James "Jack" Boynton

(American, 1928-2010)

Sunstone, 1957

Mixed media on canvas; 44 x 77 inches

Loan courtesy of Foltz Fine Art, Houston, TX

Sunstone, with its dark palette, gestural markings, and moody atmosphere, modestly and misleadingly introduces itself to the viewer as an archetypal example of Abstract Expressionism. Reminiscent of Mark Rothko’s famous “color field” paintings, Sunstone’s large swaths of yellows, greens, and browns bleed casually into one another. They overwhelm the textured circle in the middle of the composition. The brightest tones emanate from the circle.

But Sunstone does not fit comfortably in the category of Abstract Expressionism, for it is not completely devoid of objectivity and representation. Rather, Sunstone simultaneously exists as a traditional landscape thinly concealed by abstract qualities, and as an expressive, engaging full abstraction. In moments, the circle becomes the sun and the rectangular shape in the foreground becomes the horizon. The spatial relationship between these two fundamental shapes, in tandem with the artwork’s color and title, is all that is required to recognize land and sky. In other moments, the work’s expressiveness overshadows its primordial, childlike symbolism. Sunstone’s dual nature, consisting of abstraction and representation, alternates between stating fact and expressing feeling with equal vigor. MFAH curator Alison de Greene described Boynton’s modernist, largely abstract oeuvre as consisting of “introspective, visionary landscapes.”

James “Jack” Boynton was a key figure in the post-World War II Houston avant-garde. He was born in 1928 in Fort Worth. 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 took a faculty position 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

North Building Second Floor

Other Artworks by this Artist

Neon-Study, 1956

Causeway, 1955