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 The Best of
Dallas Art
2004

Written + Photos by J R Compton
with opinions by
DallasArtsRevue Readers

MFA Gallery at 407 North Tyler

Best New Gallery

MFA — Mighty Fine Art, owned and directed by Dallas artist Steve Cruz in Haute Cliffe.

Great name, thick with irony and self-depricaing Masters of Fine Art humor. Funky and diverse art, scope and architecture.

"Without a doubt, the best new gallery and director are one — Mighty Fine Arts and Steve Cruz," says Nancy Ferro.

 

Best Community Space

The amazing Fort Worth Community Art Center, which puts the community squarely in the big middle of a truly great space devoted to artists around here.

Dallas has nothing like it — and we need one, since all the community art centers either moved to the 'burbs, turned to showing Big Time Art Guys from Out Of Town and/or turned their backs on Dallas artists.

We used to have two — D-Art and The MAC. Now we got none.

FWCAC is not all roses. Their staff has yet to settle into full-time professionalism, and their PR was so indifferent I couldn't open the press release they sent for a recent show.

 

Best Museum

SMU's Meadows Museum was, until nearly the end of 2004, a shoe-in for The Best Museum in Dallas. Does their recent Texas Artists Snafu disqualify them? Or only prove their humanity?

Or was it The Nasher all along?

Are All of Dallas' Best Museums still in Fort Worth?

 

Best Established Gallery

Oh, probably Gerald Peters. Certainly the swankest digs, the most variety, though mostly in the high-dollar range. I get upset at those silly suburban art centers calling themselves museums, but GP is as close as it comes without actually being one. It has the look and feel.

 

Best New Curator

Takako Tanabe — superb taste, superb organizing talent, and a subtle eye for the avant. See Sphere at the Bath House in summer 2004, and we hope more to come, now that's she's got her green card.

 

Most Interesting New Artist

Tony Bones? — raw and unexpected, selling art to pay for his tickets here and in NYC. Most intriguing venue. True public art.

 

Best Spurt Forward

Pan American Gallery kept its fine Central and South American artists but added Dallas, Texas and Estados Unitos artists, too — making their span truly Pan.

 

Furthest Jump Backward

South Side Contemporary Gallery — Like we need something else called “contemporary.” They threw out all the local Dallas artists and are now so very excited about artists from anywhere else.

Thumbs way down.

 

Billy Hassell painting

Fort Worth artist Billy Hassell
painting while talking on
the phone at the Conduit 20th

Best Celebration

Conduit’s 20th anniversary Art-In, when artists made the art for the anniversary show on site in the weeks before the opening. Under-promoted, only a few came to watch, but I was there every day, taking lots of photos, talking with artists and watching the process of art by a fascinating crew of artists.

It was about process, and it was as fascinating to watch as getting to be there.

 

Most Pervasive Exhibition

Had to be the humongous Quilt Crawl that started in January and lasted through the spring. There were shows all over the city, bus tours thither and yon. I didn't attend any of it, but I should have.

 

 James Crowe Retrospective at the Irving Arts Center

Most Crowded Art Show

The James Crowe Retrospective & Sale at Irving Arts Center in September had more art per square inch of wall and gallery space than I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Nothing was left out. Fascinating show, nonetheless, but I spent four hours photographing it before the opening, and there were pieces I saw at the reception I'd never noticed before.

 

Best Gallery Director

As an artist, I'm relatively new to the selling of fine art, but in the admittedly short six years since I first began approaching galleries, I've met a wide variety of directors. Still, I've never encountered one who combined the charm, personableness and professionalism of Nancy Whitenack, owner of Conduit Gallery.

Well, maybe there was one. Although I didn't know her well, the highly revered Arlene Lewallen of Santa Fe's Lewallen Contemporary may have matched at least a little of Nancy's approachability. But Arlene passed away a couple years ago, so long live the queen.

Being a dealer of contemporary art places Nancy in a rarified atmosphere where cool is king and where any personal warmth is usually a sign that you must not be big yet. But I think many would agree that you could jackhammer Conduit loose from its foundations in the Design District, airlift it into SoHo or Chelsea or wherever the New York art scene happens to be located this week, and no one there would think anything was out of place.

A few years ago, before Nancy knew me, my soon-to-be wife Alison and her mom dropped by to see an exhibition at the new location. They were dressed casually and did nothing to look like art buyers, but it made no difference in how Nancy treated them: with gracious hospitality and personal attention. (One might say that, as an art dealer, that's her job. But you only have to visit a handful of the top galleries in town to see that it's not necessarily common practice.)

Last spring, when she gathered Conduit's artists on a Sunday night to tell us how she wanted to mark the gallery's 20th anniversary, she quickly outlined her general idea: not to do the expected group show, but to cover every wall of the gallery in heavy paper and allow us to do whatever we wanted. Then, from that point on, she made all of us part of the planning, encouraging us to offer our own ideas and asking our opinions at every stage of preparation, all the way through to opening night. She was open, flexible and a whole lot of fun.

Nancy has created the kind of gallery in which I always want my work to be found.

 

Best Gallery PR

Plush owner Randall Garrett is a Dallas treasure. His tastes are wildly diverse, his PR excellent and his own art as weird and wonderful as it gets. His PR is a joy to get and read and copy and paste into the DARts Art Calendar.

 

out cindee's window

view out the Cidnee Patrick front window on gallery day

 

Best Gallery That's Not There Anymore

The Cidnee Pat. I'm really gonna miss The Cidnee Patrick Gallery. Always something fascinating in there. If not in the front gallery, then on a back wall or in that huge usually underlit closet (it really was a closet) and — oh, that wondrous, bouncy stairway up to the landing, which was always a great place to watch the crowd or catch some quirky bit of art or a cold AC draft on a summer day.

 

The Best Sculpture Garden

The Nasher, Valley House (Their garden is closed for renovations till April 2005.), Hall Office Park in Frisco, probably not the Dallas Museum of Art downtown, but how lucky we are to have so many, spread so geographically, to choose from.

If it were closer, I I'd go for Valley House for the real best of the bunch. There's a reverie for nature and art there that's missing in those other places. The Nasher is noisy downtown. Hall Office is nearly to Nebraska north. Valley House's back yard is the wildest of the bunch, too, with the most green all around and the densest foliage.

 

The Best Late Night Art Scene

Hands down, it's the Dallas Museum of Art at Night. A mob scene, good music, plenty of art, immense crowds of people forty years younger than me. The MAC definitely is not the only place for art after dark, but then it never was.

 

Best Tour Maps

White Rock Lake Artists Studio Tour: They may well have too many stops on the tour — even for a two-day event, but the map is beautiful and easily followed. Next time, I'm going on the tour, instead of being in it, but I'm sure somebody is already in line for "my" spot. So, of course, I'm deeply prejudiced in regard to the WRLAST, but there's not much news there.

I have zero faith in objectivity, anyway. It only gets in the way.

 

Most Missed Artist

That has to be my dear friend Carol Wilder who was murdered by a drunk driver in Oak Cliff last February. I knew her 30 years, photographed two weddings, and learned about painting from her.

 

Strangest Art Show

Island of Lost Toys at Gray Matters in January, or almost anything at Plush. Michael Helsem wrote about it, but he probably didn't think it was that strange.

 

Most Peculiar New Art Space

Irving Bible Church — See Strange Art Night December 11, 2004

 

Worst Media Coverage

My vote for the WORST media coverage for anything involving art whatsoever goes to The Dallas Observer... What used to be an interesting column that I'd look forward to, slowly got phased out and regulated to a small printed afterthought.

Can you imagine The Village Voice with similar coverage? Local artists would storm the publication and commit unspeakable deeds on the editors!!

Screw those bastards!!! (Do I sound too bitter?)

The DMN writer [Tom Sime] who ignored your BHCC show was a close second; I sent him an E-Mail asking him to go by and look at the show that you helped jury this summer, and you can see what happened there!

He's a useless tool also!!

By the way, Ramona and I loved your New Orleans restraunt photo from the "Contemporary" Member show last year. But boy, those plastic bags of paint were sure impressive!!!!!!!

 

Worst PR (Public Relations) Snafus

The only images the publicity person for The North Dallas Artists Studio Tour sent to the press last year were her own.

Tony Bones E-mailed at 2:30 pm to inform of an opening for his show set for 6 that night, August 15.

With the history and authenticity of the Cedars neighborhood, guests are guaranteed to experience art and culture as never before.”

non-sequitur in official publicity for the
Cedars Open Studios (not a tour) in November

 

Then there's this E-mail sent to my correct E-mail address — Please do not send E-mail attahments to DallasArtsRevue!

Dear JR,
Don't know how to reach you to ask permission to send an attachment so here's one anyway. Thought you all might want to know about this upcoming event. It's wildly successful and a great cause.
Thanks for your time,
Linda X.

And, of course, SMU's Meadows Museum's bizarre handling of Texas artists at the Barrett Collection in November.

 

Worst Dallas Gallery

It'd be hard to determine the very worst. For one thing, I'd probably have to visit every one. But Artists Showplace would be near the bottom. Michael Helsem wrote eloquently about them, then I added my two cents in Exceptions after photographing for his story.

 

Tawdriest Publicity Materials

That's easy. Anything from the so-called Longview Museum of Fine Arts in East Texas. The latest booklet from them even has an ad for a lawyer on the front — just like the Yellow Pages. Tastelessness run amok in small-town Texas "culture."

 

Worst Gallery Parking

I'd say The Cidnee Pat and Craighead-Green when they opened together, but Valley House has a smaller lot, is more crowded and a longer walk, if you — like this editor — don't appreciate valet "service."

Copyright 2005 by J R Compton,
Editor/Publisher
All Rights Reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] since February 25 2005