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Nasher Sculpture Center Opens

Richard Serra's My Curves Are Not Mad, 1987
Cor-Ten steel - 168 x 539 x 139 inches

 

I walked through Richard Serra's steel tunnel (above) hundreds of times when it was out in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, but when I emerged from the far end of this familiar steel tunnel this time, I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

 

Thanks to these two men — and a lot of other people, of course — Dallas now, finally, has a world-class collection installed in, of all places, the Dallas Arts District. That's Nasher Director Dr Steven A Nash on the left talking with Nasher collector and dreamer Raymond D Nasher after the press tours.

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Mark di Suvero - Eviva Amore, 2001
Steel, 424 X 564 X 360 inches

 

In some ways it's a splendid dream come true. A spectacular collection in a remarkable location in a techno-thriller of a building in the thick of downtown Dallas. All of Dallas' best museums are no longer 40 miles west of here.

It is not, of course, perfect in every way, but we'll pick those nits after I gush a bit more and show my favorites of the photographs I took on press opening day.

The Nasher Sculpture Center opens to the public 2 pm, Friday, October 17. See the story on DARts Calendar page 1 for more details.

 

Roy Lichtenstein - Double Glass, 1979
painted bronze - 56 x 42 x 17 inches

 

Looking at Roy's 17-inch deep sculpture (above) was a lot easier from the other side — without the early afternoon sun in my eyes, but that wouldn't give you tempting glimpses of the NSC's lush garden grounds.

The quest for the best sculpture garden in Dallas now has a spectacular entry (although Valley House Gallery's sculpture garden is quieter, gentler, more natural and has a lot more Dallas sculptors).

The Nasher even has special grass that they actually want us to stray from the cement paths to walk all over. After all, you can't properly see sculpture without seeing it from all angles. Nice of the Nasher to notice.

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August Rodin - Eve, 1881
(detail) cast before 1932
bronze - 68 x 17 x 25 inches

From the outside (below), Eve is just the sort of figurative sculpture many would expect a sculpture garden to have, although plenty abstracts and visual puns are out there, too. I was curious what her face looked like, so I ducked under and shot up into her face. Nobody warned me to get back away from the art, like they routinely do across the street.

 

I shot 117 photographs on Press Day, and we'll use more in these pages over the coming months. Meanwhile, let's go inside to see some of the wonders in the wide open spaces of the building without a roof.

Kathy took copious notes through the talks by Ray Nasher and Steven Nash and others, so perhaps she'll discuss the architectural wonders they were all so proud of. I was there to make photographs, so that's what I'll concentrate on here. Kathy's eventual piece will be on the Eat Art page soon.

No ahs or ums through Ray Nasher's fast paced talk — and darned few pauses. I kept waiting for him to stop, so I could photograph him pausing. He never did.

This guy knew what he wanted to say, said it, gently answered questions, then sat down. Our kind of world-class art collector. We were impressed.

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David Smith - 9/15/53, 1953
steel on iron base

Last time I saw this many David Smiths (nine here), I was at the National Gallery in Washington DC. This time, I was six and a half minutes from my house and, thanks to press day at the Nasher, the parking was free.

When I was a student at the University of Dallas nearly forty years ago, a book of his work set my soul on fire to photograph art. We go way back.

 

Pablo Picasso - Head of a Woman, 1960 - oil on canvas
and Head of a Woman, 1957 - painted steel

I liked that the Nasher thought enough of the art experience to show us comparisons of two and three D work by the same artists. I counted eight Picassos inside and one big, new one outside.

Plus nine by Henri Matisse, a Namu Gabo, a couple of Alexander Calders, Max Ernst, five Raymond Duchamp-Villons, an even dozen Alberto Giaccomettis, a couple of Paul Gauguins, a half dozen August Rodins, a large-scale Magdalena Abrakanowicz, four Medardo Rossos, two Joan Mirós, the major Richard Serra, the very familiar NorthPark hammering Jonathan Borofsky, two Julio González, Isamu Noguchi, Constantin Brancusi, George Segal, Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth, and enough other top rank sculptors to make your head spin.

Despite that there's nary a Dallasite in the mix, it's an amazing collection.

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Now, about those nits: during the talks the auditorium with the removable wall so the stage can face out into a small amphitheater, someone spoke inordinately hypish about their marvelous new website, and I wondered if that meant a whiz-bang, slow-load site. It does.

If I listed it on the Artists With Web Pages page, I'd have to slap it with a PSDLT moniker — Painfully Slow DownLoading Time. Animated, annoying, and so slow responding, I had to shut it off before I got anywhere close to what I was looking for. No prob, if you have high speed, though.

Worse — very unlike the Dallas Museum of Art's paved, high-walled 3D garden next door, the Nasher is noisy.

Not only can the clutter, clot and construction of downtown Dallas be seen over the low walls around the garden, it can be heard. The crashing din all but prohibits conversations on the Nasher's sound-catching back porch, though well down in the garden it is quieter.

The tech of the uniquely suspended metal sunscreen "roof" of this "roofless" structure is intriguing enough — the cheese grater grid of north facing holes does keep the interior space brightly shadowless, unless the indoor lights are used more dramatically than we saw.

But what happens if a raccoon or squirrel runs across it — or a sudden flock of pigeons lands up there? Five or ten pound difference on the roof, they told us, would change its shape.

It's nice to view north, out into the deep green of newly planted, fully formed trees from inside. But the view out of or into the front glass wall is less enticing.

The five component galleries are narrow, shotgun spaces with little variation. They seemed aery and spacious but look ordinary and cramped. Just how versatile can a row of sheds with permanent, parallel Italian travertine walls be?

Unlike the architectural drawings on the CD in the press kit, the photos of the sculptureless façade are tedious. The proximity of the center to the street, which the PR squad proudly promoted, means cars and buildings reflected in the big glass front wall, which is kept dark, shaded from view.

I was not impressed, but Kathy liked the city reflected in the glass front and likened it to an annimated installation painting or performance. "The building doesn't bother me, but the logo does. [She] wanted it to be stronger." She spoke to a French architecture writer who said the logo was "as subtle as the architecture."

 

Nasher Sculpture Center logo

 

Ray Nasher called the site "an empty parking lot next to a major freeway," and of course they have to promote it, since they've just spent so much money on the place. But if you were hoping the center would be a a work of art full of smaller works of art, you'll be disappointed.

We wonder what architecture critics will say once The Nasher settles in — say a quarter century from now. Will we look back and wonder what were they thinking? Or will we note that as unremarkable as the building is, it served its purpose well enough?

DallasArtsRevue welcomes your feedback.

 

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