Small Sculpture in Texas ©1993, 2000 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

500X As Phoenix

Ten years ago 500 Exposition was Deep Elm's only gallery. 500 set the stage for serious alternatives to Dallas' commercial gallery scene, and it established the Deep Elm/Fair Park area as the venue for serious new art.

The popular success of its multi-media entertainments paved the way for a thriving Deep Ellum nightclub district. And its early residents were the first artists in a neighborhood now peppered with converted studios and apartments. The big red brick warehouse at the tracks, just up Exposition Ave. from Fair Park, has been Dallas art's leading leading-edge for most of the decade.

The two-story dorm/gallery is arguably the finest art space in North Texas - it's spacious, has a raw architectural elegance and is full of huge, contiguous salons and odd-shaped installation nooks. 500 is also unbearably hot in summer, noisy when trains go by, and - because of its transient residents and neighbors - is the least secure salon in town.

Many of Dallas' finest artists have shown or been discovered at 500X. They still do, but the pace is slower and the mix is down. Like most co-ops, 500X is a pure democracy. The rank and file does everything. In addition to paying dues, exhibitors bear the financial burden of invitations, mail-outs and openings. 500X has often been exciting, but it's also a lot of work. So, every three years or so, 500's membership turns over - each departing regime certain that when they leave, 500 will finally X out.

Six months to a year later, youthful exuberance focuses into a cohesive constituency, happy to forget its past. And 500X again establishes itself as Dallas' premiere exhibition space. The co-op's latest rebirth is in time for its tenth anniversary. And though it phoenixed with only two member artists, Pauline Hudel and Renee Tanner, the co-op has already grown to nearly twenty and is seeking more.

Installations/Interview, the November show, featured work by Renee Tanner and ten Texas ceramic artists. Tanner's found object reliefs and tire-printed hanging screens were a welcome extension of the last regime's art-as-fun oeuvre. Her giant lacework of rusty mufflers, exhaust pipes and crosslit shadows in the Pit set the tone for a superbly installed exhibition. A worn work glove and hand tool collage; two sets of enhanced, weathered cardboard box installations; and oriental-looking screens were at once serious art enough to command the space and witty enough to easily out-whimsy the ceramists' folksy visual jokes upstairs.


Her collages were pure compositions of found objects. But Tanner "enhanced" her wall-mounted box arrays by subtly overpainting arrows, words and other pre-existing devices. Titled by the tires used for their dominant textures, P225-75-R15, and other double-sided stretchframe screens, were offset printed by various vehicles, which were driven over ink-smeared plates and onto the canvas. Tanner then rubbed in mud, dirt, ceramic slip, ink and pigments. Finally, she drew into the rich, ethereal texture.

Tanner's works created a spatial counterpoint for Danville Chadbourne's superb totems. His dark, rounded, earth-hued sculptures looked like impossibly stacked beads topped by liqui-formed, polymorph juju heads. Also downstairs, Natalie O'Neill's exploded seed abstracts showed U of Dallas heritage with earth colors and metallic iridescence.
Upstairs, Michel Conroy's outstanding, soft color sagging cone vessels were simply beautiful. Judy Blossman's dead black, almost competent contoured shapes were predictable.

Gordon McVay's bulbous chicken and fish structures were busily patterned folk-art forms. Mark Horiuchi's Ten Minutes Out of the City installation presented a colorless industrial landscape of glazed ceramic buildings with nouveau spires and stacks billowing solid smoke. Nick deVries' sparingly brushed, slightly updated cubist slab sculptures provided a clear aesthetic contrast to Kevin Brady's rocking cradles, which were elegantly clunky curvilinear boxes, unfortunately shallow with insipid, planar abstracts.

It wasn't vintage 500X -- no blow-your-sox-off concepts, awesome, scary or inspiring imagery. Indeed, much of the show was trailing edge. But Danville Chadbourne and Renee Tanner made it fly. Give it another year, and 500X will soar.
ArtScene magazine, November 1986


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