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Last Texas Biennial Story
1. The 2005 Texas Biennial:
The Illusive 3rd Dimension
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Austin artist Jerry Chamkis - Kosmophone


The first piece in the first place we visited — Doughtery Arts Center on Barton Springs Road — during the opening weekend of the 2005 Texas Biennial that really wowed us, was Jerry Chamkis' Kosmophone that translates Cosmic Rays into ambient music. He had a long explanation posted, but trust me. Technically art, yet perceptible in different dimensions. Eloquent audio outside the box; high tech knobs and glowing tubes inside.


Houston artist William Betts - Take my breath away - acrylic on MDF


Dimensionality may be one of the more important sub-themes at the show.

I did not like the William Betts' striped piece when I first saw it — oh, another Bridget Riley rip, I thought mindlessly. Then I started looking at it to see how it accomplished its 3-D magic. I know it has no third dimension. It is flat. But I had to look down at it at close range to know its strong optical approximation of shape was sham.

In conversation, I found myself comparing Betts' piece favorably with other works that deal with the elusive third dimension in subtle ways, and it fits right in the category.



A painting of a partially collapsed card tree, having lost in that compression most of its 3-dimensional extension, toys with our sense of space. It's a tree, no doubt, but though we recognize its component parts, we do not see much of its tree-ness.

As does the clover in Christine Gray's other painting, also shown in the tech-laden Bolm Studios. Upon close inspection, the green plant exhibits its pinned-together paper clover composition, further confounding our assumptions of dimensionality.



Austin artist Christine Gray - oil on panel - detail - full view on right


Note the remarkable similarity between Annie Simpson's wide, flat-surfaced painting of cosmic star stuff, below, in the Dougherty Center and the long, checkered soft-colored strips comprising Young-Min Kang's giant, room-filling traffic sculpture.


Annie Simpson -

San Marcus artist Annie Simpson - Since There Are No More Stars - oil on canvas


Austin artist Young Min Kang - Interstate Junction - digital prints installation
(detail of area in bottom right of image below)


Young-Min Kang's careful sculpture of traffic on multi-layered overpasses entirely comprising single-pixel strips of color tones mounted on chicken wire rails, knocked our collective lights out. There was competition, but this was the most jaw-dropping piece we encountered at any of the five venues. Thanks to it and a few of its neighbors at Bolm Studios, we developed a serious affection for that place.

See my story on The Artists and the 5ive Venues of the Texas Biennial.

It was also one of the bigger pieces, and I had to back up into the next room to include the whole of it in a single photograph. Up close, it seems a storm of abstract color squares. With a little distance, however, the overall image began to coalesce. In the photo below, it's clear.



In a chance conversation with a friend of Faith Gay's at Lombardi, we hooked into the theory of history that great ideas arrive in a lot of people at the same time. None are necessarily copying each other, although in the art world, that's never clear.

The similarities of Gay's work with Dallas artist Charlotte Smith's are visually obvious, except that in at least this piece, Gay's third dimension is illusory. Another of her pieces nearby in Lombardi looked like fancy icing for a cake, her word takes on a depth of a fraction of an inch.

Only after I gave this one several long, close-up, length-wise looks just to make sure, did I learn that it's absolutely flat.


Austin artist Faith Gay - Langleybandontherun - paper on acrylic (detail)


Charlotte Smith's 2 pieces — one blue and one overall tan, also at Gallery Lombardi, share a certain resemblance to Faith Gay's, only Charlotte's are not flat, as the shadows under each of the spires in the photo below attest.

As Charlotte pointed out and I tried to deny, I didn't used to like these little pointy pieces of hers. I did prefer her walls of dangly transparencies and their shadows, still. But How can ya not appreciate a painting that almost reaches back atcha.

Similarly vivid colors certainly, acrylic paint and those little round, puddle-like eyeballs looking back.


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