Artist James Surls
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(b. 1943) James Surls is a Modernist sculptor who grew up in East Texas where his hours of playing in the woods generated a lifelong love of trees and nature. His sculptures are patterned after the organic forms of nature, although they often take on the shapes of human and other life forms. Surls is known for his roughly carved wooden sculptures, as well as smoothly finished bronze and steel works. Many of his sculptures incorporate images of eyes, faces and hands.

Surls received his B.S. from Sam Houston State University and his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He taught at SMU from 1969-1976. He created the Lawndale Alternative Space at the University of Houston in 1979. Lawndale was a thriving art community where Surls taught and worked with artists such as Derek Boshier, Gael Stack, Richard Stout, John Alexander, Luis Jimenez, and Nam June Paik.

Surls has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout Texas, as well as in New Mexico, California, Washington, New York, Michigan, Hawaii and Colorado. He was selected twice to exhibit in the Whitney Biennial Exhibition in New York, as well as in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2014 he was commissioned by the Upper Kirby Management District to create a 38-foot sculpture for the Galleria area of Houston. He was recently commissioned to create a bronze and stainless steel outdoor sculpture for Singapore’s Botanic Gardens. He has exhibited in numerous countries throughout the world including Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway and Peru.

He has been featured in over 400 publications, including four books about his work. James Surls’ work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Dallas Museum of Art; The Meadows Museum of Art at SMU; Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, D.C.; the Los Angeles County Museum, CA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Museum of Modern Art in NY and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.


Sculpture by James Surls