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DARE vs. The MAC
Black & Blue — The Agony & The Ecstacy
Black & Blue: The Sixth Annual MAC Members' Invitational at The MAC (McKinney Ave. Contemporary) in August 2000 was, at the very best, a mixed bag that seriously contrasted exquisite works with adulturated drek.
The best work was on the outside wall of the two large galleries full of group show work, and it's quite good indeed. Kenda North's untitled Iris print (above) is exquisite in glimmering, mottled swimming pool colors, which happen also to be just the right colors for this show.
Susan Miller's smallish painting from her New York Series was also appropriately hued in dark, moody silhouettes. There's a story in there, but it's not spelled out, adding to the mystery.
Portending fun and way too much comic art inside, Ludwicka Stark Norton's flaming waves, cats and stormy sky, likewise on the galleries' outside wall, is elegant in its busy gilt frame, and focused.
Inside, however, is very likely the worst membership show in the short, sad history of local art at The MAC, which mutated out of the nonprofit status of the organization formerly known as DARE (Dallas Artists Research & Exhibition).
Black & Blue may not quite be as bad as the "bruise on the face of fine art in Dallas, and a wounded example of the summer group show" quote I previously cursed it with. I've been back three times now, and I'm glad I gave it the extra time this show needed to settle into my consciousness.
It was still a very mixed bag, though, with way too much art that nudged me to question where I had seen that same design, format, layout, idea or concept before, and why would anyone ever want to repeat that? But there were a few spare bits inside to liven what at first seemed unmittigated drek. There's even a few bits of joy along the way.
The first piece that caught my questioning eye as I entered the large galleries was Page Lunde's oil and charcoal Blue. It seemed expectant, monochromatic and simple. The more I looked at it, however, the less I got out of it. A much less rewarding piece was Jeff Green's Trophy Man (above) that looked like Oat Willamina in a Wheelchair. Scary.
One of the truly joyfull expressions I noted was right next to a Pamela Nelson collage of scraps and mirrors that I never would have ascribed to that once highly popular and polished artist. John Scott Glass' Siete Tormilloas (above) is a heavyweight assemblage of rusty bolts and corrugated metal canvas rusting thin along the edge that bends the definitions of what is art. For a change, the asnwer to the begged question, "but is it art?" is a resounding yes.
I had to scrutinize the Pamel Nelson acrylic Gloria several times to accept that its clunky grometed canvas hung without frame had to be amateurish on purpose, in dark, muddy colors and anti-progress, left-facing arrows.
A less mitigated joy was recognizing Arleigh Stark's blatantly colorful Piggy Grunt. I really have to start worrying about my sense of aesthetic quality when I missed this big hunk of simplified fun first times through.
More humor, this time in the form of C Sean Horton's Blue Free with Purchase acrylic on stretched paper panels, with nails, is almost hip — a visual pun with the blue panel missing but the two nails lined up and waiting its arrival. Amusing.
A shining moment is provided by Nancy Terry's paper, acrylic and metal Urban Constellation of metal flowers with a wide, vertical, mail-like stripe and black and blue background was especially nice. It was mounted under reflecting glass and hung too high to easily photograph, but I admired it greatly as a small wonder.
Gradually, it dawned on this viewer that this show was wryly and craftfully hung, with many ironic juxtapositions and color, shape or organization- echoing commentaries in the hanging that provided more tension and subtle punning than in most of the pieces actually in the show. Hats off to whomever hung it.
There seemed to be a few Especially Bad Art nooks and corners, where particularly egregious work tended to congregate. I've been careful not to define too many of the low ebs of fine art in this show, but the corner these two paragraphs elucidate contains what is easily the worst picture in the exhibition. I remember 500X Open Shows in the 80s often had particularly naive Elvises, Michael Jacksons or Martin Luther Kings, which were incredibly often the targets of theft.
Black and Blue has an extraordinarily ugly-mouthed, pencil-drawn Princess Diana with gold glittered tiara and blouse. The artist even managed to scrawl their name twice in the homage area in the upper left corner of this apalling item, carefully tucked into just such a corner.
Something else that I winced at upon first viewing, but that gradually grew on me was Douglas Daner's bright white, untitled, found polystyrene packaging sculpture, which was simple, novel and wonderful with shadows.
* * *
The 2-D Cowboys in the New Works Space, however, was several kinds of wonderful. Opening night saw a grasshopper (left) stapled to the wall fiddling amid a field of milo and a fascinating diorama representing a trip across Texas, from Galveston to Amarillo. — photos + story © 2000 by JRC
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