If you heard of Doug Jaques' passing last spring, you may not have recognized his name, but you more than likely knew his art. His murals are among the memorable to adorn the walls of Austin: the aquatic delights outside (and inside) Esther's Follies; the surreal splendors of Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life), across the street from the beloved Varsity mural by Carlos Lowry, which earned him a pair of Chronicle "Best of Austin" awards; the lush Hill Country vistas transplanted into the Hilton Austin Airport's atrium; the subterranean mysteries on the Vreeland Graphics exterior; and the inspiring cultural inclusivity at Austin Community College's Eastview campus, among numerous others. Jaques was of that remarkable generation of local artists – Jim Franklin, Kerry Awn, Rene Anguiano, Greg Jones, Raúl Valdez – who saw blank walls as canvases for epic, often fantastic imagery, and through their work established a new tradition of mural art that still flourishes today.
Thank goodness we have Jacques' murals to stand as a sort of ongoing exhibit of his exceptional artistry, but there's another showing of Jaques' work in town right now, and if you want an even richer sense of the man's talents, of his extraordinary command of color and shape and trompe l'oeil effects, you should carve out some time in the next couple of weeks to see it. In tribute to Jaques' 20-plus years on the faculty of the ACC Department of Art, during which time he inspired legions of students and passed along to many his love of murals, the ACC Art Gallery has assembled a posthumous retrospective that includes a host of paintings, drawings, and mixed media works that most Austinites have never seen. It's but a meager sampling of his prodigious life's work, but it's nevertheless a wondrous show, with pieces that show the artist at his most phantasmagorical and visionary: crimson-tipped spirochetes and lavender amoebas drifting across electric-blue seas; orange pea pods swimming past coral reefs; a spectral face or arm thrust into an aqueous realm of spidery veins and luminous globes; a silhouetted figure with outstretched arms standing in a swarm of white and azure beads; an ethereal pomegranate bursting open to project a blinding blue light. These are mesmerizing mindscapes that draw us in with their otherworldliness and saturated hues. Doug Jaques was one of a kind.
And since we shall not see his like again, we owe it to ourselves to see as much of the art that he created while it's gathered in one place. Who knows when we'll have another opportunity to take this extensive trip with this remarkable contributor to Austin culture?
"Faculty Showcase: Doug Jaques" continues through Feb. 14, Monday-Thursday, 10am-3pm, at the ACC Art Gallery, 1218 West. For more information, visit www.austincc.edu.
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