Visual Vernacular: Howard Sherman
Howard Sherman, “Speed at the Expense of Depth,” 2016 (detail)
Creating work with abstract autonomy, Howard Sherman consistently presents art that maintains its own dialogue within the piece. His aesthetic speaks in the manner a cartoon strip conversation bounces from frame to frame. The tradition of the abstract runs through the veracious veins of his paintings. Punches of pigments play out. Texture ripples in non-sequitur directions. The often-mammoth size of Sherman’s work is the appropriate vehicle for his style, all stemming from his background as a cartoonist.
“Life shapes you as an artist,” states Sherman. “Cartooning taught me so many things. I started out as a daily comic strip cartoonist before I moved into the contemporary art world. The newspaper daily deadline taught focus and discipline. Practice makes perfect. Also, without realizing it, I learned the economy of line due to the constraints of the format. When your art gets reduced down to the size of a postage stamp, ever mark counts.”
Colors create the boom and beat similar to those found in the music of movement. Lyrical escapades seem to vibrate in blocks often in black, pink, and yellow. The arc of a track seems to be subdue in his abstract subject of a canvas or sculpture but still felt through the scanning of the eyes as one studies from corner to corner stretched. “Sometimes, I ask myself if this painting made a sound, what would it be?” says Sherman. “My studio practice is analog. My communication is digital.”
A diligent studio practice is what has made Sherman’s work consistent and cognizant of social waves. In the piece “Little Tricks That Erode Your Defenses,” Sherman utilizes acrylic in punches that saturate space while marker speaks in intricate shapes, playing with the dynamic and conversation of the canvas. Similar verses are strummed through the landscape in “Feeding Off The Land Like An Animal” while geometric spots of pigment speak to the erosion of colors such as hot pink. Elaborating with dimension, Sherman is propelling the auditory nature of his work through the use of layers and collage.
“My recent work has become more sculptural,” says Sherman. “While I’m still making two-dimensional paintings, the surfaces are more tactile and have led me down a new path. Now everything has become more physical, more raw. Simultaneously, there’s a newly discovered sophistication in the way things are created. Also, I’m more considerate of color and probably less polychromatic than before.”
Through his bodies of work, the rawness of his presentation is still tinged with the academic, leaving room for a viewer’s questions amongst the collective but meditate chaos. In a sea of self-taught talent, Sherman knows that his educational experience was worth it, aiding him in his art making then and now.
“I have my Masters of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the University of North Texas,” says Sherman. “I also have a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art from the University of Texas. My graduate school experience was invaluable. As much as higher education seems to be under assault in recent years, I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I had great faculty, great peers and great situations. Most importantly, it was both challenging to get accepted and then succeed. We created an intense environment which pushed several classmates to leave it all on the field.”
His work has built him up in the local community while rocketing him into exhibitions outside the city. Sherman has been in a number of solo exhibitions across the United States, and his work has been featured in exhibitions in Texas, California, New York, Florida, Spain, India, and Peru. Names of past exhibitions ring a sense of newness and edge with such titles as Eating your Friction, Apocalyptic Wallpaper, and Feeding Off The Land Like An Animal. His work has also been recently featured on the Texas Abstract: Modern + Contemporary art history book cover. Regardless of where his work takes him, Howard still considers Houston and Texas home base.
“Houston is supportive and enthusiastic without a lot of barriers to entry,” states Sherman. “The support has been tremendous and I’m very grateful. This has allowed me to recently take a studio in New York City while keeping my space here, too.” The dance between two cities has allowed Sherman to conjure a fresh perspective, utilizing the cultural vibrations and bustle of each city to round out the ideas bouncing from frame to frame in his mind, from frame to frame of canvas and beyond. Texas serves as a homecoming this spring with his solo exhibition, Shifting Fancy of the Crowd, opening April 1, 2017 at Circuit12 Contemporary in Dallas.