Texas in My Soul

A.C. Cook and the Hock Shop Collection

July 27–October 26, 2008

Dawson Dawson-Watson (b. London, England, 1864; d. San Antonio, TX, 1939). Flowers of Silk, 1928. Oil on canvas, 12 x 16inches. The Hock Shop Collection, Fort Worth, TX.

Lois Nevelle Kelly (b. New Mexico Territory near Chamberino, 1910; d. Denver, CO, 1990). The Cowboy, Ben Avila, 1932. Oil on canvas, 35 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches. The Hock Shop Collection, Fort Worth, TX.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram characterized A.C. "Ace" Cook as a "one-man cultural district." The former Texas International Airlines pilot and pawnshop proprietor has seen a 25-year crusade to preserve Texas art history reach its logical conclusion in an unlikely venue: an ice cream parlor.

Since opening the Bull Ring in the Fort Worth Stockyards near the beginning of the new millennium, Cook has welcomed visitors from throughout the globe for homemade ice cream, Texas wine, ice-cold beer — and the peerless collection of early Texas art lining its walls.

Now this art collection that holds near-mythic status is going on the road with Texas in My Soul: A.C. Cook and the Hock Shop Collection, opening to the public on Sunday, July 27 at the Tyler Museum of Art. Organized by the TMA, the exhibition will remain in Tyler through October 26 before moving on to the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts from November 20 through January 8, 2009.

Cook will be on hand for the TMA exhibition's preview celebration from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26. The evening will feature a sneak peek at Texas in My Soul, along with Texas wine and spirits, Southwestern cuisine, and a special Western Swing performance by Texas Country Music Hall of Famer Johnny Gimble and the Johnny Gimble Trio. The preview celebration is open only to Museum members; for information on becoming a TMA member in order to attend, call 903-595-1001.

"Ace is a true Renaissance man, whose dedication to preserving Texas art for its own sake is a legacy that will last through the generations," TMA Director Kimberley Bush Tomio said. "The Museum is honored to share in this legacy by celebrating this extraordinary, internationally famous collection and the deeply soulful commitment of the man behind it."

Texas in My Soul showcases more than 50 works from the Hock Shop Collection, which includes major paintings by scores of the Lone Star State's most celebrated and lesser-known artists. Highlights of the collection include such storied works as Frank Reaugh's Margaret's Peak (1909), Douglas Chandor's intimate portrait of Alfonso Harrison (1933), Dawson Dawson-Watson's signature image of a Texas prickly pear in full bloom, Flowers of Silk (1928), and the earliest known painting of the Texas state capitol, Julius Stockfleth's State Capitol, Austin (1888).

"What I've tried to capture in this collection is the spirit of Texas," Cook said. "This show, more than just the artwork, is primarily about Texas itself. The art reflects back to who the people of Texas were, and the beautiful landscape here. It's inspired by the rugged individuals who settled the state, and the beauty of those individuals."

In 1997, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon gave the Hock Shop Collection its first major museum exhibition. Cook also has previously loaned paintings to major exhibitions at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles and the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, as well as the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and State Capitol in Austin.

Yet the Hock Shop Collection remains best known as the star attraction in Cook's Fort Worth establishment, where "to collectors of early Texas art, the treasures of the Bull Ring are proof of what is possible," said Scott Grant Barker, a noted Fort Worth cultural historian and longtime friend of Cook's.

"Many of the visitors to the Bull Ring see my father as a collector. I see my father as an amazing man who has traveled an exciting journey through his collection of art," added Cook's daughter, Charlene Cook Lindstrom, who has worked by her father's side at the Bull Ring almost daily. "He is unselfish in his effort; his opinions are strong; his courage is undaunted; and his compassion and standards for the human race are like none I have ever seen. My dad's ability to recognize great artists and great art is uncanny."

Lead sponsor for Texas in My Soul: A.C. Cook and the Hock Shop Collection is The Bobbie and John Nau Collection, Houston. Additional support for this exhibition is provided by Bill and Mary Cheek, David Dike Fine Art, L.P., Ken and Debra Hamlett, Joseph and Jean Oliver, George and Beverly Palmer, and Texas Art Collectors Organization (TACO). Corporate Member sponsors are Southside Bank and BSCENE Magazine.

The Tyler Museum of Art is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave., adjacent to the Tyler Junior College campus off East Fifth Street. Regular hours are 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1:00–5:00 p.m. Sunday. Light lunch is available in the Museum Café from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the TMA Gift Shop is open during exhibition hours. For more information, call 903-595-1001