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This page contains information about the current gallery exbition in the O'Kane Gallery located on the 3rd floor of the main building of the University of Houston - Downtown.

O'Kane Gallery - Current Exhibitions

The ‘Left Bank’ on the Bayou: Avant-garde Art and Theater in 1930s Houston

September 4- October 16, 2014
Opening Reception: September 4, 6:00p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Nione Carlson, [View of City], ca. 1930s.In 1930, Houston was still a town of less than 300,000. After the war, its population exploded into what is now the fourth largest city in the United States. Although more of a frontier town than a cosmopolitan center for arts, 1930s Houston began to attract progressive Texans who believed that avant-garde performing and visual arts had a place in the Bayou City.

The ‘Left Bank’ on the Bayou: Avant-garde Art and Theater in 1930s Houston,” is an exhibition produced by the O’Kane Gallery at the University of Houston-Downtown, intent on recreating the early spark that set the tone for acceptance and appreciation of the arts that is apparent in today’s thriving Houston art scene.


A key figure in Houston’s art history is Margo Jones, a theatre director and innovator known for creating the first professional theater-in-the-round in the United States. As a Houston resident in the 1930s and early 1940s, Jones directed a troupe called the Houston Community Players. The ensemble opened in December 1936 with a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. Jones later earned credits on Broadway and around the country, including praise for a Chicago production in 1944, when she became the first (in collaboration with Eddie Dowling) to stage Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.


Inspired by Jones’ passion, a group of visual artists sought to bring modern art to Houston. Included in the group were artists Carden Bailey, Gene Charlton, Nione Carlson, and Maudee Carron. Gene Charlton, Forrest Bess and Robert Preusser went on to national and international careers in the visual arts.


In 1938, many in that group joined to exhibit in a new gallery on Branard Street, called Our Little Gallery, in the back building of a residence. As a group of artists aged 17 to 35, they were young people devoted to introducing abstract art in Houston. The exhibition will display visual art from these artists’ collections.


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Last updated or reviewed on 8/21/14

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