I found out recently that during the Renaissance, one received architectural commissions based on the quality of one's drawings of ancient ruins. It was thereby that one expressed his understanding of architectural form.
Architecture is a more complex discipline now, but the architect's impulse to draw is still carefully nurtured at the University of Miami School of Architecture, where Tom Spain is professor. It is the School's high regard for the art of drawing and the presence of talented draughtsmen like Professor Spain which help to make it one of the most important architecture programs in the world.
In celebration of Coral Gables' 75th anniversary, the city has organized a series of exhibitions featuring artists who depict Coral Gables. Spain was a natural choice to be the first exhibitor. His drawings, spanning a decade, are sensitive renderings of the architecture of Coral Gables, executed on-site in pastel, watercolor, ink, and pencil. They were made concurrently with a series drawn from the great monuments in Italy, and although the Italian drawings are not presented here, one can feel their presence in the grandeur of the Gables drawings. To call them skillful would be an understatement.
One likes to compliment the city for the aesthetic good sense to use art to celebrate this milestone in its history. It would do even better if it could run out this week and procure some stronger lighting for the 30 pieces in this show, because the artist's responsiveness to nuances of color and texture is acute and invites close examination. Watercolor and pastel, which are given to looking ethereal, are here used with great force and solidity without losing any of the inherent liveliness of the mediums.
What one gains in looking at this exhibition is the realization that Coral Gables, unlike much of the rest of South Florida, is worth drawing. That in itself is cause for pride. Where else can be found the likes of the scalloped façade of the Coral Gables Congregational Church, the towering DeSoto Fountain, the lush canopy, the charming walls of oolitic limestone? When the Village of Pinecrest celebrates its 75th anniversary, will it be possible to mount anything like this beautiful exhibition in its current city hall in the strip mall on US-1? Perhaps it should try. Coral Gables is a triumph of planned space. This exhibition, while lovely in its own right, is additionally a convincing case for civic beauty. It would be a worthy challenge to the rest of South Florida to make itself so inspiring to the sensitive eye.
Thomas Spain's work will be on display at Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, through the month of June from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Call (305) 460-5311 for more information.