before returning to Houston.
As he has explained “I came back to the States and started having shows of paintings right away and was very successful from the beginning. I was selling paintings cheap, of course, and then moved on up and made my living painting pictures for years.”
Adickes traveled the world including a summer in Tahiti, “following in the footsteps of Gauguin, one of my great heroes.” A year in Japan, “I loved that Japan experience- painted a lot of pictures, had two shows there, but was sending back paintings every six weeks or so to the gallery here in Houston.”
Eventually Adickes settled in France in the coastal town of Antibes where he would spend nine months of year painting returning to spend his winters in Houston.
In the early eighties Adickes was approached by the Lyric Centers builder Joe Russo to make The Virtuoso. He has since then gone on to create and install numerous large scale works that range from The Beatles to Charlie Chaplin that include a 67 foot high sculpture of the city’s namesake Sam Houston and a sculpture park of American presidents. Although his first public offering is still amongst his favorites.
As he says “I like it every time I see it. I just think it's funny…I think it's just whimsical funny. I like stuff like that.”
But, not everyone agrees. The Houston art critic, Susie Kalil has said of Adickes public works "They don't have that kind of iconic quality. Adickes' work isn't funky enough. It's not hard-hitting enough. It's not surprising enough. There are absolutely no political, aesthetic or social issues. What is its purpose?”
To which he replies "I personally think my art is as good as that by X, Y or Z. But we'll let history sort that out."
A selection of Adickes early paintings are included Houston’s William Reaves Fine Art exhibition A Midcentury Montage: Art Works by Three Houston Modernists which is on show until the 19th of September.