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Derek Boshier and “Frightened Cowboy” English Artist Likes Houston BOOKS AND THE CULTURE By Candice Hughes Houston, Texas December, 1980 Dear John: So much has happened since we last met in New York. In that same week a A.I.R. Gallery in London. Recently I sold two paintings for $8,000. David Bowie bought the full-length portrait of himself as the Elephant Man. With the painting Diane Keaton bought, all the paintings I’ve sold recently have been in New York there must be a message there somewhere. It’s good here. Abbe Domend, a French missionary who visited Houston in 1848, said it was “a wretched town infested with ants and Methodists.” Billy Graham told a crowd of 70,000 here in 1952 that it was a “more wicked city than Hollywood.” I hope so. . . . A year after writing this letter to his friend, art critic John Russell of the New Yorks Times, artist Derek Boshier is still in Houston, apparently finding the city sufficiently wicked. He is now midway through his second year as visiting pro-, fessor and artist-in-residence at the University of Houston. Boshier first visited America in 1964 when he was a hot new talent in the British pop movement preoccupied with symbols of what he called Americanization, such as space heroes and ad campaigns for cornflakes and toothpaste. Internationally known, his work was recently shown in Lodz, Poland, in one of the city’s first uncensored exhibitions in recent times. The exhibition currently is on display at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. The vivid paintings in the CAM show were done since Boshier arrived in Texas in 1980 for his most extended stay yet in this country. A graduate of and former lecturer at the Royal College of Art in London, Boshier had stopped painting for more than 15 years to work in other media like film and photography and participate in left-wing British politics. Now, Boshier says, he tends to think of organized party politics as “rather crazier and crazier.” Politics for him is now a matter of “one on one” and he’s absorbed in making his “mementos in the shape of a drawing or picture.” A visitor to Boshier’s studio will find a group of large canvases, stretched and primed and ready for the paint that will turn them into his mementos of Poland. In the meantime, more from the artist’s letter to his friend: Being English in Houston is fun. A student said to me: “You know, you always remind me of Channel 8.” That’s the station with all the serialized BBC classics here. I was recently at a party of a collector here. A friend and I had been looking at various work in the house, and when we said our goodbye, the hostess asked our favorite pictures. We both agreed that they were the Roualt and the Chagall. The hostess started to say what her favorite was, but then became embar rassed as she recalled that her favorite, the Man Ray, was lost somewhere in the house. She and her husband hid it when they went to Europe this summer and now they can’t find it. . . . A Houston friend returning last summer from a visit to Italy got into a conversation with two Pakistanis on the flight. She said they told her they could always tell the difference between Americans and the English on sight. My friend asked how. They said, “The English are always whiter . . .” “You have to realize that my generation in England was brought up on America in the movies and on American culture,” Boshier said in an interview for the Observer. “There is sometimes a kind of European snobbery that says America has no culture. America has no culture? My god, it’s the most influential culture in the world! “This may sound strange, but I find that America is potentially the most socialist country in the world because certain liberal reforms that are happening here in practice are still only established . in Europe as a possibility. “For instance, the way in which legislation is applied to equal rights is amazing. And it works. I’m not saying there’s not inequality and a lot to be done. You can point to a lot of cases where equal rights is not working, where minority groups are exploited. But certainly no more than they are exploited in any other part of the world. Certainly Europe exploits minority groups. Switzerland, for example, exploits the Italian guest workers. THE TEXAS OBSERVER