Driving Lessons: Thirteen Stories
by Tim Coursey

December 12, 2020 – March 13, 2021

Due to the pandemic, the gallery is open by appointment only; to arrange a visit, email Pollock Assistant Curator Everton Melo at emelo@smu.edu.

We will be taking appoinments during the chrismas break. 

The exhibition draws its name from Coursey’s newly released artist’s book, Driving Lessons: Thirteen Stories. Composed of the artist’s original short fiction and drawings, it was created on the risograph machine that is part of the Pollock Gallery’s RISO BAR display. The exhibition includes a new sculpture by Coursey, Hope Chest, as well as 70 copies of the book and a series of quotations from the text that have been printed and hung throughout the space. Original pencil illustrations that appear in the book are included as well. The exhibition conjures a pre-modern era, emphasizing the craft and time necessary to form the hand-printed books and the delicately carved wooden chest. His writing is made to live sculpturally, in various forms, as Coursey explores his interest in the two mediums and the ways in which they intertwine in his practice.

Hope Chest, a box made of poplar with bronze fittings, looks like an early 19th-century take on a Beowulf-era dowry chest. The chest and its contents weave a web of association with the book’s content: A similar box is described in the stories, and appears in certain drawings. The contents of the chest are of uncertain origin, with some appearing to have been crafted by the artist while others seem to be found objects. Some, including a taxidermy coyote head, fig leaves and a carnival barker’s cane, are referenced within the text or appear in illustrations on the walls.

Driving Lessons: Thirteen Stories similarly invokes questions of provenance and a sense of being lost in a different era. Despite being so beautifully produced, the text of the stories is far from final; Coursey points out that these texts have yet to see a copy editor, and he “takes no offense at being read with a red pencil in hand.”  The stories almost harken back to those by newspaper writers of the 19th century, tossed off as quick amusements to submit for the next day’s paper. Likewise, the illustrations that make up the book refer stylistically to the work of commercial illustrators who excelled at producing a narrative picture in minutes. This sense of the slapdash is deliberate, and is foundational to Coursey’s practice: Both writing and drawings are the product of steady work over the last few years.

In creating his book for the exhibition, Coursey worked with RISO BAR, the risograph printing collective behind the concurrent exhibition at the Pollock. RISO BAR’s mission is to empower artists to experiment in self-publishing, and push the bounds of their practice through this liberating technology. Coursey designed his artist book with the riso process in mind, making use of the technique’s lo-fi aesthetic that is similar to screenprinting. The resulting manuscript suggests a newsstand edition for an 8 x 5½-inch, digest-size pulp magazine.

Installation images by: Kevin Todora


Tim Coursey has lived in Dallas, Texas, since late 1948.  He studied art under Roger Winter at Dallas College and later at SMU, where his teachers included Otis Dozier, Jerry Bywaters, and Mary Vernon, Larry Scholder, and briefly, James Surls.  More often than artists, for decades his friends have been writers, machinists, teachers.

His day jobs have included foundry hand, pouring enormous one-piece bronzes; janitor/ bus driver; professional jeweler, silversmith and pattern maker translating Michael Graves and Paloma Picasso to their manufacturers; faker of convincing antique Japanese sword fittings; producer of tony furniture.

Exhibitors of fine art, as compared to that less lofty output, have included one man shows at 100 West Corsicana, Haggerty Gallery/ University of Dallas, Cidnee Patrick Gallery, Edith Baker Gallery, a Carolyn & Jim Clark salon show, a Patsy Swank documentary on him; and Valley House Gallery has also shown him, and Dallas Visual Arts Center, Harris Gallery Houston, D-Art, Trammel Crow Center, Dallas City Hall, Moody Gallery Houston, Janie C Lee Gallery (Dallas), Contemporary Gallery Dallas.

A fair number of the collectors, private and corporate, are defunct as well.  Louise Nevelson had a sweet little one-off bronze, Coursey wonders what became of it.  

Artist’s Statement:
Coursey admires artisanship in high art– Willem DeKooning’s painting, for instance.  And competent manipulation of materials in lowlier arts and trades– these stories and narrative illustrations, for instance.

In his sculpture, there’s often been a sort of compare & contrast going on.  References were taken from archaeology, the built world, geology and living things; and from the map, the mechanical, the blueprint halfway between those two.  A lot of illusion and fakery was involved in the art's production, part of the game.  Gessoed paper may've been made to look like cleft slate or cast iron, or in an assemblage of components,  each might’ve been carefully crafted to look crudely mass produced.  Narrative fiction, sort of.  

Not particularly dark or morbid, though there’s that suggestion– more like poorly lighted.

The stories and illustrations in this show come from the same esthetic as the sculptures did, full of partly understood artifacts that suggest histories.  The characters’ stories are composed of partly understood artifacts that suggest a larger, better-lit story.  

Artist’s Note: The collection of stories, so beautifully presented in this Risograph edition, is a draft that’s never seen a copy editor.  The artist takes no offense at being read with a red pencil in hand.