Cowtown (Jazz and) Blues: In Texas, Robert Berry Persists in Painting Music

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Robert Berry, “Soul  of Jazz and Blues.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on canvas. 24 x 48 inches. Price: $750. Artist comment: “Created in 1999 on Gallery Wrap Canvas. Jazzed up in 2016.”  Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

FORT WORTH, Texas — While picking yellow as the background for a painting may be an unusually bold choice, it’s an appropriate one for a visual artist whose subject is a musical art which is also constantly re-creating its own distinct environment: Jazz. But what makes Robert L. Berry and his JazzXpressionStudio unique in the landscape of local artists in this city whose promoters somewhat ambitiously refer to it as the capital of “Cowboys and Culture” is that his boldness is not confined to artistic choices, but extends to the business of art. After eight years of participating as a showcased artist in Arts Goggle, the business association Fort Worth South’s twice-yearly art crawl, Berry decided to up the ante in 2012 and rent a street-level boutique space in a mid-sized office building on the district’s marquee avenue, W. Magnolia, so that he could display and sell his work in the neighborhood year-round. On paper, it was a good idea. With its craftsmen homes quickly being bought up and gentrified, the Fairmount neighborhood anchored by Magnolia held the promise of being the nearest thing to a Bobo (Bourgeoisie Bohemian) wonderland in Texas this side of Austin. If Berry finally had to close up his boutique — he now opens his studio by appointment to those interested in his art and also sells directly from his online gallery — it was because the neighborhood was ultimately more bourgeoisie than Bohemian, its denizens not so interested in actually buying art. And Fort Worth’s haphazard public transportation system — the city council actually gave back $25 million in federal aid it had received for light-rail transport that would have made it easier to get to the cultural district and other outlying districts because its main business patron was worried it would draw tourists away from downtown — worked against making Fairmount and Magnolia a destination for outsiders.

But like any inspired artist, Robert Berry persists in creating despite the unencouraging local ambiance. (If Fort Worth may have recently been declared the fastest-growing city in the U.S., the city’s cultural budget continued to go downhill.) And ‘persists’ is the operative word: It’s one thing to create art in Paris or New York, where there’s no shortage of art fans and colleagues to train with, not to mention a real infrastructure of galleries and museums; it’s another thing to *continue* in a town which puts more value on dimestore cowboys than platinum artists. So we thought we’d check in with Robert Berry and share some of his work, classic and recent. You can see — and order — more on his website. — Paul Ben-Itzak (Originally published in 2012.)

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Robert Berry, “Ghosts of Jazz.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on canvas. 24 x 24  inches. Price: $550.  (Custom black frame included.) Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Golden Jazz Trio.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on canvas. 20 x 20  inches. Price: $350.   Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Coffee Jazz Break.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on fabric. 30 x 40 inches. Price: $1,000.  (Custom frame included.) Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Jazzy Pianoxpression.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on canvas. 15 x 30 inches. Price: $450.  Artist comment: “Traditional canvas. Painted on all sides. No frame necessary.”  Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Jazzy Drumbeat.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on gallery canvas. 30 x 30 inches. Price: $500.   Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Jazz Blvd 2006.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on canvas. 20 x 24 inches. Not for sale.   Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Martini Monday.” Acrylic and cerne relief outliner on canvas. 24 x 30 inches. Price: $550.   Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

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Robert Berry, “Line Composition Connection.” Acrylic on canvas panel. 8 x 10  inches. Price: $80.  If Robert Berry has recently branched out from all that jazz, his work still retains the experimental essence of the musical form.  Image copyright and courtesy Robert Berry.

 

 

 

 

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