Karl E. Hall

(American, b. 1952)

Masquerade on Stage, 1985

Acrylic on Masonite; 48 x 36 inches

Gift of Linda and William Reaves, The Linda and William Reaves Collection of Texas Art at UHV, 2023

The stage is set, but the scene is unclear. The ground is bright yellow. The shadows are blue. The cast of animals and people know their parts. Two masked women stare into the distance. They peer at and beyond the viewer. The woman in red holding flowers gestures as if trying to get someone’s attention. The woman in blue, standing in profile with her head turned, looks on dispassionately. A masked cowboy, as if from a time and place entirely disconnected from the women, sits on a tree stump in the foreground. He holds a wooden farming instrument. Two disinterested dogs move through the scene. A rooster struts from right to left at the cowboy’s feet. The composition is festive and carnivalesque. Blocks of vibrant color compose a tapestry behind the two woman.

Masquerade on Stage is equal parts surreal and symbolic. In this work, Karl E. Hall heightens and distorts reality, its color and form. The work is simultaneously familiar and foreign. This combination is exciting and jarring for the viewer. Hall describes his style as “Gospel Surrealism.” Hall’s art expresses the way he feels “about the spiritual and physical aspects of life.” The surreal elements of Masquerade on Stage, rendered in vivid colors reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence, evoke the spiritual aspects of life, the otherworldly. The realistic and familiar elements bring the viewer into contact with the physical aspects of reality. This balancing act between confronting the surreal and the real, the seen and unseeable, is mimetic of the artist’s experience of religion, faith, and spirituality.

Born in 1952, Hall grew up in Houston. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Arts Education from Texas Southern University where he studied under Dr. John T. Biggers. In 1979, he completed his MFA at the University of Houston Clear Lake. For more than three decades, Hall taught art in the Houston public school system. He retired from teaching in 2011. He has exhibited at the Blaffer Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Museum of African American Life and Culture.


University of Houston-Victoria