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's Last Stand:
The Texas Biennial

Photographs by J R Compton + Suzanne Paquette
  

5 Sermuncles from Food & Fiber

© 1993 by Michael Helsem

I was gladly semiflabbergasted by the scale and overall excellence of the 1993 Texas Biennial ( once I managed to find it ); and I guess I shouldn't complain of its palpable belatedness, seeing as how by this time I hadn't expected to see it at all, although a grand group show is what a lot of people wanted from DARE in the first place, & would have been spared much needless disillusionment had it occurred within the initial griffinage of DARE's existence

Anyway it is, as I said, a quality show, well worth the wait, justifying everything and (let us fervently hope) the beginning of a new level of artistic cooperation and involvement (100 volunteers!) from the most factious solipsistic excuse for a community on 7 continents.

Of course, there's more than five good artists here, but space forbids an exhaustive listing of everything that caught my eye. Repeat visits would be a must, if the time weren't so short ( why!?) ; very little is actually skippable, and dozens deserve the arcane pilgrimage, via the more northerly west entrance of Fair Park, past a procession of defunct locomotives.

Ordinarily I don't get a lot out of minimalist painting ( with the gloomily magniloquent exception of Rothko's Chapel ); it's always seemed to rely too much on pseudo-Zen pretentiousness and not enough on painterly savvy.

And the six consecutive oil panels of Laurent Boccara's Seal posit a narrative that is almost first-year-film-student in its obviousness: proceeding from nearly solid black to solid Venetian red in a sequence that, if you squinch your eyes and use imagination, might in its faint irregularities limn a time-lapse series of impressionistic landscape vistas.

Nevertheless, individual squares cast their spell with the dreamlike authority of the best Symbolist poems, and continue reverberating despite the cumulative noise of so many more extroverted works a-jostle.

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Sharon Kopriva's mixed media sculptures make you laugh first, and then shudder, and finally acknowledge the justness of their presiding metaphor of Catholicism as mummification.

Two rows of dummy nuns; a very creepy gauze-draped confessional; and (best of all) a demonlet perched atop a helmet atop a rifle, Little Boy Lost, unavoidably evoke Bruce Conner's similarly morbid-poetic constructions (as well as every B-horror flick ever made), but their physical presence and immaculate detail transcend the usual gamut of Church-Kitsch  — appropriation of art so woefully popular today.

One of the most unique artists in the show is William L. Farr, whose small watercolor gouache and collage pictures combine biomorphic and electronic circuit imagery in an austere autodidactic style, at once crude and exquisite, hermetic and redolent of universal grief.

Much of the surface is matte black, with little vignette-windows and flashes of intense color. A lover of realistic depiction might well wish for more of the virtuosity husbanded in a few square inches here and there-especially since miniaturists with something to say are so rare-, while I would have liked to see another mood than depression depicted, besides. Just one of these, says it all.

Best Metaphor undoubtedly goes to Vigil, by Connie Arismendi. Thin sheets of lead have been nailed together in a prismatic patchwork that entirely covers a board and its frame. Suspended in front, a small ovoid lamp burns a roseate fluid.

To me this says more about the spiritual life than heaping scads of Madonnas, crucifixes, medicine wheels or vinnewed bricolage wannabe- fetishes. Shifting dull reflections on the almost uniform metal, and its harsh irregular lines of division, comprise the world; and whether it turns out a window or a wall, the flame must serve its allotted span.

I found it impossible to believe Suzanne Paquette comes from San Antonio. Her two oil-on-plywood paintings Before and Looking Up II capture better than anything else I have seen, Dallas's essential heart of darkness.

Overwhelming in impact, thrillingly visionary, they make the banal image of skyscrapers at night (just when it seemed O'Keefe had had the last word on the subject) remorseless Kafkaesque emblems of the madness of power. The technique, too, is admirable, with bare wood showing through as practically the only light. But that's far from what one thinks about, here.

Instead: "Yes! I've been there! That's it! — In my nightmares, after five years of plush slavery, never seeing the sun or living green, the absolute denial of flesh and caring and contingency..."

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DARE's First Texas Biennial

© 1993 by Jeanne Chvosta, Exhibition Director

Hip Hip Hooray!
We did it! Whew. With many many hours of many many peoples' time, it happened.

It was:
mega-meetings
mailing lists
call for entries
fundraising
slides, slides and more slides (over 3,500!)
press releases
25,000 square feet of space
floor plans
more meetings
artists' statements
lots of walls
catalogs
permits
patching and painting
more meetings
a few headaches
lighting
late nights
new friends
spooky breaker rooms
pizza
T-shirts
banners
partying and playing
springtime
Arctic winter ice
3000+ attending the exhibition
sales
rollerbladers
6 zillion buttons
good reviews
Biennial mascots
new exciting opportunities
resumés
poetry readings
good food
roses
dancing
photographs
trophies
good friends

Special thanks to those who gave of their time, financial support and expertise. We did it with you, for you, and couldn't have done it without you!

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Exhibiting Artists

Felipe Abrego - Houston
Dan Allison - Houston
Connie Arismendi - Austin
David Aylsworth - Houston
Scott Barber - Dallas
Jill Bedgood - Austin
Suzanne Berberet - Houston
Robert Beverly - Arlington
Laurent Boccara - Houston
Scott Bodenheimer - Houston
Rick Carpenter - Houston
Hyun Ju Chung - Carrollton
John Dyer - San Antonio
Angella Emmett - Houston
Martha W. Falsetta - Denton
William L. Farr - Houston
Andy Feehan - Houston
Patricia Forrest - Dallas
Denny T. Fraze - Amarillo
Lilian Garcia-Roig - Austin
Robin Dru Germany - Rhome
Larry Graeber - San Antonio
Paul Greenberg - Dallas
Tad Griffin - Houston
Mary Howe Hawkins - Houston
Becky Hendrick - El Paso
Keith Hollingsworth - Houston
Leticia Huerta - Dallas
Mary Jenewein - Houston
Pam Johnson - Houston
Kelly Klaasmeyer - Houston
Brent Kollock - Dallas
Sharon Kopriva - Houston
Charles Mary Kubricht - Houston
Philip Lamb - Dallas
Lynn E. Lane - Dallas
Meg Langhorne - Helotes
Daniel L. Lightner - Crowley
Mildred Manning - Arlington
Arielle Masson - Houston
Diane Mazur - San Antonio
Holly Moe - San Antonio
Mark Monroe - Sherman
Roberto Munguia - Irving
Davis Northcutt - Texas City
Melba Northum - Fort Worth
James K. Orellana - Fayettville
Tom Orr - Dallas
McKay Otto - Houston
Suzanne Paquette - San Antonio
Michael Pavlovsky - Fort Worth
Mario Perez - Houston
Kate Petley - Houston
Barry Phillips the Younger - Odessa
Kathryn Pomara - Dallas
Jim Quinnan - El Paso
Todd Ramsell - Denton
Leslie Reichek - Houston
Cristi Rinklin - Houston
Robert Ruello - Houston
Patricia Ruiz-Bayon - Brownsville
Gary Schafter - San Antonio
Janet Schriver - Richardson
Ludwig Schwartz - Dallas
Jennifer Silitch - Houston
Hills Snyder - Helotes
Susan Sponsler - Denton
Ann Stautberg - Galveston
Debra Sugerman - Austin
Lorraine Tady - Dallas
Frances Merritt Thompson - Dallas
Jackie Tileston - Houston
Julie Vari - Austin
Joseph Vento - Dallas
Kathy Windrow - Garland
Nicholas Wood - Arlington
Randy Woodard - Houston
Sydney Yeager - Austin
Art Zealot - Denton
Reinhard Ziegler - Dallas

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