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James Surls: Flowers

Jan. 30 - May 8, 2010


Now available: James Surls: Flowers Cell Phone Audio Tour

James Surls (American, b. 1943) is known primarily as a sculptor, and throughout his extensive career his creative process has continued to evolve as he incorporates themes, ideas, and concepts that have been at the core of his art for the past forty years.

The work featured in this exhibition sets the framework for Surls most recent installation on the University of Wyoming campus, Rolling Flower, now permanently hanging in the upstairs atrium of the William Robertson Coe Library. As precursors to Rolling Flower, the works presented here demonstrate Surls ongoing development of the flower form a recurring symbol of life and beauty in his work.

These large-scale pieces of wood and steel reflect both universal and personal ideas for Surls. His hanging sculptures, especially these flower pieces, demonstrate his quest for balance and his acknowledgement of paradox concepts that can be applied broadly to human nature, or on a smaller scale to Surls life and his work. Behind the conceptual aspects of Surls work is his exquisite craftsmanship. The hand of the artist is visible through the fine detail and wrought forms that gracefully balance the physical immensity of the whole.

Surls began working with wood as a primary material in the 1970's, marking an important transition in his work as he moved from an emphasis on the process of creating to a greater focus on content. His use of wood is also reflective of his own history. Since his childhood and throughout his career, Surls has positioned himself apart from the mainstream art centers by living and working, essentially, in rural areas. Whether it was the Piney Woods in Texas or the open plains and mountain views of Carbondale, Colorado, Surls situates himself where he can connect with nature, and therefore his materials and inspiration.

Surls work has been exhibited widely on a national level and his works can be found in public and private collections around the world. He has acted as a curator, teacher, arts administrator, and advocate of the arts for over forty years. He is represented by Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston, and Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe and New York. Formerly based in Texas, where he was honored with the Living Legend Award by the Dallas Contemporary Art Center, he now lives and works in Carbondale, Colo.

  • Funded in part by the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum.

James Surls at the University of Wyoming in the fall 2009 during the dedication of the new Coe Library and his commissioned work, Rolling Flower.


Left: James Surls (American, b. 1943), Black-Tipped Flowers from the Garden, 2005, bass, steel, 117 x 71 x 71 inches, courtesy of the artist

Center: James Surls (American, b. 1943), Around the Flower Grows, 1993, wood, steel, dimensions not known, photo courtesy of the artist

Right: James Surls (American, b. 1943), Me and Five Six Petaled Flowers, 2005, wood, steel, dimensions not known, photo courtesy of the artist

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Phone: (307) 766-6622


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