Artists & Designers

David Bates (b. 1952)

American artist David Bates was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1952 and is known for his paintings, prints, and sculptures that stem directly from a life spent in and around Texas. He received a BFA and an MFA at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and participated in an Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Bates's subject matter, often autobiographical, relates to the everyday world: the "local scene" at rodeos, country fairs, flea markets, fishing trips, and barbecue joints. He's made iconic images of fish, portraits of dogs, still lifes with catfish or luscious magnolias, as well as landscapes of woods, swamps and the Gulf Coast. His work includes many portraits of particular people, such as his wife, and an old canoe guide named Ed Walker, and Hurricane Katrina flood victims.

Bates's paintings depict Southern imagery and invoke an intentionally crude and awkward technique, best characterized by stiffly proportioned figures jammed into patterned backgrounds. While they exemplify the unfussy style of American regionalists, his works are still well-considered compositions whose underlying abstract values are clearly sophisticated. There is a sense of freshness and unselfconscious spontaneity coexisting with a sense of order, design, pattern, and balance which reveals a masterful and complex technical skill. In making paintings that are naturalistic and characterized by a bold, formal simplicity, Bates positions himself between the high and low art traditions. On the one hand, he pays tribute to the works of humble American visionaries. On the other hand, he is conscious of the canonical artists who have favored similar formal qualities and bold visual mannerisms.

Generous with his time and talents, Bates has continually worked and lived in Dallas, contributing greatly to the cultural environment of Dallas as well as Texas.

Adapted from

DMA unpublished material, Mayer Library Artist File, David Bates.

Web Resources

  • YouTube
    Watch a short interview with artist David Bates, in conjunction with his 2014 exhibition jointly held at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Nasher Sculpture Center.