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The TVAA's New Space

Story + Photographs by J R Compton

TVAA's New Space at Plaza of the Americas

Looking down at TVAA's new
space from the elevator

We were curious about the Texas Visual Arts Association's new gallery in the Plaza of the Americas, and I'd been thinking about joining them, to have a place to show more than the once-a-year opportunities The MAC and the Contemp offer, so I wanted to experience one of their exhibitions and rub shoulders with their artists.

We were, however, less excited than most of the visitors by either the show or the warmed-over office space that labyrinths in from a glass facade in the downtown mall.

room at tvaa

Like most offices, the lighting is fluorescent — bright in the middle and fading toward the walls where most of the art is. Unlike most galleries, the ceiling is low, limiting the size of work and seriously diminishing the possibility of dramatic lighting. Some of the art was so crammed there was no space for contemplation, just art art art. Other rooms were more spacious, but that jumbled sensation lingered.

Sculpture especially loses out in this flat light. I only saw one spotlight, and it was on one side of a painting by a dead artist. No other work in any of the rooms was individually lighted, and several cried out for it.

Special Lighting for Sculpture

James Crowe work in foreground.
Rowena Elkin in the corner of the room beyond.
Sculpture dying in mediocre light.

Three visually confusing events crowded the busy space: the TVAA's annual Signature Exhibition, where everyone — dead or alive — who's ever been juried into a total of five juried exhibitions during their membership, gets to show work, apparently forever; a book signing by a local art celebrity whose work we were markedly unimpressed by — although we had grown to appreciate her piece that Anna won on the North Dallas Art Tour a few years ago; and a show of Honorary Lifetime TVAA Members Octavio Medellin, Ann Cushing Gantz, David Hickman, Jerry Bywaters, Chapman Kelly and Rowena Elkin.

[Rowena Elkin's link here will take you to the cover story from an old issue of DallasArtsRevue on paper that someone had placed near her piece in this show. That story is from my visit with my friend "Weenie" just a couple months before she died. The web page includes all the original images.]

The Lifetime show was particularly confusing because it comprised unlike series of ragged visual aids along with unlit clunks of sculpture and painting.

Liz Netherland - Carnival - oil
Accepted into Critic's Choice

The colors are crisp and contrasty, attention-grabbing to the
core. The objects and textures exciting — Full of sight and
fury, but what does it mean? Is beauty enough?

Throughout the space, my socks stayed securely on my feet. Pieces were more often pretty, cute or schmaltzy than intelligent, exciting or cutting edge. We heard talk of an influx of younger artists but didn't see much evidence.

We did find a few treasures, but much of the more attractive work, though manifesting quality craft and technique, suffered from conceptual vapidity. Or art that might have been on the cutting edge thirty years ago but is so old hat now, it wouldn't keep the sun off.

David Blow

David Blow - Winter's Chapel
digital iris giclee (ink jet)
Juror's Award 2005 National

The photographer apologizes for the fluorescent tube reflections,
which I was unable to remove from the upper branch details.

We were, however, substantially impressed with David Blow's very large, digitally manipulated, nearly monochromatic photograph of a church in snow, all of which — except the central tree — had been flopped down the steeple. Impressive size and composition, with tiny bits of red berries on the lower branches and a tiny but vivid Cardinal perched near the top, shyly and slyly announcing that patch's asymmetry.

The opportunity to exhibit with as talented an artist as David Blow and some of these others holds an allure that was often offset by a prevailing acceptance of unremarkable art. Then again, there were a lot of nice people in attendance, many of whom were pushing the TV and As.

Among a variety of artists and organizers in attendance, we finally met Steve Beasley, who is legendary for the reproduction of fine art in photography, especially slides. Many better artists rave about his sensitivity to their unique colors, never an easy thing to do with film (or digital).

Steve turned bright red when I told him that, then proceeded to promote others of his services, but we were delighted with his shy company. I've heard about him for years, and this was the first time I've ever actually laid eyes on him.

Kathleen Dello Stritto - Flight

Kathleen Dello Stritto - Flight - acrylic (detail)

We liked the frame better than the busy brown landscape
on paper, but liked seeing that hanging loose, not caged
behind glass like many more amateur organizations insist.

I guess what I'm saying, is that while I'm not completely blown away by the TVAA and their new digs, I see some interesting possibilities there, and when one of their organizers told me they could provide as many as one exhibition opportunity every month, I began to lean into the possibilities.

It was an historic opening with two historical exhibitions so not, perhaps, the best choice to see what's going on with the TVAA right now. I'd like to pay more attention to them and their new space, but at $5 for the just more than an hour we spent reconnoitering, parking could be an expensive proposition.

I suspect I'll be able to find a cheaper slot, if I give it some time and walking distance, which probably wouldn't hurt me any.

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