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Pix 2: The Critics Choices

Story + Photographs by J R Compton

Amy Revier - Yoke Yolk

Amy Revier - Yoke Yolk - fabric and video installation (detail)
Selected by Charissa Terranova

An exhibition produced by one curator is likely to be — in ways visible to many, including critics — united. A show whose work is selected by eleven local critics and arts writers will probably be disparate and difficult to wrap one's mind around easily. Pix2 is like that.

Of the 18 pieces by 13 artists selected by 11 arts writers in this show, I selected one and had initial appreciation of three others. I grew to like more, but most of the work in this show only got up my confusion or contempt. Not a surprising reaction to a group of artists selected by critics, who usually grouse in print then stand back and watch.

We, our current publications and our artist choice(s) for this show are:

Matthew Bourbon - Flash Art and Art Lies - Alan Reid
Fran Colpitt - Art in America and Art Lies - Cam Schoepp
J R Compton - DallasArtsRevue - Kim Cadmus Owens
Rachel Cook - Glasstire - Margaret Meehan, Rebecca Carter, Libby Black
Mike Daniels - Dallas Morning News - Sara Ishii
Janet Kutner - Former critic for The Dallas Morning News - Eric Chavera
Dee Mitchell - Art in America and The Dallas Morning News - Peter Calvin
Titus O’Brien - Glasstire, Art Lies and The Fort Worth Star Telegram - Kevin Brown
Michael Odom - Art Forum, Art Papers and Art Lies - Josephine Durkin
Noah Simblist - Glasstire and Art Lies - Terry Thorton
Charissa Terranova - The Dallas Morning News, Art Lies, Glasstire - Amy Revier

John Pomara's original guidelines were condensed in pre-show publicity to:

Art writers and critics from Dallas-Fort Worth were invited to pick an up-and-coming young artist who shows promise and merit, but has not been prominently showcased in area galleries. This exhibition, curated by faculty member John Pomara, is an opportunity for the public to view artists ‘under the radar’ in the North Texas art scene."

What he actually said was:

Eight years ago when I first started teaching here at UTD I did "pix1." It was well received at the time along with a lot of energy and excitement among artists as well as critics. The only negative was that since all the writers took part, no one
could write about the show due to conflict of interest. But, in spite of that, it was a success in many ways for the community.

I would love for you to take part if you are interested. I am asking each writer-critic to pick an up and coming young artist, or it could be an older artists that has no gallery showing their work that people rarely see. It should be an artist that you are interested in and have been watching. I tend to stress a younger artist that hasn't had a lot of exposure but could
have had just one exhibition with a gallery here in the north Texas area."

Pic2 at UTD - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pix2 at UTD

It's an interesting exhibition and it looks great, but it may not be not altogether successful, due to the multiplicity of interpretations of the show's guidelines, the choices themselves and the fact that UTD (the University of Texas at Dallas) is so far north of the geographical sphere of Dallas art. Inside Dallas, like at one of our vaulted art centers, probably more likely The MAC than The Contemp, it might have been a more important show, with more immediate impact — and more viewers.

Another drawback is that, of all those art writers, only I can conscientiously write about a show with first person singular involvement. The others fear doing so would prove non-objectivity. As if proof were needed. At DallasArtsRevue, shared experience is what we're about, so we don't let the myth of objectivity get in the way.

Out there at "The Black Mountain College of the West," (what early PR and a poster I still have called UTD near its founding) it's a vaguely lost cause, mostly only students will ever see or learn about — and probably not most of them. On the Friday afternoon we were there to see and photograph the show, no one else was looking at the art.

The catalog, generally called The Brochure, contains the 'short paragraphs' Pomara requested of each critic about their artist. Mine was the shortest, but Fran Colpitt scribed nearly 300 words and Charissa Terranova wrote nearly as long. Not so surprising if you've heard her speak. All reproduced in tiny type with way dark images, some, like Kim Cadmus Owens,' cropped, and a vacuous schmaltz graphic that looks like a student designed it hogging the cover and some work inside that weren't even in the show.

It is fascinating to note that although their selection for this exhibition was based on these artists never having had (well, most of them) a significant Dallas-area showing, they continue to be eligible for an exhibition open only to artists who have not had a significant exhibition of their work.

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Sara Osjo - Image 5

Sara Ishii - Image 5, 2007 - oil on canvas    Selected by Mike Daniel

I have often and repeatedly enjoyed the work of Sara Ishii. Seems like every time I do, it's a new piece in a new series in a new way of arting. I was drawn to this painting, and to a lesser extent, the other of its series by her before I figured out it was by her. Intense. I'd call it fierce.

Looks like it was done by an artist who knows who she is and what she's up to. Someone secure in her way of seeing and of presenting her work in new ways that make aesthetic sense but no matter what method or medium, knows what to say and how. To communicate visually, directly and innovatively.

Impressive feat. Hardly a constant. Usually a show — any really good show — might have as many as two fierce artists. More likely one. If that. A show like this one should have more than average.

Josepephine Durkin - Smile and Nod

Josephine Durkin - Smile and Nod, 2007 - installation    Selected by Mike Odum

Another immediate yes. Not strikingly new or amazing. Of a tradition that does not force much learning on its viewers. "Oh, another one of those" easy. With lots of fine details in various dimensions to appreciate and nod along with. More on the order of an appreciation of tenacity than of the execution of an amazing concept. Nice colors. Fun.

Josephine Durkin - Smile and Nod (detail)

Josephine Durkin - Smile and Nod, 2007 - installation (detail)

Hundreds of frail, little rocking chairs made of cut and folded construction paper. Blowing gently in the back draft of the breeze blown by the multi-colored electric fan that dominates the colorful Lilliputian rock-in. Delicate, not so much actually rocking as wafted by the fan's breeze. I picked one that had apparently been stepped on and separated from the heard. I de-bent, righted and put it back among its friends, wondering whether I should have interfered.

Durkin's piece may force learning on some but I couldn't get involved enough to get excited.

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Alan Reid - Flags

Alan Reid - Flags, 2007 - oil on canvas    Selected by Mathew Bourbon

I loved the application of paint in this wild allegory. I got involved in its detail and soft color range, even its odd juxtapositions of characters crammed in near-impossible space. Daubs in a rhythm I could dance to. I'd give that half out of the middle of this painting an 8. But I disliked the whole of it immediately. Angry with the stylized distortions of the goofy-looking semi-naked guys on the right, upset by the jumble and distortion of figures.

That did not, however, keep me from coming back to it. Repeatedly — and photographing the details. As I absorbed new understandings, I inevitably learned, though it was not easy education. I fought it.

Watching it, I thought perhaps I might like it better from afar. When I got the images home and kept looking, it began to coalesce. Now, even later, thinking and looking and writing about it, I realize I love the top 1/3.

Alan Reid - Flag (detail)

Alan Reid - Flags (detail)

That mix of flags and blue-tighted acrobat in contrasting colors and interleaving, billowing surfaces excites. I enjoy the kiting acrobat and her cool intensity impossibly intersticed into a flurry of flags and the open space the other three occupy, in different dimensions. Below that, I just wish I could see the paint daubs again.

More recently, the golden girl falling to catch the red-striped flag before it hits the dappled ground absorbs my attention. I keep learning this one, and I want to see more work by Alan Reid. I probably will.

Amy Revier - Yolk Yoke - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Amy Revier - Yoke Yolk - fabric and video installation    Selected by Charissa Terranova

This page begins with Amy Revier's Yoke Yolk, in detail, a distant mountain-scape of linear and rippling textures, like frilly dresses unfurled halfway across the gallery. Be careful not to step on it. This is one of those sometimes invisible floor pieces someone will inevitably plant a dirty shoe print on. Figure and ground ganging up on itself, "pointing" to a video on the wall that poured it out, itself is a visual instruction what to do with it — roll and unroll someone up in it and out.

A roll-out landscape of frills. A pretty, even dainty, shroud.

I liked it better before I noticed the video — I never actually watched it for more than a few seconds but can understand getting sucked into that medium. Like a moving mirror, explaining and extending the three-dimensional metaphors into the fourth. Time flickering at 30 frames per second. I do wish Revier had called it something else, though. Titling can be a subtle science, and that one probably means to her different from what it means to me: a really bad pun that sound like a guffawing dullard.

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Keven Joseph Brown - Royal Chaos

Kevin Joseph Brown - Royal Chaos, 2007 - flame-worked glass and neon
Selected by Titus O'Brien

Reluctant to go into a dark room to see art, I finally dared the demi darkness to find electric eye candy. The red and white end parts didn't change while I watched, but the middle glass shape squiggled and wiggled blue and green like a science project gone psychedelic. I used to have a quack doctor machine (Questionable Medical Device) that did the same trick, and my long-deceased friend Monki Bays flocked its stand purple to so it would be perceived as art — for a class with Oak Cliff Four artist Bob Wade in the Mid-70s.

Kevin Joseph Brown - Royald Chaos - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kevin Joseph Brown - Royal Chaos (detail)

Having no other knowledge of this art form, I'll quote selecting critic Titus O'Brien who claims,

Brown is helping to actually develop a new sculptural medium. Brown forms delicate glass vessels that he fills with combinations of certain gases (often in this context referred to as plasma) luminescent when exposed to an electrical charge. Neon of course is the most well known, but others include krypton, argon, and zenon [sic], each with different densities, behaviors, and hues, and full of surprises when combined."

Again, it's fun, pretty and odd, but people, including artists, have been doing this long enough it's hardly "a new sculptural medium," xenon [Greek, the neuter of xenos, for strange] or not.

ERic Chevera - untitled

Eric Chavera - Untitled, 2007 - mixed media on paper    Selected by Janet Kutner

Hate is a strong word for my reaction to this one, although I thought I did at first and still have inklings in that direction. I see Escape of the Sabine Putti (the Holy Ghost?) and a wacked out Last Supper — complete with The Body and Blood (bread and wine) — in this, I won't say religious, melange of bulging and distorted flesh.

It may not be as offensive as it attempts. Neo-classical grotesqueries amid a classical architecture and landscape are exciting, a little inciting and very probably an expression of something unnamed and untitled. But it is a noticeable subject presented in a substantial style that truly and effectively conveys thought and feeling, though not one we've seen much of in the last few centuries.

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Libby Black - Hermes Reins

Libby Black - Hermes Reins, 2007 - mixed media    Selected by Rachel Cook

Quoting art selector Rachel Cook,

Each artist will have two small pieces — one sculptural and one flat work, either drawing or photograph. They each are dealing with sculpture in their work and issues around anthropomorphizing objects into playful delicate scenarios. Each with their own technique. Meehan chooses to distort and contort small ceramic girls, while Black chooses imaginary designer objects such as a Hermes Horse Bridle, and Carter uses literally a cat cam to take images in her backyard. I enjoy each artist's serious investigation, while simultaneously remaining curious about the world of objects and possibilities."

In texture, shape and form this object is stiff and unreal. I never once believed that red thing was real. Hardly playful or delicate, let alone a scenario. Like a lot of other art, it's a representation of an object. Not subtle or supple like real leather. So fake nobody would think it was anything but art.

Essentially insubstantial, especially compared with the visual subtleties of Terri Thornton's object, projection, ground progression or Cam Schoepp's massive tower, these sets of intellectual puzzles seem inconsequential.

Terry Thornton - How do we know

Terri Thornton - How do we know, 2007 - graphite on paper and wax on wall   
Selected by Noah Simblist

If you can't see it — I didn't even notice there was a projection, till Anna pointed it out to me — maybe it has to be viewed at an evening opening. The words "How do we know?" are reflected off the seeming white whatever framed on the right into the reflected rectangle on the not nearly dark enough wall on the left. Supposedly. I'm sure there's deep psychological meaning in this, but it escapes me, though I do appreciate the gimmick.

Cameron Schoepp - Institution Memory (cpry )

Cameron Schoepp - Institutional Memory, 2007  - bronze    Selected by Fran Colpitt

I have no idea why Rachel Cook got to choose three artists, when the rest of us only got one. Nor do I understand how Cam Schoepp, who has had at least one major solo exhibition in The McKinney Avenue Contemporary — in a much ballyhooed exhibition, complete with a color catalog, obligatory essay and full purchase participation by the sponsoring Belo Corporation (owner of the Dallas Morning News and Channel 8) — could be considered to to be an artist under the radar, although he may still be under appreciated.

I loved his work at The MAC's Essential Space in 2002, but couldn't get my mind around this hulk, although the shapes are not as different as the material or its organization. Later, large on my monitor, Institutional Memory seems a neat stack of chess pieces or tin warriors, compressed like they do with scrap-yard cars, stacked for melt-down and re-use. It could be an anti-war piece, and I'd like it as that, but have no confidence that's what it's meant to be. Distinctive hunk of metal to set off a gallery of flat work in lilting colors.

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Peter A. Calvin - Father and Son, Ramirez Boot Shop - downloaded from Peter's solo show at Afterimage Gallery

Peter A. Calvin - Father and Son, Ramirez Boot Shop
image downloaded from Calvin's solo show at the Afterimage gallery
June 3 - August 1, 2006

Dee Mitchell's choice of photographer Peter Calvin is another mystery. I knew I'd heard that name in a non-struggling artist context but was startled when I saw what googled up. Calvin is Ad Interim Instructor of Art in the photography program at one of my old alma maters, now called Texas A&M University, Commerce.

He is author of Fort Worth, Texas: A Photographic Portrait and Dallas, Texas: A Photographic Portrait both available on Amazon; has a substantial online presencehis own site calls him an editorial, documentary and fine art photographer; and he was featured in a solo show at Dallas' premiere photography gallery, the Afterimage. Not exactly "an up-and-coming young artist who shows promise and merit, but has not been prominently showcased in area galleries."

All that said, this photograph, probably like Calvin's two others here that I mostly ignored because I couldn't photograph them under their protective and highly reflective glass, are superb examples of what we attending the East Texas State University Photography Department used to call "environmental portraits." Real people photographed where they live or work, showing the details that show their lives or livelihoods.

There's little pretense. Although the subjects are looking at the camera, they are not dressed up for a portrait. They sell boots, and every object in this essentially formal and carefully composed, albeit informally presented photograph — from the unfinished topper in the son's hands to the shelves of boots receding into the darkness from the bright light near the store's front windows, emphasizes and re-emphasizes that salient fact. This image is who these people are.

 

Kim Cadmus Owens - National Oil

Kim Cadmus Owens - National, 2007 - oil and acrylic on canvas    Selected by J R Compton

Which brings me to my selection, which no way can I be objective about, although it's hardly perfect. What I wrote about it when Pomara asked for "a short paragraph for the nice color brochure" is now ensconced under my ThEdblog blurb called Cynical Optimist, which, together with Pix2 down near the bottom of ThEdblog #1; Reindeer Games, Damn! and Pix2 in ThEdblog #3 with Pix 2 Story and Permission in Thed#4, comprises a running account of my participation.

Here on down I'll talk about this piece and its predecessors, the growing appreciation of which, led me to choose Kim Cadmus Owens for this show.

I had been watching, as John Pomara suggested, Kim's work for more than a year, making seasonal pilgrimages to her studio in the Continental Gin Building each time they had another open studio. What I remembered and what I sought more of at each revisit was her powerful sense of space and mass, her personal expression of abstraction and her odd spectrum of intervening tonalities.

In this painting (below) from 2006, we can see many of the elements leading to the piece I chose.

Kim Cadmus Owens -

Kim Cadmus Owens - Fraternity, 2004
oil on canvas - 60 x 120 inches

I hadn't cared for the marquee signs that intrude into her large works and utterly dominate her small ones, thinking they were too like commercial art. But there's a feeling of immensity and power in her big paintings. Watching from afar, however, I had built an exaggerated appreciation, because I'd let my memory and imagination take over.

I did not show her work on DallasArtsRevue before Pomara's invitation, and I didn't write about it. I was waiting for a show somewhere to feature her work. I was going to interview her but hadn't got around to it. She's hardly the only artist whose work I had been watching.

When it came time to visit her studio to select a piece for this show, I was unsure whether I liked what I saw hanging there. But it was such an obvious extension of everything I had liked in her work, I went with it, and my appreciation of National grows.

Like the chosen piece, the interplay of backgrounds is prominent (above) although the ocean brown with oil slick and the pale blue sky-reflecting water at the far right are new. As is the bright camouflage stippling on the superstructure, although there are precedents here.

Kim Cadmus Owens - unknown

Kim Cadmus Owens - New Standard, 2004
oil and acrylic on canvas - 48 x 48 inches

I even like the vertical lines of color at the bottom center of that big painting whose textures seemed spurious till I found this shot of another earlier KCO work I'd been drawn to photograph. I'm sorry I don't have title, year or size information for it, but perhaps you'll understand where those thin bright lines in the bridge painting might have come from.

Looking back at the older shots that I dug up for this story, I have begun to understand that those 3-D marques were always there — and pivotal — either fulcruming or counterbalancing the architectural heft of the in-and-out-of-reality main object and everything else.

Kim Cadmus Owens - National

Kim Cadmus Owens - Indices, 2003
charcoal on paper - 36 x 25 inches

This earlier, dynamic and dimensional drawing of her dance of stars and arrows from other, probably real, signs helped me find a new appreciation of those ubiquitous signs, and I notice the only word legible here is "National," as if Kim had been thinking about that for a long time.

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