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The Cricket, the Switch & Other Art Stories

Story + Photographs by J R Compton

cricket at Dunn & Brown Contemporary

cricket on the wall at Dunn & Brown

The cricket was Anna's Idea. She found it and insisted I photograph it on the wall at Dunn & Brown. I'd been eyeing the button boxes at Pan American for many months, but my earlier photographs weren't good enough. Even in this shot, that's daylight (blue) on the outer edges and the yellow red of tungston (indoor lighting) in the shadows.

Colorful. Practical. A simple complex of techno sculpture. Steel, brass, plastic. Push the buttons and see what happens.

 

button boxes at Pan American Gallery

switches on the wall at Pan American

 

We were gallery hopping with our mutual friend Sharron Schumann, who is Christian's mom, so we spent a lot of time in front of his Encampment talking about Christian and his work, which invite close scrutiny.

 

Christian Schumann - Encampment

Christian Schumann - Encampment (detail), 2004

 

I kept thinking about thematically similar work by painters from the 30s, especially The Mayor of Hoover City, a painting by Olin Travis I saw at in InContext: Painting in Dallas 1889-1945 at The MAC last year. Travis' painting has a strong central figure, a down and out man leaning on a wood crutch. Behind him is a shanty town of ramshackle shacks, and beyond that, in the distant background, the shimmering Dallas skyline.

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Olin Travis - The Mayor of Hoover City, 1929

Olin Travis - The Mayor of Hoover City, 1929
a scan from the cover of The MAC catalog

 

Schumann's painting has no central figure, and the human presence is sublte, similar to Dallas telephone book covers from 20 years ago, when the treat was to find the figures fleeting through the detailed cartoon landscapes of the city. Schumann's figures are legs sticking out from mattress piles or shawled figures that look like anything but humans, kneeling as if to pray.

Both works portray desperate situations, not unlike the sprawling diorama of humanity when Dallas' homeless publicly took up residence under the I-30 access ramp from downtown a few years ago.

 

Paul Booker

Paul Booker - mixed media -

I've been watching Paul Booker's intriguing alternate media sculpture for years, since he first showed at 500X. Even when nothing else there sparked my attention, there'd be a new, nearly informal, Booker piece stringing together paper clips or some odd collection of stuff pinned to or hanging off the wall, especially in the little member's gallery off the hall downstairs at the X. His work is getting better, stranger, more cohesive and diverse.

Dunn and Brown had one major, twisting question-mark piece in the gallery and several more tucked and leaning in the office, where this impossibly cantilevered piece strove toward the gray tiled ceiling.

 

Paul Booker - Cantilevered

Paul Booker - Clear Frames: Cantilever #4, 2004 - mixed media, 6 x 2 x 23 inches

 

David Bates is, of course, Dallas art's greatest contemporary success story, his meteoric rise, fabulous prices, incredible popularity, colorful characters and folkish style, are the stuff of legends. David was at the reception, his presence friendly and reassuring. He is still one of the real people, despite his success. And he keeps renewing his style, experimenting and playing with the medium.

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David Bates - Roses

David Bates - Roses

 

Of course, we liked his long, slow speedboats racing through the swamp land and other lilting sunset leftovers from his folky peopled Caddo Lake landscapes, small paintings for $22,000 each. But we especially enjoyed David's informal rose studies, painted sketches with multiple views of roses and their constituent color bars.

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