Houston

Ben L. Culwell

The Menil Collection

Ben L. Culwell is a Texas artist who last exhibited in the 1946 “Fourteen Americans” show at the Museum of Modern Art. This recent exhibition here in his home state, entitled “Adrenalin Hour,” consisted of a group of 45 small drawings that Culwell made in the South Pacific during World War II when he was a sailor and that have been happily recovered from oblivion. Culwell’s work was all but forgotten after he pursued a business career when no gallery picked him up—most likely because his work was an adventurous, unclassifiable hybrid: loosely Abstract Expressionist but also firmly imagistic and figural, with all the hallucinatory vigor that comes from the successful fusion of the abstract and descriptive.

These mixed-media drawings are, as Walter Hopps has written in his catalogue essay, “poetic diaristic inscriptions... made under the extremities of human endurance during the war in the

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