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Spain 2024

Rex Hausmann  “Gone to Texas, or Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona …”  

You look at what you think is a painting, and of course, it is a painting.  There’s this figure, half-length, in a black suit that looks like a Spanish fascist uniform but with a red tie like the bullfighters wear and a bolo tie over it with the Alamo and “Texas” on the clasp. The last time I saw that tie, it was on a lion; the last time I saw that suit, it was on Rex Hausmann. But in the painting, it goes with some kind of military hat with the brim foreshortened into an arch, but it’s got half a Hausmann Millworks logo, like on a gimme cap, and there’s a missile-like dart with a sharp point going up to the right and the upper half of the face is by Picasso and the ear on the left is like an ochre fan-shaped Woodcap mushroom facing an old telephone and the ear on the right looks like a layer-pastry seen sideways and the Spanish colors and the Catalan shield and half a silhouette of a Rioja wine bottle and two right hands holding cigars but wait don’t they come from Cuba and a left hand with an expresso cup surrounded by roses and you can’t remember if they went to the Madrid rose garden near the Goya church or not and then you realize that it’s sort of a self portrait and the next thing you know you’ve opened it up like a door and there’s all these scrapbooky labels and group photos and a map of Madrid and Viña Tondonia from Lopez de Heredia in Rioja which is a WICKED good wine and sure enough it said Rioja on the front of the painting and there are lots of other photos also inside. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

And after you catch your breath, you see that there’s an inscription on the back of the canvas: “COMINO: the impossibility of staying in the grays of Picasso’s Guernica”  and “NOTES ON SPAIN'' and Rex Hausmann has signed it and there’s a color chart among the scrapbook labels.  So maybe it’s all about color? And “comino” is cumin, which is used in Mexican and Texan and Spanish food but maybe he means “Camino,” a road or “the way to something” which is what they called the Old San Antonio Road in Texas: El Camino Real (I’ve been to Old Dime Box, by the way, and a detour to North Zulch, too); or the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim’s way of Saint James, so maybe he (and they) were making a sort of pilgrimage which is what I think it was, punching their art pilgrim’s card to great effect and even later back in Madrid with Sorolla who also composed in color and in his gouaches used the fire-engine red like an accent over the final vowel so I think it all makes a lot of sense. Or maybe “conmigo,” which means “with me,” as in “Come with me,” or come take a group picture conmigo, and it rhymes with “amigo,” and of course it all leads you back to the picture and behind the picture into the scrapbook assemblage and some scholars think that nineteenth-century scrapbooks were part of the origin of modernist collage, and … my word, but I digress.


OK. So now you’ve opened up this note book – like the way the picture opens up, swings out like a garden gate. Think of it as a serial collage, a deep archaeological dive, and now you need to know something about Rex, other than the proverbial mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. (Actually, I made a typographical error and typed “enigman,” and I like it. Enigma-man, enigma-superman.)  His paintings are mysterious but they knock you down. 

They are COLORFUL. Rex uses color like Jackie Chan uses his fists and feet. But Rex uses color and drawing, and lots of drawing (industrious!), and works with his thoughts as well.  The cascades of imagery coming off the wall at you are not random, they are chosen and considered and honed to make a point. The cathedral, called the Duomo, of Florence is blasting out of the canvas, or into geosynchronous orbit, but it’s between the two lions of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library, New York – or are they the two at the New York Public Library, which he has also drawn? He’s been to Madrid recently: are the two lions in front of the parliament building soon to appear?

Do we see a pattern here? Additive imagery, triggering multiple responses, both in the viewer and in the artist as the composition emerges. Life patterns become design. And speaking of patterns, notice the black and white stripes, like banners hanging off the sides of the Duomo. Matisse in Morocco, 1916? Oh yes, there’s an art history lesson in each and every Hausmann picture.

Rex grew up in San Antonio, as if you hadn’t noticed. His parents, Gene and Renee, created a home with an emphasis on creativity and industry – industry in the sense of working hard and applying yourself to tasks, but also literally: Gene and Renee grew (did you know Rex loves to garden?) the Hausmann Millworks company into a sizable enterprise. Rex and his brother Erik would, as Rex put it, “push brooms” in the factory buildings. But they also took art lessons and were exposed to culture. When Rex enrolled at UTSA, it was as a business major,a dyslexic business major, who worked (industry!) I like to read philosophy and cultural anthropology and one day, prompted by a mentor, “woke up” and became an art major.

When he went home to tell his mother about the sea change in his life, he found her – where else? – in the barn. Because yes, there were animals, horses, and Renee is a skilled equestrienne. (Gene is a talented sculptor.) There was a holistic sense of incorporating a wide range of human experience, in which animals and plants – you can find them in Rex’s garden – play a part, as they do in Rex’s imagery. There is often a tree in his compositions. When he wanted to express empathy with the people of Uvalde, the result was a landscape with trees. Rex is also a survivor of gun violence. He knows, he understands, he shares. The world of living things and plants and flowers interpenetrate the built environment of human culture in his works. Life, nourished by faith, sinks roots and defeats evil.

Rex completed his undergraduate training at the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, in 2006, and eventually took a Master of Fine Arts degree there in 2016. He has cultivated his art (did I mention he is also an enthusiastic gardener?) in Italy, France, and Spain. 

Rex and his works of art get around: the museums in San Antonio, notably the McNay and the UTSA gallery, the SpencerMuseum of Art at the University of Kansas and the Lawrence Art Center, the Smithsonian in Washington, the Institute of Texan Cultures, and the Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in New York, not to mention Neiman Marcus and The Cloister at Sea Island Resort. He is represented by galleries in San Antonio, Fort Lauderdale, and New York. When a Manhattan dealer fills the historical Upper-East-Side “Waterfall” Mansion with Rex Hausmann’s paintings, one simply says, “I expected no less.”  What took Madison Avenue so long?

Rex likes to say, “Grow Where You Are Planted.” He means it to apply to the arts. (Were you aware that he plants gardens? Did I remember to mention that?) He and his parents plow the fields of culture, sow artistic resources, and reap Community.  I mean, of course, “The Hausmann Millworks: A Creative Community,” where small-scale industry meets big-time creativity. “A Creative Community,” as he puts it, where, yes, “he gardens, teaches. and paints daily, and enjoys a cigar with friends every so often.” Oh, and depicts them in paintings – the cigars I mean, but also the friends.  Let a thousand flowers bloom.


- Dr. Marcus Burke 

Marcus B. Burke is currently the Senior Curator (Emeritus) in the Museum Department, The Hispanic Society of America, New York. He holds a PhD in Art History from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where he has also been adjunct professor. From 1974 to 1977, Burke held a J. Clawson Mills Research Fellowship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he later co-curated the 1990 exhibition Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries. He has been a guest curator at and consultant to many other museums. His research specialties include the history of collecting, Renaissance and Baroque art in Italy and Spain, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish art, and Latin American 

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