Visual art news, views & reviews in Dallas, Texas, USA

Home  Index  Calendar  Member art  Join  Ops  Resources  Feedback  Contact us  Reviews  Search

CADD's First Vernissage —
The Unvarnished Truth:
Of Smiles & Piles of Art

Part One — Continued in Part Two

The view from there - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The View from Upstairs at 333 First Avenue

When I requested a press pass for the new Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas (CADD)'s first event, I had in mind attending the $10 Inaugural Art Fair Saturday and Sunday. When they instead sent one ticket to the Vernissage …

From the French, meaning "varnishing," as in the last thing artists do to a painting before they show it to the public — fix the colors so they don't smear. The word has come to mean the exhibition's day-before, by-invitation private reception, whose invitees include friends, buyers and reviewers.


David FeBland - Path of Escape, 2005
oil on linen - 18 x 36 inches
Valley House

… I was dismayed. Wasn't sure I wanted to go. What would I wear? I wrote a trade-down letter in my head, but it never made it to pixels. I went. Dressied up a little. Jeans and a shirt would have been fine, though my dark slacks and dark short-sleeve shirt were comfortable. More than 400 people attended The Varnishing. A thousand more Saturday and Sunday.

Had my doubts but took my best camera to document the event. Now that even I have high speed internet, I can do pictures big and give some visual flavor. Photograph art, of course, but also objects, spaces, architectural details, color combinations, whatever I found I could focus on.

Alvarado, René - La Toreada (The Bullfight), 2007
acrylic and oil on canvas - 48 x 36 inches
Valley House

First I thought I was there to document the art I liked, but that didn't take long.

CADD's fair presented differing sorts of art in tight geography with space in between to party. Nice not having to drive all over town sampling. But driving lets me look in the nooks and crannies not just at the chosen few. At Valley House I always tour their sculpture garden, only since Nasher the city's second best. Bigger and greener than the museum's bright concrete pads.


Red Bottle - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Raquel Ramirez Antonio
at Conduit

Victoria Palermo, Lola-loli, 2005,
rubber - 73 x 16 inches -

Little of that open air art elegance showed in The Varnishing. Not much, either, of scaled-up sculpture, though there was Larry. Even gallery bathrooms are often fun places to check out art. The back hallway into Conduit's is fascinating with the clutter of accumulated art. Craighead Green's restrooms are lush with it. 333 First Avenue's were artless.


Michael Roch - Owl, 2007
plaster - 63 x 16 x 9 inches

I prefer white walls, because they make it easier to get photographs the right color, but these poshy brown ones were more than adequate. Some booths were open, airy, rectangular. Others wound around and closed in on themselves. Goss, perhaps memorably, stacked catalogs instead of art, but there was lots of art all around, some fascinating.

Ron Engllish

Ron English - Cowgirl Guernica
acrylic on canvas - 90 x 36 inches - $15,000
Not sure which space.

Of the several words used to describe art here lately, I like contemporary best, though I wondered how many of these works were truly of this newish century. Some more obviously. That word is terribly overused. Calling just one place "The Contemporary" is ludicrous.

Neither it nor its McKinney Avenue competition was acknowledged in this Varnishing, except as footnotes in the CADD Art Guide and on the CD. I didn't see anything of the one other place in Dallas that calls itself that (Dunn & Brown Contemporary), though they are a member.


Sedrick Huckaby - Larry, 2003
oil on canvas - 84 x 61 inches
Valley House

Gradually, I noticed that as visually fascinating as was the art, so was much else. I'd long hoped I'd get it together to attend a mass public event, just to photograph people openly and unfettered. Many there were colorful characters (even in White On White or Black On White), and I was in my element capturing contemporary candids.

Good Question from Goss

Other art cities have them but the only other art fair I've seen — supposedly at the Coffin Factory behind SouthSide on Lamar, although it ended up underneath SSoL (where the trains used to go through the Sears Warehouse), was mostly local, disorganized and a mess — though an inspired mess.

Glove - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ludwig Schwarz - Untitled (Cocksucker)
from the Road Rage series, 2004
oil and enamel on canvas - 78 x 78 inches
George Quartz - Don't Let Me Down, 2006
resin, acrylic - 14 x 6 x 7 inches,
Edition of 3 at Road Agent

This was neat and well lighted. Well enough I tried flash but one time only, and that nearly washed out the leather glove extending as if the Count of Monte Cristo was ready to shake hands. Well organized. Well attended too, raising funds to benefit a scholarship for the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a direct connection to our future of contemporary art.

Kitchen Staff - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kitchen Staff — Unsolicited Smiles

The only trouble I encountered was some people's idiot notion that a photographer — any photographer — is fair game to commandeer to shoot Stand & Grins. It happened twice, both well into the event. These photographs are in strict chronological order. The text is not.

A group of people I did not know nor wish to meet — who were already gathering into The Big Pose armed with broad smiles — stopped me in my tracks and demanded I photograph them. I used to explete deletables in such situations, now my S.O.P. is to politely reply, "No, thank you," and go on about my business.


And / Or Floor

Lily Hanson (Dallas) - untitled, 2006
installation with MDF, wood, fabric, wire, and thread
43 x 38 x 19 inches - on the And/Or Floor

I did that, quickly forgetting the quickly forgettable. A couple minutes later, while composing something down the hall, the posse of him and a woman caught up with me. Not pleased with my summary dismissal, he nearly shouted that he was the owner of the building. His flaring anger scared me. I hoped my quivering voice wasn't obvious.

He demanded an immediate explanation. Right then, right there. I didn't ask Or What. I rambled what I and DallasArtsRevue are about — Dallas art and Dallas artists — not society smiles. I told him I was reporting the event, not a hired flack. That there are photographers who line folks up all smiling. But I wasn't one of them. I did not tell him those posed pictures give me the creeps

Rainbow Frames

(both) Nick Ackerman (San Francisco) - untitled, 2006
acrylic and collage on paper - 17 x 15 inches

Weddings, parties, SolstiCelebrations or a varnishing, I document events in as many visual details as I can. Trying often to make art of it. I didn't tell him this, I'm telling you. I used to cringe when a reporter at The Dallas Times Herald introduced me as "his photographer." That behavior only stopped when I started introducing them as "my reporters."

I get that assumption often. People see the big camera and insist I take their picture. Sometimes I tell them my hourly rate. Often, I just pass them by. As I did the owner of this high-security fenced-in building and parking lot in the semi-sleaze industrial warehouse wasteland caught between Fair Park and downtown Dallas, across the narrow V-block from 500X, where I parked and walked to and from that night. I don't valet.

Security - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Security:  She tried to wave me off, then
settled into this smile when I shot. Sweet.

The other person who insisted I photograph her and her companion, described herself as a new artist in town. I'd told her about DallasArtsRevue when someone introduced us earlier and handed her the only business card I handed that night. She said she was there to see what art sold here.

I said I wouldn't bet on all this selling. Although I did see a few red dots. Neatly missing the C in CADD, she said she was surprised there were no Remmingtons. I explained she could find some in Dallas — or Fort Worth — if she wanted, but that the Dallas art scene has grown since then. This event might be sign of further growth.

Heather Gorham

Heather Gorham, Good Dog,
paint, wood, steel, bronze - 11 x 8 x 5 inches
Craighead Green

She came back later insisting I photograph her, so next time there was one of these she would be one of the artists shown. And sold, no doubt. I had a camera, therefore I was "her" photographer. I liked the twisting magic logic of it but was still dismayed by the notion, so I shot her and her companion with And/Or's glowing booth behind.

I wish most Dallas artists well, but that Stand & Grin is not on this page. I've avoided those and the ubiquitous "stand in front of your art and smile big" photographs throughout the 29 years of DallasArtsRevue history. Probably always will.


Two Dudes - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Dandies

David Crismon - Portrait of a Woman
oil on metal - 32 x 38 inches
John Reoch smiling big
and Steve Green laughing

I didn't get the joke while I was photographing this art collector/man about town/former The MAC Minister of Information in the Craighead Green space. Later realized that his and Steve Green's smiles (Spontaneous ones are fine and fun in photographs. Those others are usually just stupid.) had to do with his snazzy outfit (why I was shooting) and comparison with the painting before him (which I didn't notice till later), I guess.

Gerald Peters Entry - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Brad Howe - Rapido, 2007,
steel and polyurethane
Howard Sherman
Holding Congress in a Foreign Land, 2007,
acrylic amd marker on canvas - 60 x 50 inches

Most booths were of the style of the galleries. Gerald Peters' (above) was clean, neat, open and carefully gridded. And/Or was loose and wild and shiny with mediums and video motion. Road Agent bright colorful and more on the edge. Barry Whistler in his minimalist black suit and muted blue tie, stood in a jumbled space with art on the floor and everywhere else, a study in contrast with his almost always minimalist gallery. Craighead Green was clean, serene and sprightly with light and humor.

Big Hat - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Valley House's Cheryl Vogel talking with Ricardo Garcia

Inside Valley House itself is darkish, quiet and a little labyrinthine with visual treats along the way. Their booth seemed dark, narrow winding and oddly disorienting. The uncharacteristic Larry was a contemporary cry from what I had come to understand as the historical nature of the art I think of them showing.

Sky in Glasses - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue Sky Reflected in Wine Glasses

I noshed on many of the strange hors d'oeuvres served through the crowd. Pick 'em off the plate and swallow 'em quick makes it easy to balance camera with eating. Drinking ice water and ice only — I wanted to be able to focus — is a sit down and enjoy trip only.

Conversations on the soft white couch-like object were easy, though they had to be loud amid the bright acoustics. Sitting there I talked with several I might not have otherwise. Janet Kutner among others, so she was in jovial enough a mood later to smile big for the camera in what turned out a pretty, spectacular, spontaneous stand and grin, warm with reality.

Continued in Part Two

Return to Home.