James "Jack" Boynton

(American, 1928-2010)

Neon-Study, 1956

Oil on canvas; 18 x 40 inches

Gift of Linda and William Reaves, The Linda and William Reaves Collection of Texas Art at UHV, 2022

According to author Susie Kalil, James “Jack” Boynton’s art “aims for an inclusive abstraction that is expansive in its physical presence, an abstraction charged with referential and metaphorical forms that engage the imagination and invite us to look again.” Like a mirage in the desert, Neon-Study mimics reality. Furthermore, it whittles reality down to its essential parts. It does so without an explicit narrative. Rather, Neon-Study, with its referential and metaphorical symbolism, offers a skeleton of reality, inviting the viewer to sculpt its flesh and give it meaning.

The composition’s focal points are the two, equally proportioned segments of neon pink, one sitting atop the other. The top segment is ordered and balanced. This neon cluster of symbols resembles script. This script, which signifies intellectual meaning and suggests intelligibility, challenges the viewer to decipher its asymmetrical shapes. The lower segment of neon stands in stark contrast to its counterpart. Its expressive, Twombly-esque dashes, in totality, resemble a malfunctioning electrocardiogram. In spite of their distinct characteristics, both segments, engage our imagination. Like an illuminated sign shrouded by a thin, black cloth, both segments imply life. They function as fingerprints. These fingerprints, an impressionistic collection of humanity and reality, operate as conceptual entry points for the viewer to explore the work. Against the backdrop of abstraction, ambiguity, and chaos, these segments of neon allow the viewer to recognize the artwork’s layered meaning and to conjure infinite interpretive possibilities. As reported by Boynton, Neon-Study was inspired by a late evening thunderstorm as experienced in a screened-in porch. As sheets of rain poured from the Houston sky, Boynton suddenly awoke to witness the distinctive pink neon sign of the old Wengarten’s grocery store across the street shining through the black screen.

Born in 1928 in Fort Worth, James “Jack” Boynton was a key figure in the post-World War II Houston avant-garde. After graduating from Lamar High School in Houston, Boynton earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Texas Christian University. He began exhibiting his works in the early 1950s. In 1955, Boynton became faculty at the University of Houston. By the end of the decade, he had won the Purchase Prize, earned a solo exhibition at the Fort Worth Art Center, and garnered national attention. Boynton, who self-identified as a member of Houston’s avant-garde, was attracted to new and exciting art styles from around the globe, particularly Art Brute, Tachism, and Art Informel.


University of Houston-Victoria

STEM Building


Other Artworks by this Artist

Causeway, 1955

Sunstone, 1957