The discerning eyes of Houston art lovers are turning once again to Grogan Gallery as the aesthetic trailblazer of the Houston Design District spotlights acclaimed painter and sculptor René Romero Schuler. The Chicago native has been beguiling national and international critics and collectors for years with her dreamy portraits. Now thanks to Grogan, Houstonians can wander Schuler’s color-scape worlds of her solo exhibition, My Heart Holds A Universe, right here in the Bayou City.
You can find Grogan Gallery at 7800 Washington Avenue in the heart of the Design District. This is a true international gallery, representing more than 20 artists from the United States, Latin America, Europe and Australia. Schuler’s distinctive work — and this new exhibition — fit right in with its powerful aesthetic.
In Schuler’s painted creations, faceless figures float in a vibrant color atmosphere, often wearing dresses as nebulous as clouds. Renowned for these vibrant yet enigmatic portraits, Schuler’s paintings, sculptures and works on paper portray the spiritual essence of these figures. The work hints at the unknown resilience stories of individuals — and especially women — everywhere.
“They’ve become testaments to strength, individuality, of the power of the female, sisterhood, all these different ideas rolled into one. Just from this simple figure,” Grogan Gallery director David Hardaker says.
From afar and at certain angles some of the figures appear to have hints of features. Draw closer and the mysterious and deeply layered facelessness prevails and allows viewers to complete the picture using their own experiences and imagination.
“There is a simplicity that you visualize when you have a look at the paintings, but they’re actually not simple to paint,” Hardaker details. “She paints with a knife and she’s developed a particular style. If you know anything about painting, it’s quite hard to get consistent knife strokes.”
Yet that unique style and technical mastery results in canvas textures that sometimes resemble surfaces from the natural world, like tree bark or ancient rock. In others, the figures appear to be emerging from rainy landscapes or are seen behind tempered glass, obscuring and adding an air of mystery to these both delicate and powerful figures. They exist at once as a mirage and beings claiming their place in the world.
“I think she would say that there isn’t much about the painting that isn’t intentional. And she might also say that you won’t necessarily be privy to everything that is intentional,” Hardaker notes.
A Worldly Art Force at Houston’s Grogan Gallery
Along with exhibitions around the globe from Chicago to Paris, Rome, Singapore and Beirut, Schuler’s work is found in the permanent collections of The Union League Club of Chicago, Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) in Chicago, Grand Valley State University in Michigan, Coral Springs Museum of Art and St. Thomas University Museum of Art – Sardiñas Gallery in Miami.
Hardaker notes that in interviews Schuler avoids talking explicitly about her childhood and adolescence. Yet when discussing her work, she reveals the art has become a healing practice for a traumatic past.
“The only thing she wants to focus on is that she made it through,” he says. “I think these individuals in the paintings are testaments to making it though. I think she maintains an air of mystery about where they’re actually from for a very good reason.
“I think they’re autobiographical and aspirational at the same time.”
Writing of her creations, Schuler explains: “Regardless of what darkness may have filled my young life, I have survived and become healthy and strong and loving. This is all that I bring to my work, for me.”
“I will continue to create the single, solitary figures, not to convey loneliness, but because that is my way of conveying the idea that we are all unique and our ways of interpreting the world around us is completely individual.”
My Heart Holds A Universe, the title of this solo exhibition at Grogan Gallery comes from Schuler’s perception of her art as both a healing process and spiritual practice. She has immersed herself in the ideas of Deepak Chopra and Glennon Doyle and subscribes to philosophies that the human body as a temporary home for the soul, linked to the greater universe.
“In my own personal vision, I’ve created an idea of my heart holding a bit of the universe inside of it,” Schuler states. “Somehow, thinking that thought just fills me with happiness. I feel big and whole and like pure love.”
My Heart Holds A Universe will be on view until Friday, March 18th at Grogan Gallery. To learn more about Grogan Gallery and all its unique art, check out its full website.