Works from the late San Antonio artist, professor and art department chair are on exhibit at UIW.

It’s been some 17 years since Bill Reily last educated aspiring artists at the University of the Incarnate Word, but the late former professor and art department chair still has much to teach. With his unique approach to modernism, Reily’s works were a departure from many of the styles popular with San Antonio artists during the mid-20th century. Now, via the special exhibition “San Antonio Modernism: The Art of Bill Reily,” they’ve come back to the UIW campus where their creator advised and inspired for nearly 40 years.

Now on display at the Semmes Gallery in the Kelso Art Center, named for the late Betty Stieren Kelso and Lt. Col. Robert (Bob) E. Kelso (Ret.), the exhibition is a celebration of his prolific and distinctive works, many of which hang in the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the Witte Museum, the University of Texas at Austin – to name a few — and in collections around the globe. In his home state, the influential artist was an integral part in the mid-century modern art movement, or Texas modernism, and he was a founding member of San Antonio-based artists groups and art communities.

Bill Reily Comes Home to UIWThe exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the UIW Department of Art and William Reaves, founder of the William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art gallery in Houston. The gallery features historic, modern and contemporary works by Texas artists, including Bill Reily.  

Reaves thought that since Reily taught and was the chair of the department, that this would be an appropriate place for an exhibit, said Roland Sul, art gallery coordinator for the departments of art and music. Following Reaves vision, the exhibit is organized largely thematically, said Sul, keeping the work together and telling a story.

Bill Reily Comes Home to UIWAlthough he was known all over San Antonio and Texas, “San Antonio Modernism: The Art of Bill Reily” is a homecoming, said Sul. “It’s going to bring a lot of retired professors back,” he said. “Some of the art alumni that were under his tutelage, it’s going to bring them back. A lot of people that worked with him are still here. I think there is going to be a lot of interest.”

For at least one former student, the reunion began early. Art installer Jim Haught ’85 BA hung the works in the exhibit and was a student of Reily’s.  Though a long-ago graduate (Sul notes that Haught graduated when UIW was still “the college”), knowing he was handling Reily’s work made an impact. “He was very happy when he found out [Reily’s] work was coming here, and he was very happy when he was getting to install it,” said Sul. “It was his teacher, his mentor, the chair of the art department.”

With a teaching career that spanned nearly four decades, and touched hundreds of students, there are sure to be many for whom Reily’s paintings fuel inspiration and strike a poignant chord. “I think it’s a nice, small tribute to pay to have his artwork here in the gallery.”

“San Antonio Modernism: The Art of Bill Reily” is on display in the Semmes Gallery in the Kelso Art Center now through Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. excluding holidays. After hours showings can be made available by request at the discretion of gallery management.