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November 2001, when modems were slow, so pictures were small

Eat Art - the second  

Decades ago, I wrote a column in the on-paper DARts called Eat Art. I'd noticed those words glaring out at us from the the bumper sticker advertising the second — and ultimately successful — City bond election to CREATE A GREAT ART MUSEUM FOR A GREAT CITY — moving the Dallas Museum of Art from its crumbling space in Fair Park to the expensive, then-new building in the downtown area inexplicably called The Arts District.

It seemed the perfect, uh... metaphor for the mixed bag of cycling stories and critical commentary, comparisons and contraryisms of Dallas Art. I quit writing it when nobody would talk to me for fear I'd put their gossip in print. This new, online version will eschew gossip to concentrate on current and past Dallas art history, politics, critique and mini interviews.

I keep thinking I've finished this piece, but it keeps growing and changing and explaining better. If your work is discussed on this page, I'd love to hear from you, regardless. I'm keen to know your opinions.

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by J R Compton

Pillsbury Peter's roomsful of Terrell James' elegant abstracts in luminous colors, delicate shapes and subtle fields made me think of museums so much more than Arlington's glorified department store ever did. I'd avoided going to PP's new space because of the million dollar art war BS.

Their extension is grand and exquisite, Talley Dunn's — which I'd avoided, because the valet guys wouldn't let me park nearby during an opening last summer — extrapolation quadruples the space into a discontiguous warehouse across the courtyard. The combined space has no windows bringing outside in, no lilting, airy architecture, just acres of dark space awaiting art. I watched a cosmos spinning in glorious, projected video on the far wall, and it seemed quietly spectacular.

The new James Surls I watched at PP are compact, almost stubby, but the octupusian metal chandelier hanging in the atrium is immediately recognizable with those Surls eyes on every tentacle, heavy yet floating, watching us.

The Fiery Art of Harry Geffert show (only up through July 21) is a wisp of forests, one tree at a time, delicate and delicious.

Matthew Bourbon
The Party Just Gets Better
oil on paper, 16 inches square
Craighead-Green's New Texas Talent

Compared with the art competition across the lake at the Bath House Cultural Center, the quality at Craighead-Green's New Texas Talent show, curated by the DMA Associate Registrar Jeanne Chvosta, is remarkably high and level — many pieces at CG push the envelope in quirky directions — like Marjorie Norman's smallish (14 x 15 inches), untitled oil on wood with an almost cute, unidentifiable, red animal on an abstracted grayscale background; Paul Rogers Harris' Table Top (19 x 15 inches) digital image is a swirled male nude with the important bits blocked out with swirling interstices; and Michael Garcia's WWII mop head with tiny plier face (left) at only $200 is deceptively simple. Almost any of us could have done that — if only we'd thought of it.

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I asked Veronica De Anda about her Removed (above), which I find to be utterly simple sculpture, airy as a breeze, boldly three dimensional, slight, yet essentially human. She explained, "Essentially that piece is a self-portrait (or self-portraits). I soaked the craft paper in a mixture of water and wood glue. I placed the wet paper on my body (while lying down) and conformed and manipulated it to the desired shape. Noticing that the cold, wet paper was taking quite a bit of time to dry, I sped up the processes by taking a hair drier to it." Then, apparently, she magically floated them on the wall.

The differences between SMU grad John Alexander's The Announcement, oil, 2001 at Pillsbury Peters, with its realist raven atop a standard draping an American flag with painterly, undistinct background and the insipid simpleness of a 'bloody' rag 'caught' on barbed wire stretched across the canvas of a straight-on American flag, hanging in the competitive Beyond The Lines show at the Bath House, are immense. Of course, the former's $20,000 price tag is a dead giveaway.

Thanks to its ingenuous credulity — with the red stained rag and the blood- dripping hand print, I already didn't like this barbed wire wrapped flag mixed media (detail above).

Then, the night after I shot this photo, I was reading through a pile of old art magazines Paul Harris gave me (thanks, Paul), and slowly I recognized, first the stars, then the flag, the barbed wire and the too much else in this reproduction of George Mullen's Freedom and Tyranny, 1997, barbwire and oil on canvas, 24 x 36-inch piece (detail below) in an ad for Galerie Nasos in the Summer 1998 edition of Art News. More than coincident, but both involve ideas that have been around a long time.

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Not that there aren't some gems in the Bath House show, curated by an all-white jury of bureaucrat- artists and collector in the City Arts Program. Ironic curatorial choices considering that space's racist history — the original Bath House was closed for three decades in 1952, because Dallas couldn't stand integrating its White Rock Lake swimming hole.

Since the reopening as a Cultural Center in 1982, the glittering steamboat on the shore of White Rock Lake has acquired a roller coastering reputation, showing solid community art — sometimes surprisingly so, then about a decade of especially good Hispanic art, unfortunately interspersed all along with amateur dreck.

The first time I noticed Sherry K Martin's mostly black & white, Faith and Familiarity, acrylic, I was appalled. Subsequent re-viewings have warmed my appreciation. I recognize its questionable, illustrator parentage and wouldn't be surprised to see it facing glossy fiction in some slick, new agey magazine. But I'm still taken aback by the bright red, cartoony figures running through trees one opening-night visitor suggested would be perfect for Napalming.

I still don't like the wispy figure behind the little girl — and maybe I'm not supposed to, but her blank stare, the hand on her mouth, her innocence, posture, shiny black shoes and white socks almost tell their own dysfunctional family story.

At New Texas Talent, everyone showing is a winner. Previous placers have garnered significant gallery attention and representation. Oddly, new- to- Dallas artist CJ Davis, who works at C-G and has a piece there too, earned First Place at The Bath House for Missing My Water, a lovely, layered and reduced acrylic, wax and graphite on paper painting about missing a creek in his native upstate South Carolina.

The series, which will eventually comprise nine works, are mixed media, although CJ prefers to list all the materials. He calls them a "homage to monoprints... I love etchings, " he told me, "so I made etchings without a plate." First he builds the surface up to about a quarter of an inch thick, then he starts sanding. Says CJ, "Every layer shows," as he repeatedly builds up and reduces, "stripping away what I built up."

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Other winners at The Bath House include Shaye Watson's Severed Diamond, a lilting, straight- forward color photo documenting a thick, painterly painted red wall with a peculiarly dissected pyramid drawing; Donna Walker's monochromatic brown abstract shapes Carte 3 etching, Chin Colle; Elizabeth Baier-Mahy's slightly abstracted monoprint landscape Valley Pasture; and I have felt compelled to return to Rita Barnard's gridded Different Language collage of acrylics, written words on a religiously questioning "Who am I" and symbolic cards on canvas.

Another opening viewer called the wrought copper Diana (Right: detail) by Michael Juan Van Enter "the single best piece of art I've seen in Dallas. Period," and local artist Junanne Peck observed "It makes you proud to be a woman."

Strange for an exhibition juried by bureaucrats, the Bath House show manifests a fascination with the religious. Melodie Martin Ramirez' After Lethe: Longing to Remember is a giant triptych oil resplendent in spectacular, dark wooded frame, whose central figure reminded some of a martyred saint. The Lethe was Hades' river of forgetfulness and oblivion. Pam McKnight's The Struggle mixed media collage has giant, praying hands and mawkish, squiggly script about where "redemption lies." John Wathne's color photo, Morada at Dusk, Late Autumn is a dark and out of focus shot of that same adobe building with three crosses on the hill overlooking Abiqui that has been photographed nearly to death, and there's a glowing bit of sanctity in the partially luminous Waiting oil on board by Elizabeth Zaremba.


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