Cammie Jo Tipton, Assistant Curator
Pop Art exploded onto the scene in Britain in the mid-1950s and Public Art UHS artist Derek Boshier was there. During London’s swinging sixties Boshier was experimenting with new styles and materials and would be one of the first artists to elevate popular culture into the realm of fine art, a practice he continues to this day.
When the British artist was a young student at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, working alongside his friends and fellow artists David Hockney and Peter Blake, they formed what would later become known as the second wave of British Pop artists, several years before Pop would reach America. The 1960s was an era of vast experimentation and Boshier was exploring a wide range of mediums such as painting, photography, film, sculpture, printmaking, collage, drawing, assemblage and bookmaking. As for his ever evolving styles, there is one consistency: popular culture. Boshier says, “My work from Royal College of Art days to current work has always been from popular culture. An artist should always use the medium that is best suited to the idea.” One area of inspiration was pop music, and when Boshier encountered David Bowie, the musician had him create the cover for his album Lodger (1979) and the two became lifelong friends and collaborators.
The pioneering British artist has a strong personal tie to the University of Houston. In 1980, Boshier was invited to the university to teach in the Art Department. The artist remembers, “My time living in America was an expansion of what was initially a one semester visit as a visiting artist to the University of Houston in Texas. The semester turned into a thirteen year stay. I married and had two daughters in Houston.” When in Texas, the artist immersed himself in Texas culture and the large oil paintings he produced during his stay contain representations of colorful urban cowboys, suited oil executives, Gulf shores, oil derricks and even the Houston skyline itself.
Texas has continued to be a source of inspiration for the artist throughout his career. Currently, the University of Houston Downtown proudly displays three of Boshier’s large-scale paintings that he produced during his time at the University of Houston. While each canvas is unique, all are created with thick layers of paint and each forms a singular connection with the Gulf region itself. Before leaving Texas, the artist gifted Public Art UHS with the three canvases, Vogue, Oswald and Lech Walesa (1982), Mysteries–New Orleans (1983), and The Exhibition (1984), all of which are now on prominent display in the halls of UHD’s Academic Building. After thirteen years spent working in mixed-media such as assemblage, collage, and performance, Boshier’s time spent in Texas marked a significant return to painting. Perhaps it was the culture of oil-rich Texas that inspired a devotion to oil paints. In 1995-96, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston exhibited Boshier’s works from his time spent in the Lone Star State. Titled “Derek Boshier: The Texas Paintings,” the exhibit illustrated the artist’s interest in the mythology and stereotypes of the Gulf region and Mexico, as seen through the lens of an expatriate “outsider.”
Currently, Boshier lives and works in Los Angeles. Ever evolving with his brush on the pulse of current affairs, Boshier’s recent work consists of large, black and white drawings that address such imminent subjects as racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. Boshier’s works are collected by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Tate Britain in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Yale Center for British Art, among many others. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017 and he continues to exhibit globally as an originator of the iconic Pop Art movement.