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DARts' new Index of Performance Art Stories
Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s
at the Fort Worth Modern through Jan 4.
Julian Schnabel The Jute Grower 1980 oil, plates and Bondo on wood
I remember the 90s, 20-Oughts and Teens. The 70s with great joy and purpose. 60s, 50s and even the end of the 1940s. But the 80s is still a blur. It's an in-group joke that if I don't recognize a Top-40 Blast from the Past, it was probably from the 1980s. The images in this story are arranged chronologically, but the period was way too diverse to show much direct lineage.
Eric Fischl Bad Boy 1981 oil on canvas
I worked too much then, on DallasArtsRevue — that was its heyday, because it was the only Dallas Art publication here, well before it was a dot com. I also worked 50-60 hours a week to pay off my house. So I had no time to listen to much music or notice art beyond Dallas, but there was plenty of that here, although New York art may have been more advanced, because it's where the leaders and followers moved to, because it's where the the big money was believed to be, though not everybody found it.
Jean-Michel Basquiat Six Crimee 1982 acrylic and oil paintstick on Masonite
I got piles of old New York art magazines from former Waco Museum Director Paul Rogers Harris, so I was able to recognize lame local art copied from the ads from a few years previous. And I remember artist friends wanted desperately to be some of the artists in this show. So I knew or knew of many of the artists in Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s and could even recognize their art, a skill I learned in Lyle Novinski's 2nd semester Art History class at the University of Dallas in 1965 enlivened my fascination with contemporary art, and eventually led me to publish the on-paper version of this e-rag that went online just at the turn of this century.
Keith Haring Red (detail) 1982-84 gouache and ink on paper
A few names bubbled into my consciousness via Newsweek, dentists' office Time magazines and even my then subscriptions to Art in America and Art Forum till I couldn't make sense of those anymore. I feel obligated to write about the art in this story, but if it were from Dallas, I'd be happy to. But since it's not, I'm just piling these words in between my photographs of my favorite art in the show, while the other local art publications use the same old images distributed by the Modern that were probably taken in New Yack Sitty.
Allan McCollum Collection of Two Hundred Plaster Surrogates 1982/1983-85
enamel on cast Hydrostone The Rachofsky Collection
Some of the stuff in this show is important, but a lot of it just fits in the time line without changing minds or tastes or much of anything else. I remember back then being amazed first at Schnabel's giant mélange paintings, then a decade later, his movies, but not really at the hundreds of artists who died of AIDS in New York City, because of the dozens of noteworthy Dallas artists who died of it here. It didn't just scourge the big apple, it was universal. Still is.
Guerilla Girls poster 1984-85
I'd met the shy vapidity who was Andy Warhol at the Texas Film Festival at SMU and seen Basquiat and others in movies and brief mentions on TV. Keith Haring was in all the magazines and even on local broadcast TV; I knew about Cindy Sherman, because I was a photographer; and I kept being appalled by what Jeff Koons was getting away with lately in the guise of art. Still don't care much for his art, although I am inordinately fond of his vacuous Buster Keaton [just below], which is a pleasant-enough copy of a guy who used to be funny many decades earlier, that I had to wonder if Koons even made it himself, but I admired his pluck and amazing ability to sell "his" work for huge prices.
So when the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth announced this show, I wanted to experience it first-hand, get them to feed me breakfast after my solo drive from Dallas and let me photograph all that giant historic art, then have somebody who knew about it lead a tour through the big show, explaining all the way. Glad I did, but it's a little silly to feel obligated to write about — if not exactly review — the show, because of the tasty breakfast sausage, mushroom and spinach-stuffed croissants and the opportunity to be alone in those huge rooms to photograph all this art, even if I have no other use for the pictures. That's probably why this story wanders around so much.
Jeff Koons Buster Keaton 1988 polychromed wood
I lost track of when the press opening would be and stayed up all night the night before watching movies, neatly forgetting to bring a set of grungies for walking around The City of Fort Worth Solids Drying Area (Yep, that's exactly what you might think it is, on the west edge of Arlington on my way back to Dallas. Didn't matter — it was locked-down closed, probably due to recent rains. If that gate had been open, I would have photographed birds, my other great love, after this rag and art.
Donald Sultan Dead Plant November 1, 1988 tar and latex paint on canvas 1988
But my head was already full of the story of AIDS and new forms (?) of art in The Big City; my camera was full of images of it; and my MP3 recorder rendered what I thought was the sound file of the informative press tour at exactly zero bytes, so at least I don't have to go on and on with carefully transcribed historical notions from the curator. This is my other favorite piece in the show, and when I stopped by the Kimbell on my way to the Amon Carter, then back east to Dallas, I bought a postcard of Dutch artist Jacob van Ruisdael's A Rough Sea at a Jetty, which reminded me of this tour de force, preceding it by a mere 306 years.
Jenny Holzer Survival 1989 horizontal LED sign:
red diodes and black powder-coated aluminum housing
I knew my solo camera time with this show was limited, so I hot-foot scooted from piece to piece and room to room, often worrying I might lose a whole room full of Twentieth Century New York Art. Meanwhile, I missed the introductions elsewhere and the director's notes, which he usually reads from the same page that would be available to the press before or after, but I was right where I wanted to be, alone with massive icons of one decade in the mostly recent history of American Art. It's a big show full of big art, much of it interesting, even fascinating, even if I still can't remember much about that decade's other cultural offerings.
Michael Auping touring the press corps past Allan McCollum's Collection of Two Hundred Plaster Surrogates
No way I could remember even smidgens of all the fascinating tales Michael Auping, chief curator at the Modern spun while leading the amalgamated North Central Texas Art Press Corps through the exhibition, but I know what I saw, and except for a smaller room of Guerilla Girls protest posters it was huge, physically if not entirely historically.
Kenny Sharf Cosmic Cavern #32 installation 2014
extrapolated recreation of Sharf and roommate Keith Haring's
black light disco installation in the closet of their Times Square apartment
Talk about cave walls being thrice removed from reality: Like so much else in this exhibition, Kenny Sharf has much more recently here re-recreated a piece based on a decades-earlier historic object/space/time that he helped his uber-famous roommate create, itself recreated from and for earlier episodes and events from yet another, earlier decade. Psyche-relic!
Museum shows are different from gallery shows in that the art is larger and so is the hoopla. So everybody can see it, even if you're in the back row, and everybody hears about it, even if they don't give a rat's ass about art. But you can have it all to yourself if you come in on a slow or rainy day. I did that one drizzly day decades ago at The Phillips Collection in D.C., where I spent so long standing and watching the brush stroke dance in Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party that a nice guy who works there brought me a chair to sit right in front of it and be comfortable as I continued to watch the Master's paint fly.
That communion with monumental art is why I love big museum show press openings. Well, that and the food.
Like finding Art in the Dark
Lights weren't off, just no captions, I.Ds of art or artists, at any of my stops after the first, where old friend Vicki Meek, director of the South Dallas Cultural Center, welcomed me back like it'd been awhile, but she wasn't there last time I was. Subsequent spaces seemed to be in a quiet no-I.D conspiracy I quickly adopted, though couple times I knew, and at least one I guessed, but I won't know till I get confirmation, and I'm too busy to go back. Sometimes quiet in the dark is just fine. Lower case captions are guesses.
After the first couple of pieces I liked at the South Dallas Culture Center, others seemed more of the same. I delighted in the texture of the colors on paper, each their own dimension, where lines beaded like embossing. Colors on dark paper conspired with dark ink, the wet color puckering the paper. Here we have a flat non-dimensional face in 3-D dress, lined hat with slight dimensional gold and silver spaces and wide, dark billowing purple. Wura-Natasha Ogunji's site greeted me with an earlier edition of this same drawing. Others of this Saturday evening's unidentified images were more challenging to track.
Yellow on White Grid
I may have jumped the gun on open time at 500X. But I saw the the big rusty door open when I flew low down Exposition on my way to another space, so I entered and explored before the crowd.
Everywhere I look there's more simple shapes crisscrossed or extrapolated with texture or minimally abstracted. Was a time when most artists tried to do something different, but now the lure of the squished, squashed, stretched or wrinkled grid is everywhere. Dozens of years ago only a few of them snuck into shows. Now there's rooms full. Fortunately I like them enough to follow their trajectory and understand how the ordered grid and what's holding everything together sometimes gets creased and squeezed, and its own shadows show more than that third dimension in this clean vision. I assume it's by Tim Harding, but I'm not bolding his name till I'm sure. Establish a form, wrinkle it, but keep the quality topped, is his modus operandi.
So I hope this is not Tim's. I've seen this done better more years ago than I can count. This might have been elegant, but this is isn't. Too simple. Too empty. Too bad, but it could still be a needful step into a new dimension time might report back later. I'm sorry I photographed it, but my rule this time is, if I shot it, I write about it. The one above has its elegance. This has little.
two extinct birds
These malevolent, de-fleshed bones on the shelf with shadow shapes show faces of empty eyesockets staring through us. Laura Garcia-Penn placed these bird bones, making them art, some of whose pieces are called Nopalitos.
Knew who did this pair soon as I saw the first. Doubt he considers it a face, but both are too obvious not to. So amazing he's kept at this same style in differing spaces and dimensions for years. His art changes and changes yet keeps its mystical underpinnings to recognizable terms, motives and devices, so it's instantly recognizable as Bernardo Cantu's. That's never easy unless the artist is committed. Saw him upstairs pushing a broom in that famous, numbered co-op, then downstairs working at another gallery maintenance later. I didn't want to interrupt, just brushed his shirt as I walked by the queue. Then waved back, walking down the front steps.
And someday, I really want to watch him in a fabric store.
These amaze me. I think of them more like I think of the map than anything else in this swath of pictured words. Growing his style like mad hammerers shaping what comes naturally, keeping the rhythms moving, changing and rearranging, holding on and releasing what only happens when persistent artists art and art and art.
I didn't read the small print. I saw Gothic Mother and the gilt-edged white poem. Couldn't miss those. What little I read of the encased book reads like a dime novel, but the cup is letter and flower perfect. First look looked hokey, but I lLiked the poem, read it repeatedly, still think it rhymes. After watching nine pages of web by Diane Durant I wonder whether this is hers. I'm sure somebody knows. Maybe I should go back.
treering postcard 17
I keep imagining Karen Erxleben Weiner digging on the text, though she might well not. I promisied myself I'd read it, put it off, but when I finally did, I understood. Nice texture and text, and the bright red apple reminds of J Apple's seed scattering. Its signature made my guessing game simple, so I can state with surety this member showing is Jessica Fuentes.
I like and trust trees, even the one that bounced a fat arm off my impact-resistant roof. I let them grow wherever they want but understand little of their stories in ring lines and colors. The concept is fascinating. But I still wonder if I should have cropped that blue banner at the bottom, despite its color contrast.
No idea why I shot this. Came this close to not, or not using it. I keep finding excuses to be reminded of my dear friend Georgia Stafford's Katie Tindall installation in a nook upstairs at the X in the early 80s, repeated in the retrospective I produced on Parry Avenue after she poisoned herself — about an aunt she especially cared for, like Georgia, a little wild. But if this is art, I got it hanging all over my bedroom, much as I like the wrinkles and that hue.
Justin Strickland Hoff In Lincoln 24 x 24 inches
Whoever did this has my attention. This is enough new to smile and stare closer. I see mountain ranges and extended green, snow, sand and topographic complications back east. There's wild imagination and form here, and I don't even know what all's compressed over its east coast. Perusing the 500X site by page, I first guessed its author might be Kate Colin, whose current work, her page says, "explores the complexity of the conception of hyperbolic structures depicted on two-dimensional planes." I had a whole other guess, but he's not still on the member list. But Colin also grids wrinkles, so my guessing game continued.
Then I found this precise piece of 24 x 24 inches mixed drawing media on paper called In Lincoln is by Justin Strickland Hoff. Kudos! Hoff's most comprehensible words say, "Using these two divergent styles I create swirling vortexes of information in which one must struggle to resolve the subject through the exploding pieces of it." Welcome to my world.
'Minds me of my 500 graduate, Erik Tosten spoon, though these are smooth shiny metal, not rough hewn wood. Uncomplicated and nicely knitted hanging over our next detail down.
Little devices formed of intricate pieces that used to do something else, now repurposed to a shelf of similarly strewn devices. I liked looking, but the only purpose I could discern was this one, yarn-bombed catapult.
Upstairs on the far side, near their downtown overlook, its own story told and retold in masses and shadows and strings, circling with texture and form — and I didn't want to admit it at first, but funny.
Pebbled tan, skeined orange and Naugahidden stamped leather texture diptyching into one big swoop. Thought when I shot it the lower pebbles were the same chroma, but not so sure now. Surface only the same at the edge of orange. We're still at 500X, but not certain what's shining into the low right corner. Liquid lumps like a lava lamp, always changing colors. Segmented uneven. Not sure why, but I like it. I like it. Looking for the map-maker, I stumbled on the artist and title for this, Clint Bargers' stangemagic1 the image's save-as title.
pipes alarm ladder
Up the backstreet to the front of lowest Commerce almost to The Reading Room then then five lains of light traffic across to Fair Park. Always consider these pipes — not unlike similar intricate metal tubes in crannies and nooks at the Continental Gin in Deeper Elm, Fair Park and Downtown — as better art. More interesting, intricate, detailed, attractive. Sorry I couldn't suck more colors hiding from the bright sun streaming in, and that stepladder's not helping.
These are nice, and I love the long busy tunnel black and white and silhouette splatter smear sunset at the bottom. Never really trust writing on purpose in photos, but the two in the middle are in media res as we watch, though I want colors not grayscale, and like the monochromatic double-bubble shapes on one side and the crisp, colored telephone poletop at left.
Certainly the happiest kid I saw that evening of wandering art spaces till all of a sudden I looked at my list and I'd done every one but Ro2 downtown, where I didn't want to pay to park or walk blocks, and I'd just done a decent job on a long piece of a show there, so I didn't need to write about them till again a little while. The happy kid and I traded smiles is about all, but enough. I felt communicated with on my journey.
Kinda refreshing not even bothering with where all this stuff was and will be till whenever, by whom or titles, so much it's hard to imagine me doing the dada data duty of holding a calendar together again, but I do wish somebody would list every show by every artist with as many pictures as possible, so I could pick and choose among more art visit possibilities again.
PerformanceSW’s Inside)(Outside Live Performance Showcase:
Is it is or is it not Performance Art?
Oil + Cotton
H. Schenck and Esther Manske 60/40: Conversations
The audience was captivated by this informal and impromptu four-hand concert that defied most of my expectations of Performance Art, even if it was most certainly performance and the artform was familiar — somewhere among Classical, Jazz and noodling. Manske told me afterwards she had particularly wanted to not perform any specific piece, so together they created an improvised soundtrack as the showcase's first overt performance.
And though I quite enjoyed it, I'm not at all convinced it was Performance Art. It let my mind wander, not consider, or make connections. And my mind needs wandering, but it craves the strangeness of Performance Art, and good examples are hard to come by.
And yeah, I know, Inside Outside only calls their content "live performance" in big print. But the small print in at least one of the programs reminds us that "PeformanceSW is a project in support of the proliferation of performance art outside of the mainstream American discourse." Which is where performance art usually resides.
The events in this story are in chronological order.
Michael Anthony Garcia wait for informal participant performers
But there was more subtle performance art already in progress, and at first I had no idea what it was, although I could plainly see this guy talking with people, explaining and handing them bits of tape and pens and stuff. Garcia's costume — whose relevance to his performance was like performance art often is, questionable at best. But he obviously was up to something abstract. And what Garcia helped others create was an esoteric, astute and extended piece that grew by turns while occupying nearly no time or space, yet still set off notions and motions that adhered fiercely to the the more time-honored and important traditions of performance art.
What he did, was inveigle others to, relying on their first impressions, describe someone who had volunteered to be judged, in one or just a few words. Then they attached those impressions via colored tape to whom elicited the response. Once I was in on the trick, I easily recognized its interactions among audiences even across large spaces, as the show progressed and Garcia's game played on.
The volunteer targets wore a red on white, "Hello. My name is" peel-off, stick-on with one capital letter scribbled in bold black Marks-A-Lot. The impression makers looked carefully, found a volunteer, watched awhile, then wrote their initial impressions. Garcia provided materials, concept and encouragement but watched from afar, often while selling more people on the plan. If he handed-out labels alphabetically, there were at least fifteen willing targets. Probably more.
So, Garcia's If At First was Inside Outside's first serious and real Performance Art. It preceded the pianists, and it continued through more — maybe all — of the scheduled performances. I last saw him in costume out under the bright lights of the marquee at the Texas Theater, upstairs from where the last scheduled event was. Participants trended slightly more colorful, and they interacted. And their slow progression of peripheral performance was decidedly art, because it was intentional, conceptual, experimental and their results were uncertain.
Several performances later, some targets were still wearing their impressions. Others were stuck on walls and several were on a banner. You had to look to see its tracks, so it was probably more interesting and fun to participate than to see or just know about.
Little Boys Dancing
Meanwhile, also inside Oil & Cotton's previously pleasantly cool performance room, its two, large, more-than-adequate AC sources were carefully and securely closed off, and the front door opened to the glowering humidly, so a slow hot, sticky, swelter ensued inside.
It took awhile to get going, but two of the youngest members of the audience started physically interacting with the piano by dancing and singing more or less along, while most adults head-bobbed, chair-danced or just watched. These children were the first to break from being passive listeners to become active, albeit unofficial, participants in the extemporized performance.
no-no to dancing and making noise
And like children everywhere, once they got going doing that, they got carried away with the music and themselves and made it their own — and they were twice stopped by this finger-shaking mother.
I thought theirs was a valuable contribution to the performance, laughter, squeals, dancing, singing and all, so I asked PerformanceSW honcho Ali Starr for her take, and she thought their performance was fun and fine, so I relayed that information to the mother, who told the the kids it was okay to dance, but they should not be loud.
Adults Caught Up in the Changes
But of course they did and were, and all that energy compounded into its own lopsided succession of spreading spontaneity. Not long later, a guy in a pink shirt with a bold G on his my-name-is label asked the mom to dance, and when they did, the crowd rewarded them with enough smiles and charmed joy to cool everybody off for awhile.
After changing tunes, tones, timbres, texture, rhythm and melodies for nearly 45 minutes, the pianists wound down, phased into a subtle mutual ending, stood up, didn't exactly bow but paused briefly leaning toward the door and walked out to gentle general applause. Performance enough, but art? Not so much.
Caitlin Scott EFEMURAL
Essentially, this performance was Caitlin Scott yelling about her injury, oft repeating at loud and desperate volume, "My leg!" And her piece was audibly riveting and likely true to life from the moments just after her leg became so damaged it rendered that deep rent that has become the scar we see above her left knee. Her woeful words echoed in the room. "Somebody help!"
I'd never seen such a performance art attempt, and though spare, it was memorable, even sometimes haunting, and even if it only lasted ten startling minutes — thus perhaps her title — I won't soon forget.
Caitlin Scott Cast Hoist
But it was more emotional than artistic. Then, Scott knelt in the middle of the big room, hoisted up the bright white cast she'd gingerly limped in on, and smashed it to pieces. Psycho-drama with a classic payoff.
Scott's performance was not re-enactment, it was an emotional depiction of her immediate response to sudden and profound physical injury. We did not learn how or where it happened, or why, or whose fault it was. It wasn't a story. It was how she felt about it, punctuated by a few, too oft-repeated words.
Performance? Absolutely. And passionate. But art? Nnn-not so much.
Caitlin Scott Cast Smashed with Audience
Although I managed to misplace all but the smallest, postcard-sized of the three — I think there were — programs I had at one time or another during the evening's showcase, the one I managed to keep indicated some performances would overlap venues. But there never seemed to be enough audience to extend across spaces, so the timing adjusted to those in attendance, not versa visa.
Gradually towards dark, in fits and spurts, the attendance grew. I assume PerformanceSW's publicity wasn't altogether widely distributed, or sent out early enough or to all the right people, or there might have been more of us there. But historically, even the best performances are rarely seen by more than thirty people, and there's lots of attention competition on a Dallas Saturday night. I didn't hear about it till I asked a friend — Thank you, Kathy — what art was going on that day.
A couple of critics have noted there's too much Performance Art in Dallas, but I think what there really is an excess of, is mediocre Performance Art. But there has to be a bunch of amateurs around practising to grow a few, really good professionals. Ya gotta start somewhere, and I think that's what just under half of this event's performers were about, although more than half of it was very good to excellent, with a couple superbs.
Vanny Sim and Fabiola Venezuela Street Food
I hardly expected a performance showcase to be catered, but the delicious, light Asian food produced by Vanny Sim assisted by Fabiola Venezuela (above) was better than any food truck I've ever met. At the time, I assumed they were simply providing sustenance, but Alison Starr later told me it was "a performative act." But in a medium farther removed from any I'd experienced.
This situation was confusing. The food and performers' interactions were direct, real and immediately goal-oriented. We were lining up, wondering which items would taste like what, when Allson Starr announced that the two women would take donations, I asked, "For what?" and she said for the two women, which seemed odd and uncomfortable, because we hadn't paid any of the other performers — even if they didn't feed us.
Posted prices would probably have been immediately understood and operative, indeed normal and would not noticeably interfere with any performative aspects. We "customers" chose blindly, paid actual money — or not — and walked away looking for somewhere comfortable to sit. Tables or other flat surfaces to put our food and elbows on might have been helpful.
Four Chairs at North Tyler and West 7th Streets
I had already seen — and photographed the four chairs scattered along the street at the corner outside of Oil + Cotton, yet I had not considered they might be part of any performance, though I did wonder what they were doing there.
The food was real — elegant and appetizing, and the performance purposeful without any logic but the most basic. After enjoying my brief meal, and feeling bad for only leaving a couple bucks, I asked Ali and she emailed me back that "the food was given out for free or donation. [And] most people didn't donate, but that was OK." Although I'm still not sure it was okay enough — although that, too, was part of the performance.
That performance — and I was never clear during it that that's what it was — was just before Lindsey Allgood's skit-shaped super housewife cooking show, and although I did not make the connection then, it felt like a natural progression, even if Street Food's performers were not even listed in the program. If they had been, a few announced words might have got everybody on the same expectations page and not so confused. Titles would have been nice, too, but none were available.
The Ant Colony
Ant Colony's Front Window
The Ant Colony is cater-corner across 7th Street (far here) and Tyler (near) from Oil & Cotton — yellow, center left, with a small crowd gathered for Street Food — and just down the dangerously fast, one-way traffic on North Tyler Street from SpotPlus, which is uphill a few doors and to the right on this side of the street. In the upper right middle of this photo are PerformanceSW Principles, Alison Starr, far left under the No Parking sign, and Courtney Moezzi Brown, right, flanking a man in white T-shirt and socks and a woman in long black holding a flowered blue umbrella — he audience; she performer Janet Morrow, more about whom, soon.
About every other time I've been in this building, it's been something new. Nice to see those walls white now, where at least twice before in differing iterations were large, dark and gaudy, now white, pocked with large and small holes so distracting I was several times tempted to blot them out in Photoshop. But there they were, as I have left them.
Lindsey Allgood Illustrated Recipes: Just A Drop or Two
This first performance at The Ant Colony seemed complex, though Allgood presented it as a series — not a progression — of terse component episodes. Wearing a simple but elegant white cotton off-the-shoulder dress, stockings, and, when needed, a black and white checked apron and pearls — all but the pearls of which figured in subsequent episodes, Lindsey Allgood performed her way through sardonic acts involving instructive cooking, housekeeping and husband-pleasing.
Lindsey Allgood Illustrated Recipes: Appetized (Appeased)
Before each new interlude in her 26-minute performance, she either walked back and forth across the imaginary proscenium with a large, fold-over notebook proclaiming that chapter's title, or she parked it on a chair or the floor close to the scene that would unfold there. She was well organized but noticeably nervous, at least early, and some of her titles seemed redundant or a little too-obvious, yet droll, double-entendre. Like "How to Knead (need);" "Appetized (Appeased)" and "Put Your Heart into It," but this Performance Art teacher wowed the crowd and the critics.
Lindsey Allgood Illustrated Recipes: Décor + Corpus = Décorpus
For greater dramatic effect, turn off the lights and set a flower on fire. Bright, blazing symbolism, but I don't know what for. Finally a performance one had to pay attention to, and I was too busy focusing and getting the exposure right in the sudden dark. Allgood mixed contrasting contemporary themes from Feminism to motherhood with a deep need to appease and back, through a well-thumbed cookbook of physical presentations.
What she was doing was wry and often hilarious, but nobody laughed. There were times when someone or several someones really should have. It would have given us all permission, and then we would have known her wild humor for what it was. But she did seem serious, so I'm not surprised at our lack of a laugh track.
The second time I googled her, I learned she is well represented online. Probably my favorite of her early work was Backyard [second video down] that I loved, because I have a small forest in my yard that needs wrapping — and this one, which appears to be about the obliviousness of audiences at art openings. I want to see more from this refined, Oklahoma performance artist who is not afraid to show herself amusing, as well as intelligent — and less of almost everybody else here but Michael Anthony Garcia, Janet Morrow, Julia Claire and Evan McCarly.
Audience to the Right of the Performer
And more audience fanned out from center
M. Kate Helmes performed in the short hallway between this spacious and well-illuminated front room and the darker interior. Only problem was just a few audience members at a time could see her stand up on her tiptoes as tall as she could raise herself and staple her hair to the wall. I saw and photographed that much, then backed off, so I wouldn't be in everybody's way. But it was a less-than ideal place to see or be seen.
She staples her hair to the wall while keeping her escape scissors in easy reach.
Nobody knew titles of any of the work, except Lindsey Allgood, who self-titled the whole and all the component parts of the performance 3-5 clicks above. So I had no idea what Helmes was up to here, and not knowing at least that much, plus her odd wardrobe choice, left me not wanting to watch or get involved, although I counted the crowd, so I know there were at least two dozen watchers fanning out toward the door and onto the sidewalk outside. And many of those strained up, down or side-to-side to see what was happening, while a few more watched comfortably from the floor of that little hallway, left and right below Helmes, and a spare few more who really couldn't see much but were probably more comfortable, back in the extended kitchen, office and workroom beyond, where were chairs and cool.
Samson M. Kate Helmes
We heard an unsteady barrage of loud moans and groans, especially when she sank down off her toes while her hair stayed stapled. And I'm sure the ordeal meant something, and now I finally know its title, I have a few more vague insights into the logic, but the performance was neither interactive, internally informative, nor subtle.
It looked painful and vaguely reminiscent of famous forms of self-torture in historic performance art — rumors of Vitto Acconci, et al. It didn't spark any synapses. Again we have performance with what might be considered art. After she ripped herself down to standing with her feet finally flat on the floor, there was a sizeable patch of red hair and maybe a little flesh still attached. If that's still there, it is probably art.
Janet Morrow explaining her Cochlear Implant and impeding deafness
Morrow's literal concept was keen and personal — specific to her own condition and thus, in significant ways, universal. Because Morrow has known for the last several years that she was losing her hearing, she recently got a Cochlear Implant, and now can hear again, but not nearly as well as before, because some frequencies are missing.
Sharing Remembered Sounds
But she cherishes memories of sounds and suggested members of her audience recall noteworthy sounds from their pasts by actively pulling those memories back into their consciousness, write their names, then describe and explain them to somebody in the room. But first, she asked her audience to thoroughly disinfect their hands. Then she handed out special, edible paper and markers of digestible colors in a short, crayon-like range, so she could absorb their sound memories directly.
And that all went very well, especially the 'describe their sounds to somebody else' where she elicited lively, informal and talkative interaction.
Sharing Sounds - with remnants of Michael Anthony Garcia's If At First taped to the red shirt:
sweet, boyish, bohemian on the yellow and enthusiastic and cute on green
Hawk Raises what I called The Flag —
Watching him is fellow Houstonite, Life Performance Artist Julia Claire.
He may have just been getting ready, but I took this act of installing a white cloth rectangle out from the little hallway's double-door frame off a stick as the opening act of Ryan Hawk's performance. Sometimes it's hard to tell when one begins. And sometimes the getting ready is at least as interesting as the performance itself. A specially prepared T-shirt, dark pants, bare feet and yards of clear plastic tubing were his costume and identity.
Then he set a large paint can of vivid pink liquid high on the wall back, beyond the hallway, and connected tubing so the pink flowed down through it then around his upper torso. Just after he installed it, I checked out the hanging fabric, remembering previous attempts to bleed blood-like liquid through a textile flag to show color, and thought it needed more feeds to soak the whole thing, but a lurid wet pink puddle splashed on the floor below.
Ryan Hawk bleeding the lines of pink liquid into his T-shirt and body
Once the pink began to flow, the Houston performance artist struck a long series of martyr poses while intricately piercing the tube wrapping his body, so pink dribbled onto his lower shirt, gradually soaking much of it, although not where he had used resist that would stay white during the long, slow process of spreading the pink. If you look carefully, you can see the "AG" that only much later after much more dripping became "FAGGOT." If he had pierced the tubing higher on his body, the pink would have spread much more quickly, and we'd have got to see his little sign quicker and would not have had to stand through all his posing.
After his performance I asked Hawk about the pink-dripped flag, and he told me I "must not have understood the piece at all" — which is certainly plausible, "if [I] thought it was a flag," adding that his performance was about "identity," which seemed obvious. But I still think the white rectangular banner hanging from a stick was a flag, with all its color interpretations in place, except it might have been more impressive if the whole cloth had soaked pink, instead of just one blurred stream down the middle. Same with his T-shirt.
McCarley confronts Lauren Grey, who runs the Safe Room
at the Texas Theater.
I did not know this person, and I didn't learn her name until much later when I got these pictures on this page. But I did not like either of her personae in this performance. Probably because I've had too many bipolars in my life already. But Houston Artist Evan McCarley carried her 20-munute, previously unscheduled (not even her name was on the program) performance off superbly — managing to upset some, make others laugh nervously and caused many questioning looks and busy attempts to stay the heck out of her way. But the piece seemed just a little set — like something she could drop into and maybe out of again, at any moment.
Toward the end, it was difficult to know whether she was bantering with the crowd or might throw something else at someone without warning — or burst into tears. She hadn't much in the way of a costume, although what she wore worked well. I liked that what little costume she employed included the hint of a text tat, while her red hair, glasses and form-fitting dress seemed to fit right in with her performance.
Ms. Bipolar Goes into Withdrawal
I still don't want her pissed at me, which seemed always a possibility during her performance. One guy she set upon seemed lost in and out of the performance. Maybe he already knew her real self but was not ready for her alternate — certainly not prepared for a serious encounter — and he seemed to desperately want it to all be a big joke. He kept on the edge of laughing, and she threw a beer can at him from just a few feet away.
So when she reverted to abject withdrawal, we found relief. The vertical brown paper banner in the picture above reads in all capital letters: "Come In / Shut Down / Be Afraid / Take Time / Have Courage / Whatever."
The colored tape at the bottom are remnants from Michael Anthony Garcia's If At First, with colored labels reading "enthusiastic," "quirky," "artsy fartsy" and "egg used to be oval." But I don't know who stuck them there or when. McCarley was not originally scheduled to perform, but, the way I heard it there, she volunteered and PSW took her on. Good decision. I assume she's got her act down pat; I never saw her waver.
Taping the Floor to Set Parameters Before her Performance
Oh, and her title, Line Study I may have had to do with white, tape lines she applied to the floor before her performance, during which hardly anybody noticed. Then I just forgot it in all the strum und drang of her confrontational performance. Now, I assume, where on the white, outlined map, audience members stood when she encountered them, determined whether she was up or down, good or bad, manic or withdrawn. That's my best guess.
Hers was the most impressive confrontation, but not one I'd want to participate in. She was fierce.
Lopez in the dark under SpotPlus' front-door spotlight
Took the SpotPlus crew long minutes of us waiting outside in the sometimes rain to open it up a full half hour before it was scheduled to start, shortly after we were herded out of The Ant Colony and up North Tyler. But someone finally went around back and unlocked the front door from inside, long after Jonatan Lopez had adopted his welcome mat state. I watched him get face down on the dark cloth over the wet sidewalk and wondered what he was down to.
About a dozen of us waited and talked out on the real sidewalk till PerformanceSW announced that SpotPlus was open. They did not mention that the performance upstairs wasn't scheduled for another half hour. I was the first to not step on the Welcome mat, go in the door and tromp up the narrow stairs. I worried at my first long stride over Jonatan, because the concrete was wet and a little slippery, and as I stepped over him, I felt my right foot sliding an inch or two on the far side, but I hunched the rest of me through the door, and managed not to fall. Other media apparently posed someone stepping on Lopez' back, which seems inane, but hardly atypical. They want everything — including performance art — cute.
Translucence (detail) Julia Claire
As the first in and up the stairs, I got my choice of camera viewpoints, and I tried several, crossing the dark floor, being especially careful not to walk through any of the taut, colored yarn emanating from Claire's lower regions in that loud rock-filled room that was much darker than it appears in these photographs. So dark that some of the soft dark-colored wires were almost invisible. Watchful of the splay of cables, I got the heart of the performance well before I learned that's all there was.
The Grande Spectacle as Performance Art
I had to leave just when the performance was scheduled to begin, so I assumed I'd missed the action. But turned out there wasn't more than her spread-eagled in the elaborate set in this intricate costume drama. And that was plenty, but we still waited, and more people kept materializing atop of the stairs all while we did. I counted 40+ arrivals total, and I was gone by 9:30, so there were likely more. For most of the half hour I waited in the din, I sat against the last sill on the left. We got lots of loud music but no words or action — and of course no explanation — which is just as well, because it was what it was.
This durational performance was more elaborate, elegant, colorful and three-dimensional than an earlier, Houston-performance I found then lost on the internet. Then I stumbled on an even more recent instance of the piece. But this one was still better, more intriguing and attractive in a nicer space. But I keep wondering if some audience members might still be leaning uncomfortably against those walls, waiting for something to happen.
Images of Julia Claire performance the life art of Julia Claire
Julia Claire Translucence 2014 ( Close-up Detail)
Great costume, and as I watched her eyes flicker and roll under her eyelids, I thought of 1980s Dallas Performance Artist Ann Harkness, still as a corpse lying in state in a casket strewn with flowers.
The Texas Theater
Rueben Melendez VS.
Facing Off in the Safe Room with unknown opponent and José Rueben Melendez
A sign in big bold red and black letters warned:
ATTENTION! NO SPITTING, NO GROIN SHOTS, NO EYE GOWGING (sic)
Most of this showcase's dozen best Performance Art events invited audience participation: If At First, Internalizing the Word, Line Study 1, Doormat Syndrome and VS, although probably the best of them, Illustrated Recipes and the visually spectacular Translucence did not. But it's as difficult to categorize Performance Art as it is to judge it, there being few objective standards.
Still, that seven out of 12 — eight percent more than half of the PA attempts — were remarkably good ain't bad, especially in the uncertainty of Performance Art. Of those, Janet Morrow's Internalizing the Word was the most interactive; If At First the most subtle, Jonatan Lopez' Doormat Syndrome was the simplest; Line Study, the most in-our-faces confrontational, Translucence the most eye-dropping, and VS was by far the most active and dangerous.
Moments Later: The rules spoke of staying within the red line, but it didn't seem to matter.
Some say there is too much performance art in Dallas, which is silly. We've had decades with hardly any, and so few years with abundance. Overall, it trends to even out over time. We do need more of the better stuff, but few would agree which is best or worst till we've seen them all, and nobody wants that.
In the 1980s — the first full decade I paid any attention to it — Dallas was ripe with sporadic explosions of outstanding Performance Art, including evening-long sessions at Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth, and 500X and Tiffaret Israel reveled in long and excellent histories of it; and sometimes singles of shining examples showed at the Hickory Street Annex, The Casket Factory and the Dallas Museum of Art, among others.
More recently, Danielle Georgiou has sparked or co-sparked several outstanding examples, and there were dueling performance festivals a couple years back at 500X and Centraltrack, then more PerformanceSW in Main Street Windows the last couple. I was surprised not to find links on the PerformanceSW site of all theirs.
I have been mad for performance art since I first saw Jerry Hunt here in the early 1970s. Nineteen years later, I performed in Allan Kaprow's Sweeping in a motel not far from UT Arlington, where he was a Visiting Artist. I like performance art's mingling of real and abstruse concepts, and the challenge of photographing it.
See DallasArtsRevue's new Index of Performance Art Stories for many more Dallas-area instances of the genre.
Not Exactly Required Reading
Sol Lewitt - Paragraphs on Conceptual Art
Performance Art — Art History 101 Basics
Performance Art — Characteristics, History, Happenings
Considering 21 pieces of Serious New Texas Talent
Michael Powers Sad & Luxe #2 & #3 acrylic on canvas $1,500
21st Annual New Texas Talent at Craighead Green Gallery, curated by Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Curator Andrea Karnes included Alan Siggers, Alice Le, Amy Beth Wright, Anguspaul, Anne Longo, Ann McIntyre, Antoaneta Hillman, Ariel Bowman, Ashley Whitt, Audrey Omenson, Austin Queen, Bill Thompson, Bob Quaglia, CeCe Skeith, Chris Bingham, Christin Turner, Claire Giroux, Carol Trice, Danqing Coldwell, Daryl Gannon, Felice House, Heather Vander Dys, Jan Anderson-Paxson, Jessica Kreutter, Jessica Martinez, Jillian Patrick, John Crouch, Johnathan Daake, Kerry David Kochiss, Lindsay Barker, Mandy Hampton, Mauricio Saenz, Michael Powers, Olivia Themudo, Paxton Maroney, Samara Rosen, Sonja Quintero, Susan Sponsler, Tatiana Escallon and Tyler Butcher Opening 5 - 8 Saturday, August 9 through August 30, 2014.
First time I saw this show, packed with an opening-night gallery crowd late on a hot summer afternoon, I was less than impressed. I thought the juror too conservative and wondered what fascinating pieces she might have left on the cutting room floor. But I'd always planned to come back when I could see art, not people. So I'm glad I did that on an otherwise dreadful day, to calm my spirits and see the art with nearly nobody standing and talking everywhere in the way. It's taken more time to translate from visual to verbal than I expected, but I'm liking the journey:
I see parallels of New Mexico with stair-step crenulations, lilting colors, off-white lights, black and off-black grays in calm contrasts wiggling across a cloudless Santa Fe sky. The artist had another, less powerful talisman in the show, but that one's too soft. This diptych's got spirit. I like the juxto-ironic assymmetry and the four, widely scattered sherbet oranges, cool on a soft, warm palate.
Ariel Bowman Kala Nag ceramic and resin mixed media 36 x 22 inches $5,495
This guy takes us back at least to 19th Century India. This crafty old, small, wrinkled brown anachronism of elephantine spirit with Mastodon tusks is both the most traditional sculpture in the show and an anomalous strange trip into realist fiction. It has African feet but neither African nor Asian elephant ears. Both species have longer trunks and distinctively shorter tusks, so this is either a cross between species or a fantasy extrapolation.
Those long, thin tusks got their own step-down riser in the gallery, to keep visitors from getting poked or snapping them off. And except for its long-suffering eyes and deep-set wrinkles, there's too little irony or pathos, although its costume fairly drips of it. This object has a strong sense of place but no space of its own. It's either a trophy or an elaborate and expensive toy.
Like Earth's largest sea mammals, elephants have huge brains and complicated social lives. They could be smarter than we are, but without opposing thumbs and more adjustable frames, they need massively more space — and to be left alone. The headpiece, rugs and matching, upscale rosary extend the detailed blue, green, honey and brown color scheme to surround the dainty red-pillowed, and happily human-vacant trekking chair, while that tassel seems a trunk-bumping nuissance.
This is one massive, strong, but cowed creature, and I feel for it — still as a statue, waiting.
Samara Roxen Circulate 4 x 3 inches wood $200
Square pegs in a circular band, like matches or fireworks without the flames, but subtly smoldering.
I saw lots of red dots in this show, but not on lower-priced pieces. Truly new talent often has not the knowledge nor experience to price their work. It's one of those conudrums nobody really wants to mess with till there's a real chance to sell something, and by then it's too late. CG's split is more than fair, but two hundred bucks, even for something this simple is barely enough to split. The biggest difference between established artists and new talent may be their sense for setting prices.
Kerry David Kochiss Tawny oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches $800
Tawny to amber hues — with a little yellow and white in the mix — splattered, scraped, sloshed, washed, dripped, splashed, slashed, poured and painted, yet still of interest as wild form amock — a texture study, variations on a color theme. I wouldn't exactly call it beautiful, but interesting.
Chris Bingham If You Would Stop and Stay mixed media on canvas 48 x 60 inches $3,000
Another bright painting testing textures against a geo floating pattern of Mexican flag colors, cheap signs, wild, floating grafitti and a nearly steepled abstraction of blended architectural space smearing into place.
Jessica Kreutter Of Ruin and Rooms That (detail) 2012 mixed media 96 x 120 $4,900
In this show, when titles went long, they stopped dead in their tracks near the right edge of the tag, leaving lots of letters in little piles around the gallery. These colors are rich, the shadows dynamic, and the shapes dark brown Black but hollow. The press-molds on the wall felt airy, and just about everything was enigmatic.
From the web I learned the full title is Of Ruin and Rooms that Breathe. Richer mediums are listed there, too: porcelain, gold luster, pins and abandoned objects.
That last concept is especially important to Kreutter. In an interview with Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's then-curatorial assistant Ashley Powell, while Kreutter was a resident artist there, she said, "The wear and decay speak to me about memory and time and transformation. I think of all the bodies that have used the objects as they move through time, leaving both visible and invisible traces. In a place of fantasy and imagination, what happens when these traces float free of associations, and how is memory transformed into a tangible presence?"
Quotes used with permission from the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
The gallery only listed two dimensions for this and Kala Nag, the old elephant above. This is 10 x 11 x 5 feet, and I've added its year date to the caption. Perhaps that's its original Houston installation. But this one is simpler with fewer objects on the wall, so it's much better balanced.
Alan Siggers Waiting oil on panel 38 x 48 inches $6,000
So pleased to see Siggers' painting similar now to his sculpture I liked so much a couple years ago. He is, by trade, a builder, and to have this piece rendered so richly in his new work is promising, even if the juxtaposition jars, the frame abruptly jolts and those colors feel raucous.
Cece Skeith Brausebad (Shower Bath) 2014 16 x 20 inches photograph $900
The interior depicted in this twice-shredded stack of postcards is the "undressing room" outside the gas chamber at Dachau. Although the sign over the door inelegantly translates as shower bath, it wasn't accepted spoken Geman then or now, so it may have been mistranslated by the Americans liberating the camp, already reeking of enough irony for another world war.
The texture-matching crosshatch of segmented sunlight on the floor and wall is bright, joyful and sucks our vision into that door. No idea why these Halocaust postcards were started into the shredder twice, their cuts seem clean. But really, who would you send gas chamber postcards to?
Paxton Maroney The Writer photograph 30 x 30 inches $950
Pages of words scattered, tattered, walked and slopped on, then hung out to dry. I can feel it in my bones, and still sense the windows streaming more hot air without it fluttering any paper in sight. All those planar extensions at odds with each other lend this one-room world a dark-stained incongruity.
Olivia Themudo Untitled Self Portrait 15 24 x 34 photograph $375
Pink-orange and darkly shadowed flesh inside a contained, low-contrast, glassed gray-blue cage, under a post-industrial sunless sky, yielding startling depth, and up-close her smoke is elegant as a virus. A younger Cindy Sherman vamping with a vivid nightgown, hair net and long-ash cigarette.
Austin Queen Depersonalization mixed media on canvas 57 x 72 inches $2,700
Smearing in and out of reality while a line dance of cloud-like textures rumbas across the room, dominated by variously patterned and anti-dimensional, quasi-human and room furniture shapes. I keep seeing his darkened lower face as a bowtie, as his depixelated hand reaches for dripping impasto, red-meat cherry pie, while they struggle for their own realities.
Tyler Butcher The Other Side Intaglio 36 x 60 inches $2,200
A deep hued, individuated lineup on the far side, their colorful backs to us in a smudged beige river place, as if searching. Adult and child in a boat coming back through the fog as we scintillate incorporeally into the dirty yellow air.
Anne Longo Magnetic Inclinations mixed media on panel 24 x 36 inches $950
Seen close, this slowly transforms a medium-view landscape into the known world half a millenia ago. The relevance of one vision to the other is not clear, but the wooded view is lovely, and the map ancient.
Alice Le Yuki mixed media 30 x 40 inches $1,500
I've never fully appreciated cutesty anime humanoids, but I don't mind them in these phantasmagorica textures, slow-mo falling and drifting like snow. Each flake different and the drifts more so. Depth and motion via texture, lilting blues, quilted whites and patterned grays galore, and I have to wonder whether Le's declined entries were as splendidly textural — or just cute.
Danqing Coldwell Green Olives "watercolor" 20 x 24 inches $1,00
I carefully inspected the surface of this print that calls itself watercolor. The original may have included some wet media, but there are no paper textures, pooling densities or wash of paint here. This is a dimensionally flat, semi-gloss photo surface without reflections — always a thankful thing in a busy gallery, but it is no watercolor.
Amy Beth Wright 1942 at Night acrylic on canvas 5 x 5 inches $350
Stipples and spots and soft splotches of brown and black on white bright canvas. Subtle and wise. Not of machine, but careful and human. I thought I had to see more of these, but this was sufficient.
Mauricio Saenz Exile 72 x 108 inches mixed media $5,000
And this is just odd. I did not see anything electric moving, but there are bright, matching white cords strewn, and the screens built into side and top of the furniture stayed dark. Again, a Dallas artist who used to put art bits and notes in drawers of old, wood furniture comes to mind.
Chase Yarbrough's un-repainted desks and bureaus contained truths and fictions and were inquisitive-causing and quenching to unfold and unwind and read, and those drawers pulled and revealed, but I didn't try to open these or think to touch the screens, though I looked along the angular troughs that nobody could close.
I'm sure somebody sees something in these oddly protruding chests whose drawers angle down, around, up and out, but I'm not sure what. Once I got over the knobby rectangles of white on white contrasts, I lost interest.
Heather Vander Dys Invisible Archival Pigment Print 19 x 20 inches? $500
Not really invisible, just hard to see or identify, in an only barely human shape. A textural study — soft gray wraps around the shoulders, white lace makes flowers in the face in otherwise dark. A photograph with lots of headroom, so when the time comes, she can stand up and be counted. Veiled is an approved synonym for invisible, though we can plainly see this and pretend a human presence.
John Crouch Skirt 1 photograph 30 z 20 inches $600
I'm not saying it's too late to crossdress images in contemporary photography, but Dallas Artist Linda Finnell purposely confused gender in gentle self-portrait images thirty years ago in black & white and tones of brown. Hers were stare-at-the camera direct and formally informal positives in positive space. But this is a bold, well-crafted photo graphic image showing just enough object and ground by pulling the light out of the darkness. Its intriguing interplays of ground and objects shine in slivers and splats.
Manifesting that one delicately back-illuminated, yet texturally translucent glass object on the table, upper and lower skin and side-lighted hairy leg is elegant in careful-contrasted darkness.
From Deceptively Simple Dallas art and not-art to
more complex art beyond — Art that Intrigues…
Ashley Bellamy Ripening oil NFS
It's not like I thought this painting was the best piece in The MAC Membership show that opened a couple weekends ago, although I suspect it may well be. It's just the only one I photographed. I walked through all four exhibition spaces and counted eleven pieces I thought were better than most, but those were for people and political reasons, and you probably understand that about as well as I do. I didn't tell anybody whose pieces they were or which ones I liked enough to in- or exclude. Realistically, there may be five decent pieces in the whole show, but I didn't want to have to write about those, either, even if I didn't count this one that first time through.
I heard someone say "They certainly did not put the best work in the little project room," but it was difficult to discern where they did put them, because no two of my five were even close. This was in one of the big galleries, but I don't remember anything on those outer walls where they sometimes seem to believe they are showing good work.
I've been looking at this little painting, and I think I am beginning to understand and enjoy it.
Before attending The MAC, we encountered Maureen Brouillette and Joel Sampson at Cafe Express, behind which — though not in their parking lot proper, where they allow MAC patrons to park — we parked in the deep shade on this side of the street across from the cemetery, which along with that street, continues past The MAC to McKinney Avenue, and it was still in shade a couple hours later when we exited the show.
We hadn't seen the show when we saw them, but they had, because Joel had just applied the last bit of paint to his piece. We were hungry and willing to sit in a cool place and just talk and listen. Nobody wanted to be out on the patio just the other side of the glass, where grackles were thrashing through somebody's leftovers. It was too hot to think of outside as anything but oppressive.
Maureen told us this painting was the only one there she wanted to buy, but she was disappointed that it was marked NFS — Not For Sale. After dinner, much conversation, and a short, hot walk to the gallery, I sought it out and photographed it, and frankly, I didn't think about it again for a couple days.
The only aesthetic judgement I made at the time was, "Oh. That's not bad."
I got bored every time I tried to read this year's theme, and I never did get through it, so I have no idea whether this meets the supposed criteria. My friend Norman said he never pays attention to those, and his was one of my five. The couple times I've participated in their Member Shows, I paid strict attention, because I like the challenge of visualizing somebody else's ideas, though I never knowingly work with my own themes, whatever those might be.
There's a common simplicity in this painting of an apple on a disheveled bed that's rendered without a lot of hoopla. It just is. It looks like a bed with an apple tucked into a wrinkle, while the lower sheet rides up exposing the mattress and box springs below. It looks comfortable, if informal. There are hints of worn wallpaper behind the dark headboard, a fragment of rug and dark wood floor beneath, but not much else to go on.
I'm guessing it's a single person's bed with no one to insist on upgrades. I could go farther and note the dingy yellowish sheets show contrasting, bright white highlights and the fact that there's a food item where it clearly does not belong, although it looks right at home, and I'm comfortable with the scene.
This painting is a portrait of a place of contentment and ease, painted gently, yet superbly. I think every one of those wrinkles and folds actually existed and were faithfully rendered, and I wonder if it has a place of honor in the artist's home or if maybe someone who slept there saw the painting, fell in love with it, and wants to keep it forever.
That's easily credible, although it still makes sense he just doesn't want to sell it.
Targets at RE Gallery's Art Yard Sale
I realize this is not even presented as art, and I could kick myself for not at least inquiring about the price on the rounded person target 175 M. I'm talking about the target, not the bin of cute postcards or the gridded B&W thing on the right. I like it more every time I look at it. Which is why I photographed it, and placed it here. The texture that shows in the solid black areas, where the sun shines on it, only adds glory.
Evan Holloway American born 1967 58 2007 steel, brass, Sculptamold, lead and paint
The reasons I chose this object in the Dallas Museum of Art's Barrel Vault are a little more complicated. I liked looking at it, and even though I've cropped parts, I liked photographing it and don't think the people and art behind detract. I'd thought the title was some abstract notion, but I never saw the reversed 58 in it till just now, and I liked it more then.
It's just about the right combination of complication and simplicity, and they've placed it superbly. I may have photographed it from the open stairs in the back of that room, looking slightly down. I richly remember being told I could not sit there, and replying that I was sitting there. Then the art cop repeated what she'd said, so I got up and walked away — or I might have framed it better.
I think I have tried to settle on those stairs before, and I might forget again. They just look so comfy and empty, like they needed somebody's presence. I always seem to get into some sort of silly kerfuffle at the Mu. They've got so many rules they don't tell anybody till we've run afoul, at least they've lately let us photograph almost everything. I remember a private and personal tour of the whole mu with a PR Director, so I could photograph and write about most of my then-favorite pieces.
I sense a certain visual connection between this intricate sculpture and the The Thinker's Retreat below.
Nigel Cooke Thinker's Retreat oil on linen, backed with sailcloth 86.5 x 145.6 x 2.88 inches 2008
This is huge, and I think of it as a drawing that nearly fills one full interior wall in the barrel-vault. I think I could get as lost in it as I have in the space it depicts. It's a pity I cannot reproduce it here in greater detail and larger scale. My thing about the scale is what has to do with getting lost in it. All those surrounded spaces, nooks and crannies; the atmosphere, darkness, escaping steam condensing in the cold, and in-and-out dimensionality, make this a place worth losing a self into. I wanted to stand inside the glass windows downstairs and look out, feel the air moving as I watched the goings on inside. Although it might have been cold, I identified into the piece, and I wanted to stay awhile.
The DMA's label for the piece cites, "The curious central figure [who] wields the hardware of a painter, and seems to be going about his craft in a desolate world of abjectness and neglect. In this scene, science fiction, comic books, and art history are all rolled into one, creating an ominous yet somehow playful allegory of the "heroic" artist's solitary studio practice and the often-heralded death of painting." But I was too taken by the space and its depiction to see or feel any of that hooey.
Thomas Struth Stellerator Wendelstein 7-X Detail Max Planck IPP, Greiffswald, Germany 2009
C Print 5 x 6.64 feet framed edition of ten
I did not want to crawl into this complexity, but I liked staring at it. Its details absorbed me. The darks and bright whites lent this large flat piece enough depth to imagine getting lost in there and wonder what was up. According to Atlanta's High Museum of Art, this image "was taken within a German nuclear facility" and "presents an overwhelming mix of metal and wire in monumental scale, thus inspiring visual wonder of the technological realm. Together, the prints on view demonstrate Struth's interest in tightly structured, intellectual, and psychologically charged work."
I'd have to go along, even if my image here and every other version of it I found online showed distinctly different tones and colors. Thanks to the trick of automatic cameras wanting to render everything they see as an 18% gray, all the renderings I saw online seemed brighter.
“Real” and Apparent Depth in selected work from
Ro2 Art's Chaos II, a curated show of small art
Matt Bagley Fine Specimen of Male SpaceBug #1 attributed to the artist Click Zing $200
Ro2 Art's CHAOS, a curated exhibition of small works featuring over 100 artists with work by Elizabeth Akamatsu, Olaniyi R. Akindiya (aka AKIRASH), Karla Areli, Matt Bagley, Josh Banks, Sibylle Bauer, Lionel Bevan, Daniel Birdsong, Chris Bramel, Bill Bridges, Fannie Brito, Ashley Bryan, Paul Bryan, Mark Burt, Angel Cabrales, Jay Cantrell, Aimee Cardoso, Christina Carfora, Rebecca Carter, Zack Chambers, Alyssa Chi, Kate Colin, Leah Constantine, Ray-Mel Cornelius, Camilla Cowan, RE Cox, Ken Craft, Val Curry, Chance Dunlap, Roger England, Sam England, Peggy Epner, Gary Farrelly, Erica Felicella, Piero Fenci, Nancy Ferro, Rachel Fischer, Jason Flowers, Michael Francis, Barbara Frey , Danielle Georgiou, Justin Ginsberg, Joshua Goode, David Graeve, Kurt Griesbach, TJ Griffin, Steph Hargrove, David Anthony Harman, Terry Hays, Hillary Holsonback, Scott Horn, Steve Hunter, Thor Johnson, Brian K Jones, Lance Jones, Mary Jo Karimnia, Sonali Khatti, Rachel King Barker, Joel Kiser, Mike Kury, Bonny Leibowitz, Eric de Llamas, Kai Peter Martin, Nick Mathis, Shawn Mayer, Scogin Mayo, Aralyn McGregor, Julia McLain, Tammy McNary, Jesse Meraz, Eliana Miranda, Brian Molonphy, Jimmy Montanez, Jennifer Morgan, Randy Murphy , Adam Neese, Vanessa Neil, Mark S. Nelson, Brooks Oliver, Ricardo Paniagua, Jeff Parrott, Madison Pechacek, Art Peña, Alvaro Perez, Cassie Phan, Julon Pinkston, Pinky Diablo, Robin Ragin, Fari Rahimi, Robert David Reedy, Jason Reynaga, Susan Ritter, Kathy Robinson-Hays, Adam Rowlett, Tom Sale, Sam Schonzeit, Brian Scott, Shelly Scott, Thomas Seawell, Carolyn Sortor, Alison Starr, Erica Stephens, Katherine Taylor, John Alexander Taylor, Ian F Thomas, Erik Tosten, Liz Trosper, Ellen Frances Tuchman, Joy Ude, Judy Vetter, Michael Westfried, Chris Williford, Byrd Williams IV, Scott Winterrowd and James Isaac Zamora. The opening reception was 7-10 July 12 and continued at 110 North Akard Street in downtown Dallas, through August 12, 2014.
We are all aliens, of course, so another one along for the ride makes it merrier. I like that this being is speaking binary. Except that none of us speaks it, it seems the right contact mode, now it's finally come out. Wonder how long it's been among us, and nobody noticed? Like any alien, there's a price on its head.
But the colors and physical links between what I perceive as head and body may be the best parts. They wind, wrap, tie and connect the body to soul, mind to spirit that make this and one other piece by Bagley, sing. Maybe the ones and zeros distract from the message, as does the $. But the connectors connecting it to its parts are subtle, meaty and beautiful. Plus big eyes, the better to see back into us.
I didn't notice until I'd been studying these pieces awhile, but most of the these works seem to have a lot to do with real and apparent depth.
When I wrote this, I only knew the artists for a few pieces, so most of my comments in this review were a little more objective than usual. Luckily, some artists still sign their work. A couple days later, I got a complete list of names and titles from gallery co-owner Jordan Roth, who then wrote back with corrections to names I'd mangled. Thank you, Jordan. I hadn't wanted to trouble him with sizes and mediums.
Scoggin Mayo Untitled II $175
This big show of little pieces was as inspiring as the light in the gallery was often terrible. That much art in a difficult room anyway, meant many pieces drowned in the dark. This, like glass-fronted others, was splattered with spectral highlights and other noisy reflections. I tried to get it clear of those and just hope I didn't change anything important in its resurrection.
Simple shape, moderated nearly neutral brown-gold tones and prickly branches. The background showing through under the white collar and tie are perfect. Especially the hat. I think I can see a mustache. Unless they were self titled, none of the art in this show was. There were only small, white, scribbled garage-sale tags hung from each with the artist's name and price. That's all. So it was awhile till I got all the titles.
Sometimes, like this one, I wanted one.
Peggy Epner Floating Dock $375
Counting the days and nights afloat. Sometimes the ocean is the sky above us, sometimes it's blacker that we can see. Often our anchors do not hold, and we lose ourselves in dreams.
Eric de Llamas A Hero's Journey $375
I hope this is really the color of the paper. The moodiness of this drawing struck me when I picked it out among the clutter. I just stared, not wanting to look away from the writing on the flag and all that bloody detritus scattering from the donkey and human's centers. But gruesome sets the mood, and I wanted to see more details, all there for the deciphering.
Now I've been watching it larger than life, I'm thinking it might be too pat, needing more character but less detail. My eyes keep going back to the human's face. I like the hat, but I want to know less about that guy and more about everything else in the picture. I tried to translate the flag text, but it's fragments. Maybe from some culture's heritage.
Kathy Robinson-Hays The Big Squeeze
All this intricate yet inessential detail on a belly-bloated semi-human form, clamped and squeezed to within about fifteen inches of its life. A big, mixed-media metaphor writ in tiny, tattoo-like exactness on a corpse whose feet, head and shoulders are all chopped off. Too much going on in what's left to pertain to any human we could comfortably identify with. But I loved the clamps, and I warmed immediately to the piece.
It's a simple-enough object that gets a little lost in its own intricacies, topped with a textured black box that makes no sense, or did someone just forget it there? (Apparently, it was supposed to have been tipped up, but it wasn't.) I've seen and enjoyed this artist's work before, now I want it to say something more fanciful, forceful or important. Not that fat is trivial, but most of the details we get lost in here, are.
I never connected who did it with her, and now I wonder whether I would have said what I said if I had known… — The Editor
Ray-Mel Cornelius Jackrabbit Among the Aspens
I've always liked Cornelius' gentle animals, but this bunny is not cute or little. Sometimes a rabbit with big ears and soft everything else soothes us. But if those trees are the trees I know and love, this is one big rabbit. Maybe not king of the jungle, but at least an assassin of the arbor. Despite its cozy brown fur, sparkling eyes and major funky ears, I think this bunny might be dangerous.
Cornelius called this varmint "that jeopardous jackrabbit," when he told the title before I got them from Jordan, and asked if I'd seen Night of the Lepus, suggesting that might have been a good title, too. Night of was made in 1972, lasts 88 minutes and is about ranchers trying to rid their land of rabbits with a hormone that instead makes the animals 150 pounds bigger "and gives them an appetite for human flesh." And the promo asks, "Are the ranchers any match for the ravenous rabbits' reproductive skills?" It's called Sci-Fi Horror, and stars Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun and DeForest Kelley.
Cornelius was the only artist who emailed me with a title, but I'd be happy to entertain other show artists' comments, pro or con.
Christina Carfora The Grass is Always Greener $600
The beginnings of a fight, each mirroring action its own reaction. Or are these brown-lined women gently discovering who they are? The duality of one, muted flesh human looking and touching and learning against a muted green ground. Nice. Enigmatic enough to get involved. Are they twins or one in the same? The title almost makes it make sense.
Wandering the Internet for another review, I found this.
Justin Ginsberg What Might Have Been (part II of diptych) $1800
It's a posted note with pinned-on humans. I like that the writing is wet, blurred indecipherable, and the balance of black and white and gray is nailed to a nearly neutral board that's still the most colorful part of the piece. I think of it as a scroll. No idea what it's proclaiming, but I would listen.
Kathy Robinson-Hays 3/16/14 Recurring Dreams 9 2:37 PM
Kathy's a friend, but when I chose this piece, I didn't recognize it or remember seeing it on Facebook just after its creation, when I said I liked how she'd memorialized a fleeting moment in time by pegging it exactly (lowest left). I like it in an artist — even one whom I follow — that I sometimes have no understanding of what they're into lately or why. Too many artists get stuck in their ways, although there's an obvious complexity here that's hers alone.
Anna was agog at the piece we saw Kathy deliver late from across the street when we arrived arrived early, but that one wasn't shown well at this show, although we saw some like it later at The Small Gallery in Valley View. I can almost taste the candied sweetness in these details. I sense a party with glitter aglow like fireworks and vivid flowers, but I still wonder who the Tiki is, and why its grin seems evil.
Kathy later told me, "The tiki figure in my piece is a Billiken figure in ivory, carved in Alaska. My aunt gave it to me years ago and I have always been fascinated by this one. The Billiken was created by American art teacher Florence Pretz as a charm doll that would bring the owner good luck. It is sometimes referred to as "The God of Things As They Ought To Be," paraphrased from Rudyard Kipling. But it has evolved to become a mascot for Saint Louis University and the Royal Order of Jesters of the Shriners. The sequins, the rock and the Billiken are all funny little things given to me by people I love that sit on my studio table. You are right though, this Billiken does looks pretty sinister from certain angles. In the first painting I did of this figure, he appears to have a more solemn countenance in profile view. My aunt lost the love of her life in the war, he gave her this little carving, which she then gave to me.
Brian Scott Slumpy $450
There's lots of characters in this show, but Brian Scott's police blotter portraits are the most poignant. Slumpy's a clown, of course, but hardly happy, despite his red runaway hair and makeup, pink slumping skin and his lilting, near-symmetry. Skin tones and face paint make sure of that. His being, like the muted background, is sullen white and suffused with gray.
Jeff Parrott Untitled $850
A sturdy litany of eyes and abstracted cartoony faces in parrot colors, protected and looking back at us through all those contrasting and containing frame-job proscenia. We're all in the Clown Parade now.
Sibylle Bauer Urban Still Life (Chair 1) $315
I assume this is a photograph, but I guess it could be a wonderfully executed painting of an almost real scene. Great texture. Perfect, bicolor hues set off with an elderly black iron chair. A scene literally littered with shapes and textures deep enough we can almost feel them on the souls of our bare feet. The chair is an aristocrat lost in the real world.
Mary Jo Karimnia Rainbow Pony $650
I liked another, not altogether dissimilar Mary Jo Karimnia work better at first, watched it awhile to solve its spatiality, but I kept zooming into the lilting sky blue detail of its subtly resplendent sequined dress, the notion of its glittery, muted hues glowing in its busy understated sea of black-outlined white women. Then I pulled back from those soft blues to to see this.
In both pieces, there's two figures that held my attention. One vivid and clearly out front in texture, form and color against a field of outlined white. The next figure back was less vivid, bold or intricately textured, but it's the colors that reveal this piece's dimensionality and that's lost in the muted blacks, gray and white in the figure behind and near the right edge. Karimnia's hierarchy of colors and tones sets the works' dimensionality, so we know where everybody stands without having to decipher the outlines.
David Anthony Harmon Remainder $550
This scene reminds me of Fort Worth's Blagg Brothers — especially Daniel — whose photorealist paintings of common urban landscapes imbue them with a magical force, although this is much more abstract. It could be a photograph, or it started there, but I want it to be a painting, and it could well be. With a similar look-down angle to the piece above it here, and a similar toying with dimensional color and feeling for shape. Here, however, we have to look harder for an object among the ground, but it's there. First I thought it was the rutted tracks, but now I'm convinced it's the deep dark shadow reflection of a bridge over this muddy field.
Elianna Miranda Moments in Syria III $175
The mysterious soft smoke and abrupt hard object and ground make a harsh color contrast to the chair a couple clicks above. Or is that a deep blue sky? I like the masked, dark-shape human releasing puffs of white vapor. Sometimes the questions art dislodges bother me. Sometimes it's the answers. A good mystery is dependable.
Aimee Cardosa Untitled I $350
The farther away I stood from this, all while avoiding the unending crowd and their shadows, the more like a photograph it became. I can almost feel the soft texture of the blanket and the cool light coming in from the window above.
Daniel Birdsong The Gospel Accorded to a Wild Hare $400
I liked this soon as I saw it, but delving into its details later, confused me. More bunnies, and a dog we probably all identify with. Dancing on roses-strewn ice against what? — the soft white mountain behind's almost-face confuses me. Our hero dog has one right, line-toned paw and elbow and one bright white left leg and paw, and oddly placed dark shadows between.
Put anything resembling two eyes parallel, a horizontal area long or wide enough to be considered a mouth and side-by-side nostrils in the middle somewhere, and we see a face on the left under the dog's head, even if the sharp detail of our dog's lolling tongue obscures its left ear. The big, soft, fat-lip grin below cinches the deal, and the confusion of tone and texture make it difficult to know where dog ends and the feline, snow-pile mountain begins.
Maybe the cat is spectre, amorphous as Elianna Miranda's smoke, its phantasmal white paw slung over our hero's left shoulder, its face smiling a bloated, clown-white grin out past the roses.
I think I know the cat's the mountain I mentioned, but knowing doesn't make it so. So we have another intriguing, if not entirely successful, attempt to create depth in a flat art form while the soft (back) ground and the hard, hairy (front) objects blur into each other.
Adam Rowlett Untitled $150
Turned wood. Was some discussion a few decades back whether turned wood could be art, and while most of it could not ever, sometimes someone gets it enough right to bring it up to fine art standards, whatever those might be. I know better than to touch art on a wall, but I did it anyway to prove those concentric grooves were more than shaded lines, which I still sometimes think they may be — pantomiming two dimensions in three.
Nicholas Mathis Dream Studies III
This is the best of three drawings done in the same style and which were difficult unto nearly impossible to photograph low in the dark gallery. I hope I am at least getting it close in this photograph. It is a portrayal of spatial intersections of differing objects in differing circumstance, each with their own texture, shape, colors, density or design.
It's yet another artist's exploration of depth without resorting to shadows or size, although I especially appreciate that one, concave shadow of whom might be the artist's favorite candidate for real in this complexity of intersecting forms. The others range from almost definitely there to not quite to nearly insubstantial.
It is all flat, of course, and behind reflecting glass, but the dotted lines are not our only tip-offs to its depths and collusions. We get the gist, and that may be enough, but as enterprising a task as it must have been, it doesn't seem to work all together, although my photo may limit our ability to see what was there. It all gets a little murky in the middle.
Cassie Phan Mammoth Punching Video Installation with Gallery View
Chiaroscuro, if you must — the dark and light of the room. Showing more illumination on the far, snack bar side and not much on the near wall behind me when I shot this scene. The video screen was seriously overexposed here by sucking some light out the darkness, but at least we can see the funky tower connecting it, if we can separate that from that long shadow of light falling diagonally into the picture from the left.
Video Detail with Horse and Tube
This is what the video really looked like with the plastic horse — its head down examining some tiny detail of the surf — as the tide came in and went out looping all night, a gentle vision in its own light. Nice respite sometimes, with video as color, texture and movement with nearly no deep-down meaning or back story. Time goes on and on.
Not all the art was on the walls or curated, and I was drawn to these dark marks on dark skin against a white shirt better than a lot of the littler art in the show.
Gallery View Looking Out Onto Akard Street
Some walls were well-illuminated, as long as nobody stood close enough in front of the art to see the details past the shadows. Big shows of little art are always a booger to light, especially in a dark cave of a space.
Looking Out onto Akard Street, Ro Sr. (center) and Others
There were more pieces I could have written about, if I could have photographed them better. I started on the wall by the front door, walked around staring at every piece my eyes could reach, then eventually, looped back through the middles, being amazed that that many pieces were in that small a space with major portions of walls left empty, if not blank. Ro and Ro left the place's most distinguished brick walls open and unadorned, leaving wide vertical spaces that never quite impinged on the growing crowd.
Ro2Art Outside from standing in the middle of Akard Street
From the first time I saw their gaudily blinking, amateur animated GIF in the email promoting this show, and skimmed through the long list of artists, I knew this would be a good time to start writing about art again after a couple months rest. I photographed every name and price tag I could find for the pieces I liked well enough to photograph, so I could ponder them longer in better light later.
As usual I didn't use all the work I thought I might have, but I gave every piece the time of day even in the far-back dark recesses of the little downtown space that nobody else wanted — or wanted to pay for, although I think the ROs are still in low-to-no-rent territory with The City, who wanted that place occupied and watched over.
Especially nice to have a downtown gallery to attend now that our downtown is finally a decent place to live and see and be seen in, after Dallasites for so long had to visit Fort Worth for such progressive notions as humans inhabiting downtown without fearing for their lives in the odder hours.
All Contents of this site are Copyright 2014 or before by publisher J R Compton.
All art shown on these pages are copyrighted by their originating artists. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are copyrighted by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission.
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