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The Best of The Contemp's
06 Member Show
At best, the annual membership show at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art is a mixed bag. There's the usual load of crap art there, of course. Nearly every where we look. But there's also a scattering of superb work by Dallas artists.
I'd forgot about it happening, since they charge $10 for us non members to attend their openings, and I don't want to afford that. But I was visiting Dahlia Woods Gallery, about a stones throw and a half away, and they suggested I drop by.
Once in, I went around all the walls once, photographing each work that caught my mind. I apologize to any artists whose work I may have altered the colors of. I'm still struggling with my new camera, and the lights at DCCA are supposedly museum quality but tend toward a mix of pinks and blues.
When I am a member, that member show is a mess. When I'm not, I wish I were. I can't win, except by visiting it every year or so and writing about the best of it.
Often I don't know when I choose a piece why exactly I like it better than the one next to it. It zaps into my head and wants to stay there. It almost never has anything to do with the title. In fact, if I'd read that first, I may have passed on Penelope Ann Bisbee's piece at the top of this page.
It's not up there because I think it's the best piece in the show, but I was delighted by its head over heels, stratified delivery. At absolute first look, it's funny and involving. The errata of ink spots is a bit much on second and third viewings, but its simple subtle color spectrum is direct and attention-grabbing.
I liked the bear, too, although it does not appear to be drowning. I like it floating there, just off the edge of the world. The to err is human form falling / floating / flipping is fine, too. Been there, do that plenty. Identify big time.
Susan Barnett's Fish Hatchery colors are similar. I didn't notice the title when I shot it. Now I like it even more, since I like getting lost in the old fish hatchery area below the dam at White Rock Lake, which this may portray.
Hardly matters what it is, though. Nice mix of colors and shapes, great squiggles, more or less natural, nice depth. Gently exquisite little painting.
Last digiphoto by Marie Van Arsdale I remember was at The Rockwall National a few years ago. This image has some qualities in common while some have progressed well beyond that twisted photo. Careful, crafted tonalities and soft colors.
Some of this image may have got lost in the darkness of overcompensating for reflections in the glass photographers seem so intent on destroying the delicate subtleties of their images with.
I remember a friend pointing out, laughing sardonically, that "photographers sign the mat." I quit doing that then and there, but when paintings and watercolors are presented directly I have to wonder why photographs, which are much more easily duplicated, are not.
Often I pass on photographing, thus writing about — since photos of work are my memory of them — simply because they are so difficult to render with all those reflections sparkling in that shiny glass.
For this one, though, I shot it directly from the front, at an angle and with a flash at an angle, which sometimes saves the photo from the mottled interference of reflected light, then gives me fits for its rectangular proportions. I worry that some subtle tonalities got lost in the rush.
I assume Marie has other photographs in this ongoing series of digitally rendered photographs, and I'm sorry I don't get to see them more often. This is lovely.
Here's another fine work with essentially similar colors and even softer tonality. I usually crop out frames, but this one seemed essential for the look of it, although thanks to its darkness, most of it got lost in the translation.
Anna said it looks like one of my photographs, and I blushed. Would that I could do what Mary Tomas does here in paint as well in a photograph. Wispy, atmospheric, dark around all the edges blending into that black frame. So nice.
What I don't get is the i.d, "courtesy artist & Also Gallery." Aren't all pieces in any show courtesy of the artists? Unless, of course, somebody else brings it in. But wouldn't it then be collector's instead of a members' show? I suspect the gallery insisted.
Jeffery Lee's is something a lot different from anything else in this widely diverse show. Deconstructivist all cap condensed type on parallel sheets of glass suspended by a dark wood stand, hung on the wall.
If you lean this way and that you can variously line up the partial letterforms on both sheets, but I couldn't make any sense of doing that. Nor could I find homogeniled in my dictionary. Hardly matters, it's starkly graphic, no more confusing than some of the other pieces in this show and a pleasant relief.
As unique as this appears, I've seen these things before, and I always appreciate seeing them again. Monochromatic in browns, speed freak art at its best and most obsessive compulsive. So many objects to compare parts of this with, no two of which makes any sense in this, its own context.
You get a sense of the size of this texturally intense extravaganza when you recognize parts of pencils forming the wrap around texture (ground) around the top. "Atomic" and "Enola Gay" (the plane that dropped the big one) play with images of airplanes and mushrooms, maps and an ocean of measuring. Too much fun.
George Lacy uses maps, too. Rich, dense colors create a topography of abstraction I have no idea what to do with but enjoy. Not just anybody can get away with using that much pink.
More rich pinks and reds, not easily decipherable textures and shapes — is that a knee? — and another densely appointed photograph. Nobody who reads these pages with any regularity will be surprised that I like Kenda's work. I can stand in front of almost any one of her pieces and just stare and stare. And smile.
This one looks less like fabric flowing underwater in some urban pool than an abstraction of a dancer in motion or I don't know what. Nor do I much care what it is. I'm just happy to keep getting to see new ones of her work.
Anna looked through my digiphotos of the show, paused long on this one and simply said, "Kenda North." Yep. We're fans.
Another completely different version of not easily decipherable textures and shapes — the confusion of it is half the fun — is also carousellish in a madcap circusish panorama. Boy! What I'd have given to have one of my photos in this show. I'll join next year again, and that show will... Well, ya never know.
In art we are known by the company our art shows with, and this show is anything but homogenous high quality art, but the best of it is pretty good dinkum, and I'm wondering whether I should settle again next year for making some crappy Christmas ornament for a freebie membership in that other avenue's Contemporary's sole annual membership exhibition.
Interesting that some of the funnier artists think their thickest thoughts in the guise of weaponry. Susan Whitmer, who's been shooting off her paint and poeting mouth in shotgun shells for decades shows up here in monochromatic shotgun shell reds and pinks, and former Dallasite Gregory Horndeski, more recently of Santa Fe, New Mexico, continues his series of verbose pipe bombs.
I used to read all the text on these things, even using an attached mirror to track the artist's thoughts inside-out and backwards around the edges. But I don't or won't read that stuff anymore. It's a matter of diminishing returns. I'm sure some Horndeski virgins read it and get the jokes' full force.
Me, I'm happy to see an old friend's work show up and wonder what it's about and why he has to use a pipe bomb to prove his point.
Read last year's Contemp Member Show story and the one before that.
July 7, 2006
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