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DEEP Art Walk
The D.E.E.P. (Deep Ellum Enrichment Project) Gallery Walk was 6-10 Saturday March 10, 2007 at 10 art spaces — including Revolution, Continental, Art Prostitute, Road Agent, Barry Whistler, Kettle, Pawn, 2917, Studio Sling and Mutt in Deep Elm (map & list) then continuing later at Club Dada. We've added 500X, because it opened that same night with a similar verve.
If there ever was a question about the diversity of Dallas art — or at least the art in Dallas, this short-notice, short mileage tour of Deep Elm area galleries was long on the answer. The list — Revolution, Continental, Art Prostitute, Road Agent, Barry Whistler, Kettle, Pawn, 2917, Studio Sling, Mutt and Club Dada — included old, new, established, upstart and just barely art spaces — showing a surprising spectrum of art.
First thing we noticed, from the first gallery we visited (Mutt), high on the east end of Main, through the Continental Lofts, till we got to Revolution, where it finally was bright, was lousy lighting. Hard enough to see some of the art, photographing it was very difficult.
We liked the photographs and paintings at Mutt, and Anna liked the space and the way it wound around, but the light was dark and spotty, like they hadn't discovered yet that art needs visibility. Not just one piece on one wall, but all of them need it. There was a large bar area at the first bend (good location; most are stuck in the back), but it was dark, too.
The Continental Lofts on Elm Street contains a long, narrow hallway down short stairs from the reception area, parallel to the street. That ersatz gallery (for about a dozen years now) has for a back wall in the middle, a view of the fenced-in parking lot and, looking up, the aging Continental Gin water tower. We didn't relax there and enjoy the view, but I wish we had.
Due to the confusion of their first name, the Continental Lofts building on mid-depth Elm will forever be confused with the Continental Gin Building behind it off Trunk Street that not so long ago was a railroad track. The loft is residence; but people live in the Gin, too, although it may be best known for its studios and the many artists who have grown up as well as grown their work there.
The solid portions of the dank hallway used for art in the base of the Continental Lofts building are solid, concrete and stone with textures and protrusions that are often more interesting than the art on the other walls. Several of those walls never have work hung. Just darkness and old building textures. There's not many lights in the ceiling, and nobody's added new ones, so those few are aimed at some of the pieces and not even all of the larger one.
Our eyes adjust to pools of light against darkness like down that long trough, but try to photograph one of the bigger pieces, and the chiaroscuro is appalling. Same in the reception area, where art is tucked away in once-stylish crannies and nooks that extend the viewing area without adding quality to seeing. The place is best with just a few works widely scattered. Cram too much in there, and it gets ugly. And dark.
The reception area is, however, a fine place for nosh. And that night the Loft had particularly good nosh. Pastries and chicken fried steak and chicken with thick white gravy. Hardly traditional gallery snacks.
The gallery showed work by two artists (You can't get in any other time without an appointment, and to get that you have to find the correct phone number). If you mist the opening, you probably missed the show. Not a great place to go by and see art later.
At first it was as if Kathy Metcalf got stuck in the 1950s. More likely she finds comfort — or distinction — in grayscale perception, even if it reminds everybody else of a bygone era. Most of her work was either too retro or too simplistic for our tastes, but this and a couple others turned our heads.
But it was Merry Fuehrer's winding, intertwining work that wowed us. We might have gone with the airplanes in the reception area, if only the light there wasn't awful. The figures in her drawings tend to spin in great circles, spirals and tie themselves into knots with lots of spatial distortions. We also liked her Blah Blah of cell phones warping escaped from their empty word balloons.
I didn't at first, but Anna liked this twisted fish drawing that still (dates of work not posted) winds and spirals but adds another dimension in the complementary background of flying fishes and trees that intrude into the golden space of fish twirled human. I've warmed to it, appreciating its subtler spirals and whimsy. Her darker (not just badly lighted) and wilder Apotheosis triptych nearby seemed heavy-handed, blobbish and awkward by comparison. Fine illustratios. What's the story?
I rarely drink, so good nosh keeps me around long enough to discover more reasons to appreciate the art. I came back twice for this stuff, and circled through the art both times.
We've been to Revolution Gallery before. Under that name and others before when it was barely a separate space, so it's familiar territory, but it keeps changing, improving. It's still uneven but it's no longer rough. The walls are white, it's well lighted, at least the front room is, and the art is better, more diverse and stranger with each visit.
The T-shirt and store tucked away in there is growing in sensibility but still raw, not all clean white lines and spaces. Rougher in back where were snacks and rawer art. But less revolutionary, more like a gallery. The art is better, more professionally presented,
Amid all that art I did not understand or want to if I paid more attention, comforting to find this nearly nude portrait. Traditional in subject, not exactly in treatment. I felt old liking it and not the work around it.
Far as we can see, she's naked. Not demure, right there. That look. Not anger exactly. Askance. Condescending. A little pissed. Way past Mona L. Not just a body, but a presence with power and form. That might be enough, but the thin brawl of paint in the otherwise empty background makes it.
Can't claim I know what this is all about. Except city. This city, its energy and space and people. I can't remember the last time anywhere near decent poetry, at least meaningful, was married to such fine, active, energetic painting. Though technically, this is probably a drawing.
I am awed by the variety going on in this work, in this city. Directions, mediums, spaces, techniques, piles of color and silhouettes and tonalities and. And the ugliness, too. Is that Dali?
Great balance — space, shape, construction, white, ground. Lot going on but it all seems to serve the same master. Interesting plays of light and colors on the surfaces of one building, an intertwining of lines and color and topography. An intersection of art and people. The attractive and the distractive.
A street scene, a building I think I know, a city scape that's familiar. It's an image that I like and don't like. With passions. Parts I hate, parts I admire, in a mix I can't parse but makes direct visual sense. Even the messy complexity in the totem of faces and scribbled tac-toe lines at left. It works, and it belongs together.
This is a striking work whose energy so excited me I could not not look at it. I kept shooting it, trying to capture the perfect exposure.
I am the city.
I am not built in the girders or decadent sculptures.
I am assembled in the corners and the ice split fractures.
You pump through my concrete arteries like metallic red and whites
I am the city, days and nights.
I am not made of skyscrapers and parking lots.
I am made of streams trapped where asphalt rots.
I am not made of restaurants and shopping malls.
I am made of sweat filled bars and graffiti walls.
Don't look to my banks and my ATM machines.
Peer deep into the people and listen to their dreams.
You'll find me on their palms and underneath their nails.
Caught between what is success and what fails,
I am the spirits marching in the streets,
A manmade revolution in progress
loud and discreet
I am the city
© 2006 by Ross von Rosenberg
Thanks to whom, these are now the correct words.
I am often as charmed by the unexpected and nonexhibited as work on display. This is the big sliding door down the hall into the gin building past Revolution and other artist spaces. Open it would display what's left of their back yard patios. Look past the shiny reflector and the cast statue on pedestal in the corner. Beyond the twice stenciled sign EXIT DOOR, at the female form top left.
Tonally outlined, beyond the white panel into the black frame. What's she's up to? Work? Play? About to stab somebody? Nice placement, interesting way to frame negative space.
From there, we drove up the backside of Elm, onto Canton and into the heart of Deep Elm art through three much more commercial galleries in quick succession.
We met old friends at the parking meter, walking distance down from Barry Whistler, Road Agent and 2917 now called something else, and I actually had quarters to use and trade for nickels. The parking situation we'd dreaded was not near bad as we expected.
Thanks to skinhead and other violences, robberies and people getting bored with the latest thing that's just not anymore, Deep Elm seems destined to revert to its former quietude. Although, as Anna noted, we were early. Still, nothing of its one-time glory, after decades of disuse. Light traffic and empty buildings. Again. Maybe it'll end being an actual arts district. Or revert to warehouses and light industry, which of course it already is and has been. Deep Elm has much of the flavor and more history and wildness than the Dragon Street District, which is as close as it gets to being competition for an actual (I.e, not the Real Estate Baron-sponsored Arts District) art district.
Formerly 2917, now Morroson Studio showed
Chet Morroson oddities and ironic juxtaposed digital photographs involving manipulated wild animals and other shapes with human faces, set in open landscapes. Slick, clean, serene and goofy, clean and sharp illustrations, although the the vision that most impressed was the ice bucket reflecting the sign-in sheet.
Continued on Page 2
with more galleries
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