McClain Gallery is proud to present our first exhibition of work by the late Jane Allensworth (1937–2023). In a decisive homage to an artist who revealed she was “not believing in absolutes but looking for them anyway,” the exhibition pairs Allensworth’s austere minimalist canvases from the 1970s with works on paper and paintings from the last two decades.
After working as a medical researcher, Jane refocused on painting by taking classes at the Art Students League, New York City, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts School. Based in Galveston, Jane studied with Dorothy Hood, who also led a small symposium of female artists who cited Hood as their “artistic guru.” Allensworth’s career was rooted in South Texas, with four solo exhibitions at the storied art dealer Tibor de Nagy’s Houston outpost between 1976 and 1981, three at the Galveston Arts Center between 1972 and 2014, a 1979 juried exhibition at Women and Their Work in Austin curated by Marcia Tucker, and many regional group shows. After a 35-year hiatus from Houston, Jane was exhilarated by the prospect of sharing her work in Houston again.
Jane’s preferred medium was acrylic because of its versatility. She worked in light washes to create luminous veils of color. On top of this ground, she often employed masking techniques or graphite to create sharp surface markings that expanded the skin of color field painting beyond the atmospheric to allude to multidimensional planes. In reducing content to the basic line, she emphasized the metaphysical effects of color. Her works were often singled out in art reviews and juried competitions: esteemed critic and artist Peter Plagens selected her Chinese Vase Paintings as a winner in “The Amarillo Competition” of 1977. The year before, The Post’s arts writer Mimi Crossley noted her work was akin to Mark Rothko’s canvases in their ability to “produce a mood, a meditation, a state of reflection.” Jane was never interested in the fumbling of context or biography, asserting, “it's the painting that counts, not who did it.”
In a grouping of works on paper made in the last ten years, linearity persists, but the interaction of shapes seems increasingly elemental and playful. Often haloed or back-lit, these wiggling volumes teem with life and light. Horizons and softly scumbled surfaces are interrupted by forms of equal parts structure and apparition. Jane expressed herself as a painter who related her creative process to that of a composer or poet. She challenged herself “to create work that reflects my sensibilities in a meaningful way, to achieve a connection to common threads in the experiences of being human in this time and in this world.”
This exhibition, organized before Jane Allensworth’s passing, is curated by Erin Dorn, Director of McClain Gallery. We extend special thanks to Jane’s family. Read Artist's Obituary here.
JANE ALLENSWORTH (b.1937, Marshall, Missouri; d. 2023, Galveston, Texas) received her Bachelor of Science from The University of Missouri. She studied at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts School (now Glassell School), Houston, Texas, and the Art Students League in New York, New York. Allensworth exhibited her art beginning in 1970; she had several one-person exhibitions in Galveston and Houston. Institutions that have collected her work include A.T.&T., New York, New York; Alfanco, Inc., Houston, Texas; Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Co., Shreveport, Louisiana; Beaumont Art Museum, Beaumont, Texas; Colonial American National Bank, Roanoke, Virginia; Dean Witter Reynolds, San Antonio, Texas; First City National Bank, Houston, Texas; First Hutchings-Sealy National Bank, Galveston, Texas; Galveston Houston Company, Houston, Texas; Gary Gross, Inc., Houston, Texas; Hospital Corporation of America, Nashville, Tennessee; Insco Insurance Company, Houston, Texas; Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Houston, Texas; Lackshin/Nathan Houston, Texas; Minzenmeyer & McGee Architects, Houston, Texas; Philip Morris, New York, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Ruska Instruments, Houston, Texas; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas; Southland Corporation, Dallas, Texas; Texas America Bank-Galleria, Houston, Texas; Texas General Petroleum, Houston, Texas; United States National Bank, Galveston, Texas; The University of Houston, Clear Lake, Texas; Weingarten Realty, Houston, Texas; William Temple Foundation, Galveston, Texas; Wilson Industries, Houston, Texas. Jane Allensworth’s records are listed in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. This is Jane Allensworth’s first solo exhibition at McClain Gallery.