Roots & Ties


November 9 - December 29, 2007

Fifty years ago, a group of Oklahoma artists headed west on Route 66 to the City of Angels to make their mark on the art world. Untitled reunited the work of these world-class Oklahoma-raised artists in the most exciting contemporary art exhibit of the year, Roots & Ties. It was the last in a series of six Oklahoma-related exhibitions that Untitled presented in honor of Oklahoma’s State Centennial. The downtown non-profit arts organization spent the year raising the visibility of Oklahoma artists and Roots and Ties will conclude the series of exhibitions with works by artists whose talents have brought notoriety and recognition to the state. 

Five of the artists whose work was included in the exhibition—Robert Bonaparte, Joe Goode, Jerry McMillan, Ed Ruscha, and Mason Williams—currently reside on the West Coast. In addition, the work of the lateLee Mullican, a Chickasha native who lived in Los Angeles for much of his life, was also part of the exhibition. This historic selection of art was the beginning of a series that recognized the creativity and achievements of artists who were born or raised in Oklahoma and found their niche in another part of the U.S. The six artists whose work commenced this series have been making art for more than 30 years and their works are now featured in public and private collections around the world. Roots and Ties featured new and past original prints, paintings, and photographs. The original lithographs and etchings by Bonaparte, Goode, McMillan, Mullican, and Ruscha were provided by Cirrus Gallery in Los Angeles and Hamilton Press in Venice, California. The prints from Hamilton Press were displayed in the Oklahoma State Capitol for the month of March following the exhibition at Untitled.

The art of Roots and Ties represents the major movements of contemporary art, with conceptual art, pop art, and abstraction interpreted in the works. Lingering in these diverse styles is the influence of Oklahoma, whether it’s the image of a twister in a Goode lithograph, the linear representation of a gas station in a serigraph by Ruscha and Williams, or the subtle Native American influences in a Mullican painting. The works are united by a use of new approaches to understanding ordinary or traditional themes. Goode, for example, is known for his adaptations of household objects that evoke his upbringing in Oklahoma. “Joe would laugh at the nobleness of a fried-egg sandwich, or even a telephone, and then, sometime in the future, would find himself painting pictures of these very things,” said childhood friend Ruscha. “Even the abstract paintings contain a nagging tie to his past.”

Roots & Ties was made possible in part by support from the Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, and Joanna Champlin.

Robert Bonaparte, Joe Goode, Jerry McMillan, Lee Mullican & Ed Ruscha