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words + photographs by J R Compton
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THIS PAGE George W. Bush's Art of Leadership Portraits Fighting Words: Should the White Rock Lake Water Theater Continue? Couples – Half & Half at the Bath House. Danielle
Georgiou & Justin Locklear & Jermy Elizabeth Johnson's Dirty
Filthy Diamonds at the Margo Jones Theatre in early March Dragon
Street for some openings February
The Nasher Sculpture Trail David
Bates at the Fort Worth Modern and
Nasher & The FW Modern Press Release The
Newest Dallas Biennial Objective
Strategies at El Centro UTD
In The Dark Newer
stories are bold. Most
of the recent action on this page has been finding accurate identifications for
my story, UTD in The Dark,
pretty far down this page.
George W. Bush's The Art of Leadership
at the Bush Library through June 3
George W. Bush Vladimir Putin
I was surprised to learn that George W. Bush's paintings were not terrible. The media is full of how bad they are, but that free-for-all frenzy is based on mediocre photos and rampant ignorance. Certainly, some are less than, but more are remarkable and a few outstanding. His portrait of Vladimir Putin is stunning, fierce and deeply revealing, but exposing a subject's reality is what real portraits do.
Others in the elaborate presentation that is not an art exhibition, show person and personality while rendering both subtle and overt visual information about who those people are. Also included are what the center calls "artifacts, photographs and personal reflections to help illustrate the stories of relationships formed on the world stage," that I call clutter..
None of the paintings were dated or titled, and sizes were smallish
George W. Bush Nicolas Sarkozy
The best of these paintings reveal personalities behind the faces. They are not fluff. Bush’s portrait of French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy tells of deeply expressive concerns and dismay. His painting of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharra crowds the frame with expansive power, and Bush’s Silvio Berlusconi gushes with slick charm.
George W. Bush Jiang Zemin
The simmering portrait of Jiang Zemin, President of the People's Republic of China, shows cool calculation. Its nearly neutral forms don’t tell us much, but the tiny storm of expressionist brushwork in his complicated face fairly explodes.
George W. Bush Pervez Musharraf, Former Former President of Pakistan
Despite his paintings' merit, the show is a complicated slice of history marketing Bush's Presidency and his theory of “Personal Diplomacy,” and the portraits have but a small part. Stirring music blares, and interviews play as visitors cycle through the dark space. I kept hearing Bush calling himself “an old dog learning new tricks.” And it all kept repeating.
Seeing over the big glass cabinets heaped with exquisite gifts from countries whose leaders are portrayed, up to his smallish paintings, themselves surrounded with a busy hodgepodge of photos of the leaders laughing and talking, became a tiresome challenge. I had assumed his own, current home town Presidential Center would treat his fine art debut with grace.
Hodgepodge of Photographs, Gifts, Info Sheets and a Few Paintings
Taking photographs of art hung on dark walls too easily renders them overexposed and washed out, blotting out his careful colors, brush strokes and tonalities in images all over the Internet and media, where they obliterate the artist’s careful subtleties and expressionistic riffs. Too many photographers got suckered by those dark walls, and most of the online reviews are of the photos, not the work, since many critics haven't seen that.
Without year dates, we cannot follow the arc of his still-short fine art trajectory. George W. Bush has only been painting since 2012 — first dogs, now people. But he’s been attentive and is learning fast.
George W. Bush Ehud Olmert former Prime Minister of Israel
Like many contemporary artists, he uses photography extensively in his work, but he had professional sources, many of whose images have since filtered to the Internet.
The showing is far from perfect. The busy photos around his paintings steal our attention. His work needs more space between the paintings and less of everything else. The art should be at human eye level where anyone can see it. Lighter, less colorful walls would be easier on our eyes and his paintings.
Bush's portrait of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is probably his most egregious less-than. The photo the painting was based on is just to its right, and in both we see what photographers call a “between-expressions expression.” Olmert’s face is between smiling and whatever comes next, and Bush is still laughing. But the artist must have liked that photo. Olmert's painted eyes and forehead are vivid and real, and his ears are among Bush's best, but the mouth and chin look clownish.
George W. Bush Paul Kagame of Rawanda still The President
Bush's portraits usually employ plain color backgrounds with soft streaks that vaguely outline the heads of the heads of state. The background in the portrait of Rawanda President Paul Kagame is a little more fanciful, though it renders Kagame smaller and less important by tucking him into the bottom corner of a chunky but nondescript sky.
George W. Bush Václav Havel The First President of the Czech Republic
A more unusual Bush background serves his portrait of the late Václav Havel, the ninth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic. Replacing the usual fog of neutral space, we see a wall of books behind the successful playwright, author, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. But that's not its only departure. Havel has a big smile, dresses informally, and he is not looking at the camera/painter, because he is having too good a time. We may have issues with whatever is growing on his neck, but his face wins us over with its broad smile and filigree wrinkles.
George W. Bush George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President and We's Father
The paintings of father and son Presidents 41 and 43 are the first we see. They are Bush 43's self-portrait and what he calls a “loving study” of his father, whose forehead and cheeks may puff and sag, but the image affects with sweet poignancy.
George W. Bush self-portrait
The artist takes more liberties with his own image, which may be his most recent it is so different, with looser, more obvious brushwork, bolder outlines of clothes and countenance and more vibrant hues, especially in the looser planes of his neck and face. This slightly askance portrait seems more contemporary and informal — jaunty yet serious.
The artist is learning his craft.
Tickets are good for one hour, must be ordered online and are at least $16 each. Parking is $7 and nothing else is close, although it's on a bus line. Cameras are allowed, but no flash. The Art of Leadership rooms are probably too dark to take decent pix unless you are very careful. "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" continues at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum through June 3, 2014.
Fighting Words — Should The White Rock Lake Water Theatre Continue?
Tom Orr and Frances Bagley The White Rock Lake Water Theatre in 2001
Time Exposure taken from the Bath House's Back Porch
Whatever happens to a piece of art that the artist didn’t exactly plan but does not mind terribly is sometimes called patina. Of course, dictionaries have a more precise take on the word. When Tom Orr called what's happened to his and Frances Bagley's White Rock Lake Water Theater by that term at the second public hearing at the Bath House Cultural Center Monday, March 24 2014, I laughed out loud quietly to myself. A lot of what has happened to The White Rock Lake Water Theatre, which is still where White-People-Only swam in the lake before the Polio Scare, might be considered ugly, but some of us think still consider it beautiful — although maybe not quite as beautiful as it was.
Age and decay are like that. It's thirteen years old and has not been maintained. Often, even the people who select and promote public art early, turn on it later, when it changes or becomes "patinated."
Like many people at the public hearing at which "members of the City Council or their staff" were supposedly present, the dictionary has a different definition:
from the Apple Computer Dictionary, which is "for information
only and does not constitute Apple's recommendation or endorsement."
After that meeting, instead of having yet another meeting or a final up or down vote, The City Council postponed the decision until at least April 17. I hope that change of plans reflect the City's dismay at such a large and organized opposition to their plan to trash the Water Theater.
Most of The Neighbors Can't See It March 2014
This photo was taken from across the lake. That's the Bath House Cultural Center on the far left, with bits of neighborhood homes peeking over the trees, and the art in question appearing to nearly touch the hard concrete line of the shore. When it was new, the Water Theatre could be seen well at night [as in the photo at the top], because the white poles self-illuminated a throbbing total of 40 watts distributed among all its poles. Now, nothing glows except in sun- and moon-light, although the Bath House itself is brightly lit. But for an eyesore, the sculpture itself is strangely subtle. At a distance.
Up close, it's a little different story. The devil is in the details.
To see its opening ceremony, visit my story of the Opening/Dedication of the White Rock Lake Water Theatre in November 2001.
Patinated Pole with Double-crested Cormorant March 2014
What appears to be this breeding adult cormorant's eyebrows are actually its double crests.
The Peninsula Neighborhood is an upper-middle class, residential area that roughly semi-circles the Bath House north and south, east of and up the hill from White Rock Lake. Some, perhaps representative, Peninsula residents recently voted unanimously to remove the sculpture. They call it an eyesore even if only a bare few of them can see it from their homes, and those have to crane necks or use binoculars to glimpse even parts. Yet they are irate. They seem to think they are in charge of the art owned by The City of Dallas that is in the lake that belongs to all Dallasites.
But then they have been led to this precarious political stance by The City Arts Program, who allowed a selected few of them to choose among art installation candidates, lending them their inflated sense of power and knowledge. But only active yacht clubs members, boated fisherpersons, kayakers, wind surfers and owners of the mansions across the lake can see it in its entirety whenever they wish.
Them and the birds and animals of White Rock Lake.
Unlike the other examples of public art on the land around the Bath House Cultural Center, which — except for Linnea Glatt's superb, substantial yet far simpler, more solid and older A Place to Perform sculpture — suck at least in part due to those selection methods, the White Rock Lake Water Theatre is not on the grounds.
It was installed in the lake, on, over and around the semicircular concrete 'floor' originally built out into the lake for people to swim and play on, over and around. It was not a pool with concrete walls, just a paved place on the edge of a lake, where visitors are still often surprised to learn, the water is very shallow sometimes for hundreds of feet out towards the middle. I watched Frances Bagley installing parts of the work, and it seemed amazing that even when she was at some distance, she was still visible from the waist up.
I’m all for fixing it up some or leaving it as is, like all the other artworks around the Bath House whose maintenance was abandoned during the City's financial debacle in 2009 — if not before — including the inept, ugly and off-balance sculpture over the lovely wildflower garden in the traffic island facing the Bath House's front entrance, and the little pile of rocks on the way to the north parking lot.
Rot and all. I like it, and although I appreciated it more when it still glowed, I've got used to it being all but invisible at night, and I don't think it needs electricity nor its incumbent tangle of wires to be important and beautiful, day or night. Even when those wires were flowing with electricity, it only took 40 watts to glow all the poles.
Solar Collector on Old Life Guard Platform – with Cormorants and Gull
The solar panel that once provided energy to illuminate the light poles, supposedly doesn’t work anymore, probably because the wires that fed its energy to the structure have all but disintegrated. Seems like a fair way to leave it. Sure would cost less not to rewire — the woman who read the long, detailed and highly exaggerated list of expenses The City determined necessary to refurbish the installation kept talking about "a dive team." I laughed every time. That's funny.
So was her estimation of the costs that would be incurred in repairing and/or replacing the structure.
Someone else, who spoke from the heart, not the pocketbook, remembered seeing Tom & Frances in wet suits to hook up the wires. I think this piece does not have to be electric anymore. Although it would be nice.
Gooses Swimming Among "the sticks"
The disks – short white, plastic cylinders moored to the concrete floor below but floating in the water above, and thematically similar to the shape of the poles in the water and info columns on shore, were originally designed for turtles to crawl up on and sun, but turtles need an entryway whose slant begins below the water's surface, where their feet are when they swim, so the discs were rendered as decorative items till the inevitable flood yanked their chains and held them under till they waterlogged and/or detached, either sinking or floating away. The artists' original ignorance of turtles' needs and the water- and weather-worthiness of their materials is notable.
But every piece of art is a learning experience.
I don't remember seeing the discs in place, but I understand how something short, white and close to the water's undulating surface might have filled out the design, while echoing the shapes of poles and columns. Although engineering them for turtle access would be complex. Turtles need sunning, and they are sometimes worth watching, though their presence is subtle. Many who pass them assume they are wet rocks.
I'm not sure little floating turtle islands is either necessary or likely.
Great Egret Preening Wing Feathers in August 2007
One speaker called the cormorants, who perch there in some seasons, "an invasive species, and thus reason enough to trash the Water Theatre. But although America’s List of invasive species does not count cormorants, all of the following birds and animals often seen at White Rock Lake, are: Nutria – Myocastor coypus, House Sparrows – Passer domesticus, Monk Parakeets - Myiopsitta monachus, Humans – homo sapiens spines, domestic cats - Felis catus, Rock Pigeons - Columba Livia, Mute Swans - Cygnus olor, European Starlings – Sturnus vulgaris, and domestic dogs – Canis lupus familiaris — especially when they are — as happens often, and nobody official seems to care — illegally off their leashes.
The female Mute Swan who swims morning and evening from and back to the Bath House with the 60 or so geese is officially considered an invasive species, but Cormorants — neither the locally dominant Double-crested nor our less populous Neotropic species — are officially classified as invasive species in the United States. They are listed in my 1950 edition of Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of Texas, and I suspect they visited other wet spots in this area long before the lake was created in 1910-1911. They are, after all, dinosaurs.
Forster's Tern Juvenile Demands Food from Parent in November 2009
That same speaker insisted that, because" the only birds who use the perches are cormorants," and they are an "invasive species" who destroys everything they perch or scat upon, we should trash the art, so it would not attract more cormorants. As you can see from these photos taken over many years for my Amateur Birders Journal, a variety of other bird species use the perches, depending on the season.
Cormorants dominate those perches winter to spring, as they dominate other areas of the lake — especially Cormorant Bay, but they are usually gone in summer, and in fact, very few birds of any species perch there then. It's always a disappointment when I go looking for birds at the Water Theater in summer.
When cormorants are considered invasive in an area, they are usually condemned for their fishing — not scatting — habits, because they are purported to deplete fish stock, but in scientific studies, it has been learned that they prefer fish that humans do not.
In Cormorant: A fish-eating scapegoat, Pinecone magazine said, “One of the strangest things about the double-crested cormorant is its apparent ability to generate irrational hatred in humans." Ontario’s new scapegoat: The Double-crested Cormorant conforms to the views of another speaker who informed us that cormorants destroy the trees they nest in, because they swallow their prey whole, then scat a variety of lethal elements into our environment.
But they are hardly the only birds or animals who do that. Cormorant cousins, the American White Pelicans as all our local herons — Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets and both Yellow- and Black Crowned Night Herons, as well as owls, thrushes, ducks and chickens, swallow whole then scat what's left. Often that stuff is bright white, from the calcium in bones.
See my profusely illustrated pages: The Herons of White Rock Lake, The Egrets of Texas and Herons & Egrets, How to Tell Them Apart, which delineates all our species of Egrets, which are Herons. The Herons and Egrets pages include pictures of their babies.
Double-crested Cormorants in Battle while a Ring-billed Gull Witnesses
Swans and Gooses have sharp ridges instead of teeth, so they can shred first. Eagles de-feather and de-fur prey, then tear off chunks and swallow those whole. So do snakes, mollusks and most fish. And the water that cormorants scat into has all been previously infested with many other species' everything-goes-down-the-gullet's scat. No wonder they banned swimming, although I sometimes have seen people swimming back to an upturned boat or jumping in and sinking down to their necks in it to cool off on a hot summer day.
Millions, if not billions of people still swim in oceans.
And cormorants are far from the only species that use the perches in the Water Theater. Avian Dallas residents including Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons and Great Egrets, as well as our half-year-resident American White Pelicans have been sighted and sometimes photographed perching on the poles — and various wild and farmyard goose varieties as well as that one Mute Swan swim through or fly over it daily.
Not an invasive species - http://zoocheckperspectives.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-blame-game-or-what-i-learned-about.html
I was surprised to find only one semi-official listing citing cormorants' status as invasive on Cormorant Colonies take toll on forests.
It should be remembered, however, that when it comes to destroying trees, by far, the biggest, most populous and egregious killers of trees on this planet are us humans, which is but a tiny portion of why we are considered the invasive species. I guess we should probably ban us from the lake, and delete places we sit or stand.
Cormorant on a Pole with Dallas Skyline March 2014
I usually cringe when I hear someone calling anyone — especially themselves — an Art Expert, but there are a few among us who know substantially more about it than most — and I would count Charissa Tarranova, who also spoke at the meeting, among those. If she says she is, I believe her.
There are many others who know a great deal less, yet also consider themselves experts. Which is why I cringe. But I still wouldn't tempt the fates by calling myself an art or bird expert.
I wish curator, critic and author Dave Hickey were still in the area, I'd love to hear his folksy but often outspoken commentary on this sorry mess. I'm also curious what Charles Dee Mitchell might think, say or write about it. Both are among that strict minority of Art Experts who do not feel need to announce it publicly. Not that I'd let either completely sway my optimism for the future of the Water Theatre, if they're agin' it. But whatever they'd say would at least be interesting.
View from South of the Bath House
I keep being surprised and even shocked that friends and associates whose opinions I usually nod along with are dead set against the Water Theater's continuance, just because they perceive — or are led to believe — it is ugly, or they believe art can't be ugly, despite copious instances of it.
Neither am I convinced that people on public art selection committees and boards know scat from shinola about art, and whatever politician instituted the convention of inviting know-nothing neighbors to decide what art should be installed on public properties near their homes probably should be shot.
One of my all-time favorite public art selection committee stories is about a bunch in Irving who decided that a local artist's choice to color her mild version of the whimsical folkloric creature we call a dragon, bright red-orange. Only to have the committee decide that no, her creation for a public park must instead be green, "because dragons are not red." Utterly assailable illogic like that may be what such committees are best at.
Little Blue Heron on a Glow Pole June 2006
Doing my due diligence on these variously interrelated topics also netted these links:
In a video excerpted from their version of the news, local TV station WFAA says "the public art looks nothing like it did back in 2001 when it was first installed," which is absurd. It looks a great deal like it did then, except for the growing patinas and glowing, although most of the white paint and poles are still there, even if the wires are no longer connected, and the glow is gone. The informational plaques on the short, tall, stout and narrow concrete cylinders on shore near both ends of the matrix of poles that arcs out into the lake and back — especially those facing directly into the sun — have faded beyond legibility, but it doesn't have to be hugely expensive to fix that.
If we're going to keep the Water Theatre — and I think we should and I suspect we will, we should maintain it.
Repaint the poles with water- and algae-resistant NightGlo paint if such a things exist and is affordable. Or just slather them with bright marine white paint next time the lake's water level is lowered, and either scrape off or daub on some more, and let the variety of seasonal and resident birds who use and inhabit it keep on. Keep it in our minds and eyes, where art belongs.
And send that maniacal City lady with her dreams of dive teams packing.
Eduposts Showing the Sunny Side Faded
with Linnea Glatt's A Place to Perform in the shadows behind
Then there's that deterioration that's been with us since the beginning. As Paul Simon sang, "Sooner of later, everything put together, falls apart." Venus and all those other, centuries-old, once-colorfully painted, now pristine white statues, have lost noses, arms, ears and other protruding parts. Gravity sucks the mighty architecture of the past slowly back into the Earth. Sooner or later everything that stands, falls. But I don't think anyone associated with this piece's rise ever expected it to last forever.
Not all art deterioration is accidental. Though the Water Theatre was not intended to crumble and fall anytime soon, it has met with a number of unintended consequences — and escaped others. It's still out there.
Charissa Terranova and others have called it an important work of art, and it was created by two remarkably creative and intelligent artists who are perhaps the most important — artists in Dallas.
Some Art Deterioration Links
GlassTire seems to have a realistic view of the debacle. Although their one, commenting reader, the usually deep-thinking photographer and SMU Gallerist Philip Van Keuren, insists we keep all installations in the lake temporary — although I assume he would exclude the dam, all those wonderful piers and the enduring Old Boathouse, among others.
A Tour of Scenic White Rock Lake shows and tells daytime views of the the theater as it was when brand new, and all the whites extend down into the water. Nights then were still glowish.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living
The Role of Fungi in the Deterioration of Movable and Immovable Cultural Heritage
Certain deterioration factors for works of art and simple devices to monitor them - gets off to a great start.
Agent of Deterioration: Light, Ultraviolet and Infrared
Deterioration... They Said in Art in America, and Time Magazine's Art Deterioration,
Couples — Half & Half at the Bath House Cultural Center through April 19
Letitia Huckaby Serena pigment
print on fabric
This is my favorite piece in the show, but it wasn't the first picture I took, because so often at The Bath House, lesser work ends up in the hallway(called the Hall Gallery, since sometimes it houses a different show from what's in the main gallery you have to go through the hall to get to. I went directly into the main gallery well before the opening hoping to take a picture or two. I'd seen at least three shows calling themselves something similar in the last thirty-some-odd years, and very often those shows have been less-than. I didn't want to find that out at the opening, but I still wanted to attend.
Some of the reasons I was so impressed by Letitia Huckaby's Serena is because it is at once a Black woman standing in a garden; a woman wearing a colorful garden print, in a colorful print garden, and who also is a garden, all simultaneous with her being an exquisite piece of cloth, draping loosely from the wall, and comprising a lovely work of art. Such a subtle spectrum of minute understandings of materials and form with visual puns on visual puns on visual likenesses.
Many artists involved in this exhibition are my friends including the Organizer — if she were the curator, she could not have had her own work or probably even that of her late husband Bill Verhelst in this show — so she's the organizer, and the Bath House doesn't rule her work being in the show out by that title. She started pushing for this show four years ago, when Bill was still alive, and he — and she — were always listed among the probable artists. She's a friend, as was Bill (Wilbert, a.k.a., Ver). As are at least eleven of the exhibitors.
Good enough friends I didn't want to show up at the reception for my first viewing. Receptions — especially crowded ones like this was, as groups shows tend to be — are a lousy place to see art for the first time. They are for meeting and greeting friends and talking short and long and listening. And, indeed, that's what was mostly going on at this one. Which was why I attended. And I enjoyed a long series of wonderful conversations there. So glad I came back for the reception.
But first I came by when the looking at art was
great the afternoon before that Saturday night. I was briefly panicked
at the cars packing the parking lot, which I thought might be an afternoon art opening,
because I hadn't checked the schedule, but the gallery was empty, and I assumed the theatre was full of people watching something theatrical, leaving me
to the business of figuring out which of these works were good and why.
Rick Maxwell #245 bent
oak and pine
This lyrical sculpture on the left wall entering
the main gallery was the first photo I took. I was drawn to its gentle ligneous undulations
and floating ribbons and shadows. I like the float of
it, and that its depth is considerably greater than relief. I've been a fan
of Rick Maxwell's three-dimensional wood work for more than a decade, especially
since he has been studioing and showing at what I call the
Tin Art Ranch just in or out of the area called The Cedars, south
of downtown Dallas and across The Canyon.'
Jim Bowman Dirt Balls glass,
I looked at everything, then stared at some, and when my mind widened and my view narrowed, I paid special attention to a few.
Like this, which I remember as at a considerable distance across that main gallery from Rick Maxwell's swoops. I had to look at the i.d tag twice. Not what I expected from Artist Jim Bowman. Truly divergent. Last time I had his work packaged in my mind, he was doing slick, smooth, colorful, commercial translucent work. Very well, of course. I own some of his bowls, one that's a gift and another I paid for, and they are among my treasures. And this decidedly was not that. This was this.
Him off on a tangent. Some elegance, especially in presentation. I know they are not really dirt balls, but what is happening here is not exactly clear. I get the glass part. Jim Bowman is and long has been classified, in my mind at least, as a bona fide glass artists. So what's this? I still wonder, and don't really mind not learning or knowing. Just looking is plenty. The middle part, that colorful axle, vertical between the two lodes, looking a little interplanetary and the other something that grew, then drooped in way too much gravity, was picked and wrapped in wire.
Nice that the axis draws our attention to itself, and that nothing else, even out past the frame, detracts from that single, significant and intense coloration. I think I may be able to delineate its history back through working with lumps of glass and wouldn't mind a bit if this is the only one of its kind ever, but I doubt it. Work this good likely had some failures along the way. It shows a willingness to slip the surly bonds artists sometimes create for ourselves. Those tiny, wrapping wires that grow into steel strands and cables that keep us busy at doing the same thing over and over again.
But not this artist, this time. Nice of a show
like this to come along and let him show what he's really up to lately.
Jim Bowman Emergence glass,
Then there's this. With the exact same mediums listed. Looking only distantly related. But it captures and toys with translucence vs. opacity, color and light. All the stuff glass does so well — and seems to be having so much fun doing — and that metal holds together and apart. Not comical fun, serious stuff this, but there's an enchantment with the materials and their joys and realities so completely present here. My fondness for these interconnected chunks of glass grows as I try to explain their interconnectivities. Blown flowers and globes and streamlined globs. Yum.
But it could have used a lot more space, so we
could see it, and not all the other art around it. There were a couple other
places in the main gallery and along most of the walls, where art was too crowded. One place seemed obvious
a last-minute, unexpected delivery, just shoved into the queue, which sometimes attains
a certain serenity but other times just sits there sodden.
Gallery View Rick Maxwell, Linda
Ridgway Taylor, Frances Bagley and Harry Geffert
I don't know much about Harry Geffert, except every artist who has ever referenced him and his work has done so with the utmost respect, usually for his remarkable abilities to cast almost anything and especially fine, intricate details of once living things. But I have been admiring the subtle tonalities of Linda Ridgway Taylor's work since the second-to-last decade of that last gloriodsky century. Seen from this far, it's nice, subtle and grayscale. But up close, where all the real action is, her work has almost always been about the finest, most subtle and harmonious textures. Many years ago, I fell in love with superbly folded pieces of very slightly colored paper she hung in frames on walls. I could stare and stare and get lost in those lovely, delicate and understated folds and creases.
Unfortunately here, as elsewhere in this occasionally overbusy
show, so many pieces and so few track lights gave us spotty brights in glass
around the gallery, but that effect was probably only visible to careful see-through cameras and largely unnoticed
by the crowd, which was busy talking, only really seeing art when the it finally thinned out.
Linda Ridgway May 21, 1982 graphite
on paper detail
Subtle tonalities, textures, continuities, continualities and delineations is what her work continues to be about.
Oh, and greatly I appreciate naming a work of art for a day
in a life — a passing moment and the special feeling that was just then and only for the first-person-singular artist.
But Ridgway's month, day and year is the only one I saw in this show, and I missed knowing when
each piece was created, so I could glimpse into the time line running through
them all. I wanted to know when Bill Verhelst created his little monsters; when
Frances Bagley did her two mind-benders — one new to me, but I'd seen the draped pink poodle in other colors; and especially when Letitia Huckaby created that exquisitely
multidimensional woman and so delicately placed her.
Judith Williams White Fortuny Gooseberries oil
Speaking of subtle, here's Judith Williams' gentle and luscious trompe l'oeil, which have always seemed stark in contrast with husband Michael Tichansky's bright geometrics. Artful delicate Yin to his vivid Yang. The New World Encyclopedia cites Yin and yang as "complementary, interdependent opposites, neither of which can exist without the other. Each can transform into the other, and contains a seed of the other within it. Yin and yang consume and support each other."
Many of the pieces in this exhibition show that quality of being simultaneously whisperingly alike and so very different. I could catch glimpses of that oddity all around the gallery.
Frances Bagley Blown resin
It's kid size, and that child notion sifts in and out my understanding and noncomprehension of this work, but I know if I keep staring long enough, I will be awarded. No sense in even trying to opine on that joy. But I know it will last.
A standing figure with pants, shirt and head that creates its own consonance and disturbance. Sometimes I see a little boy with pants puddling at his feet, a woven red shirt and Rasta hat. Above the belt line is anybody's guess. The whole thing is, really. Enigma, thy name is Bagley. It's what we've come to expect from her over the last decades. My take on all those pieces — including both of hers in this show — is astonishment. I stare and wonder, am baffled and stare some more.
Understanding is not part of the program.
Only questions. Too many answers just get in the way. Many years ago, she called public
attention to one of my 'stare and question' reviews of her work and said that
was the right way to approach. Pretty much still has to be.
Wilbert Verhelst Enigmatic Energy mixed
Frances' wet kid is altogether similar in feel
and notion — and almost even posture and pose as
this seated little monster that Ver did a little longer ago. His is more ornate
and overt, because he thought that way. There's maybe four hues here and four
Both are savage little imps that offer some of the same puzzling riddles in the why and way we perceive.
Barbara Frey Offering # 8 porcelain
This reminds me of
little bits of personal
magic I often see in people's houses, even if they might
not consider it magic, even when they'd count magic as evil. Stuff that has
personal interest, because of how it looks, what it's a piece of or what it reminds
us of. Here presented in an abstract of an abstract, contained but open. Subtle,
delicious, soft colors; parts of words and other meanings at least twice removed
from the realities shimmering on a cave wall; textures and shapes, gathered
haphazardly yet artfully.
Kathy Robinson-Hays Supernatural mixed
The more I see of Robinson-Hay's sliced and diced collages, the more I appreciate them in their closest-up details. Maybe there's just too much going on till we're drawn up close and in personal distance rapport. At normal viewing distance, there's a purposed clash of colors and textures, but up close there's a gentle serenity. I get lost in the details.
There's lots more in this colorful show, but these were, so far at least, my favorites.
The show includes work by Frances Bagley & Tom Orr, Jim & Mary Lynn Bowman, Jim Cinquemani & Linnea Glatt, Terry Hays & Kathy Robinson-Hays, Gisela-Heidi Strunck & Jurgen Strunck, Michael Tichansky & Judith Williams, Susan Lecky & the late Wilbert Verhelst, Marty & Richard Ray, Sedrick and Letitia Huckaby, Sue & Allan Cobb, George & Annie Davis; Linda Ridgway Taylor & Harry Geffert, David Duncan & Kimberly Harry, Lisa Ehrich & Rick Maxwell, Thom Seawell & Barbara Frey and Sharon O'Callaghan Shero & Bob Quaglia.
Dirty Filthy Diamonds by Danielle Georgiou & Justin Locklear & music by Jermy Elizabeth Johnson
bodies in motion
Anna and I were privileged to attend the second night of Choreographer Danielle Georgiou & Playwright/Set Designer Justin Locklear's Dirty Filthy Diamonds at the Margo Jones Theatre at Fair Park through March 8, and we were astonished, thrilled, excited, rocked, rolled and visually joyed to see, feel and be a part of the performance.
It dealt with life, love, motion, thought, happiness, sadness, poignancy, joy, esteem, friends, enemies, excitement — you name it, we saw it, felt it and rocked along with the cast and the soundtrack. We've seen every DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) performance we've ever known about, and we'll go again and again, because, well, she's magic.
motion, motion and motion
The performance zone / stage area was active, informal and interactive, and strongly visual. The mixed media messages reached us on a lot of levels. I chair danced through most of it — the music by Jermy Elizabeth Johnson and lyrics by Justin Locklear absorbed us. The movements and stories intermixed like the dancers. I often laughed out loud at the visual tricks and treats.
I shot hundreds of photographs and hope these convey some of the visual excitement and experience of it. There was remarkable unison dancing and and wild impromptu excitement. I may have to see it again. And as many DGDG episodes as I've seen before, this one's breadth and depth was wholly unexpected.
theatre in the everywhere
For more information about this limited-run performance, see our Dirty Filthy Diamonds story on the new DallasArtsRevue Calendar. It's performance and it's art, and it is several steps up from most Performance Art — but there's more to visual art than stuff that just stands there.
Dragon Street for some Openings on February 22
You Us We Them A Little Heart on Dragon
I was less than excited about seeing more art, and I'd already avoided hearing another artist from out of town talk that afternoon. Not because he was a less-than artist. He's not. He's very good, and I liked the picture on the postcard/email I got. Just he's not from Dallas, and I didn't want to get so intrigued I'd want to write about him, so I didn't go, even though I love letting my mind wander while an artist talks about his work. It's great sitting in a dark room and letting my mind fly away, but it's a lot easier if I don't have to write about it later.
Bronc Riding at Dragon and Howell — with a view beyond
I wanted to go to some openings for the same reasons almost everybody else does — to see friends and talk, so it didn't matter which art we saw. Anna usually figures out where and when we go, and she's open to my yay or nay, and that night she drove, so I passengered. So did Susan in the back seat. When we got to Dragon Street, it was a parking lot, with more cars pouring in. All the usual openings and a big party shallow on Dragon. A lot of people. Too many, really, for one street, even if it sometimes has a view of downtown and some bridge some call art with more obvious examples on side street walls.
Red Arrow's Last Stand
I'd read that Red Arrow was moving, liked the crowd of people all around all around, the big neon red arrow's still up, pointing down, and inside were not nearly as many people as outside and way less art.
Front Door Projection at Red Arrow
The image projected on the inside of the front door was almost intriguing enough I didn't feel need to know exactly what it portrayed, then when this person, who looks like an artist, nodded at me, I smiled and nodded back. And I was lucky enough to share one very pleasant conversation with a sculptor inside Craighead Green after I checked all the art cubby-holes — bathrooms, closets and where they store the paintings, one wall of which was all Norman Karys — and another walking against the traffic down the east-bound side of Dragon Street proper. So my real gallery-going goals for that night were more than just met.
Maysey Craddock central detail the
land is already shadow 2014
gouache and thread on found paper 50.75 x 63.5 inches
I also photographed this whole piece hanging loose on the far wall — just art and wall with lights on it, but that was not nearly as interesting as these colors, textures, shapes and intersections of form and ground. This was fascinating. As I began writing this, I didn't know who made this painting or what it's called, etc. Just that I was pleased and happy to see it and photograph its details. Love the almost serrated crease and random stitches, and all that flowing and flowering.
And I'm sure it's by an artist from somewhere besides Dallas. In fact, Memphis, as in Tennessee. On her Memphis gallery's site is a description of this medium:"In her drawings Craddock uses gouache on paper bags that have been laid flat and stitched together to provide a surface of age and texture. The gouache allows Craddock to layer images like scrims, or veils."
I also see that the tonal rendition in my image above is not the same as this same work on her site, but I suspect, as I usually do, that mine is more accurate. I try to do that.
Spinning a Jesus Morales sculpture at PDNB
In my first photo of this scene, the boy looks like he wanted permission to spin the sculpture, which, if I'd known it would, I would have been happy to make happen. I nodded and he did a much more dynamic rendition than I would have.
Isaac's Eagle at Craighead Green (detail) paint
on caved carved wood
at least life size, maybe larger
Anna and I both liked this eagle, as we almost like everything we've ever seen by Isaac, and I just hope Isaac, whoever that might be, is from Dallas, or I guess I'm going to have to stop liking his work so publicly. Hadn't noticed till well after I'd posted this picture and paragraph down here all the clutter of angles of sculpture behind. No idea who did that. Or why.
Following The Nasher 10th Anniversary Trail
Ruben Ochoa Flock in Space 2013 concrete and steel
first encounter with the Nasher XChange -
10 Years; 10 Sites; 10 Artists was purely
accident. I'd heard the ads for it on public radio but really hadn't put five
and five together, so when we drove up on The Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC)
off I-45 south of Dallas to do some birding, it was the most interesting thing
we saw, and a welcome sight. Turned out TRAC closed at 4, just
before we arrived, but I photographed this surprising sculpture soon as I saw
it, and and came back later, after I'd walked the trails and photographed some
birds. This was our first sighting; I consider it the
Ruben Ochoa Flock in Space 2013 concrete
and steel side view
I pooh-poohed it when I later read
that this was a flock of birds, though that subject might have been appropriative
for TRAC. But it more resemble
a flock of tumbleweeds or wasps nests on reeds bending in the wind. Whatever
it was, we liked it a lot, and anytime we encounter sculpture that large, inspiring
and fun to watch and explore, we're happy spending time with it. I usually try
to walk though sculpture this big, but I let this one be.
Charles Long Fountainhead 2013 mixed media
Our second encounter with the Nasher XChange tour, a few days later, was dismaying. I call it The Money Changer. Basically, it portrays a fountain without spilling any water — no actual water was wasted in this aesthetic exercise. Intended to pour small donations into local nonprofits including The Bookmarks branch of the Dallas Library; Dallas CASA; and the North Texas Food Bank, all worthy causes, but there are so many others. I wonder why only those few with all that pseudo cash pouring down.
And I cringe at the notion of art in public places whose main purpose is to get people to put money into it, even if it's at Dallas' largest retail market.
As our first intentional stop on The Nasher Trail, it helped that it was in NorthPark Shopping Center, and although the vague-at-best map was nearly useless in the arcane tunnels and hallways there, there were NorthPark people waiting to help us find our way.
Where it was shouldn't be lost on us. The Nasher Sculpture Center has its roots deep in NorthPark Center, whose extraordinarily lucrative real estate enabled the late NorthPark owner and Nasher-founder Ray Nasher to earn a lot of money, and those giant hallways still house significant and very popular items from his personal collection, where the people of Dallas can visit and see it almost anytime for free. I always stop and visit one or more pieces along my way when I attend a movie there.
The one other thing I have against this piece
is that despite its swank address, money flow cuteness and good-cause benevolence,
Afredo Jaar/New York Music
(Everything I know I learned the day my son was born)
The Nasher Sculpture Center downtown, they let us in just to tromp back
along the green, sculpture-lined backyard to visit this green box, and we dutifully
did, paying serious attention to the often familiar crowd of sculpture along
the way, although we thoroughly explored what we kept calling
"the silly green box," which didn't really look like a waiting room
till we got inside, and then, since there was only that one door, it was a
room waiting for nothing — possibly a metaphor for life.
The Waiting Room Aspect
We were nonplused by the chairs — every
doctor's office I've ever been in (including free clinics and Parkland) had better
— but we enjoyed the color and other architectural details, including the vents
venting already cold air up and out, but if somebody were to wait there,
we couldn't see why or for what.
Afredo Jaar "the
back porch" of Music
(Everything I know I learned the day my son was born)
we got back in The Nasher, I couldn't wait to ask why, when The Nasher could
have chosen any piece — even
Ochoa's bird piece would have fit neatly back there — did
they choose this one. The several people gathered around the front station
all denied participation in the selection, and asked us if we'd "heard
the babies crying."
Afredo Jaar Music
(Everything I know I learned the day my son was born)
We had not, and we didn't go back to listen. And
when we were at the Nasher for the David Bates discussion later,
we again passed on the opportunity. It's not ugly; it's not stupid; it
comprises the full component of three dimensions in spades; and it fits well
into the lush, wet of the outdoor sculpture garden. We just didn't care.
Rotterdam, Netherlands Rachel Harrison More to the point
Next — well, not exactly a stop on that second cold day of touring along The Nasher Trail — more like a brief pause, was Rachel Harrison's Moore to the point, a visual pink pun on the point of sculpture, here photographed with a telephoto lens from inching past City Hall Plaza on Young Street. Not sure that episode needs more exposition. You can see what it is, and just how much it advances the _________ (fill in the blank) of sculpture in the 21st Century. The wood arrow — not unlike many like it along the retail streets of Anywhere, USA is pointing at Henry Moore's substantially more substantial bronze Dallas Piece in the front plaza of our famously bent, I. M. Pei City Hall.
I didn't care much for it at
first, but it's growing on me. Pretty simple, like a momentary notion all grown
up and painted Retail Pink, so it stands out in that staid environment.
No mistaking it for anything else. We knew it soon as we laid eyes on it. Now
I kinda wish I'd walked in for a personal visit and closer-up pix, except I'm
sure I will encounter one of its less artful cousins along some busy commercial
venue. Maybe even in that same color.
Mound where the house is buried
most somber stop on our tour was at 2226 Exeter Avenue in an area
called Oak Cliff Gardens, where Rotterdam, Netherlands Artist Lara Almarcegui's Buried
House lies under a large mound of rich, dark, moist dirt at the back
of the property in what the Nasher calls "a neighborhood almost as old as
Dallas, near the site of the first stop for stagecoaches headed out of Dallas
for Central Texas, the area surrounding the intersection at Lancaster and Ann
Arbor roads became the small
town of Lisbon, which was, in turn, annexed by the City in 1929."
2226 Exeter Avenue in Oak Cliff Gardens
We knew we wouldn't
be able to see the house, since it was dismantled and buried under the
large lump of dirt well behind the tree in this photo, and it was a solemn,
not depressing place to ponder. I walked all around it slowly once, while Anna
stayed warm and dry in the car, and it took awhile to get all the mud off
my shoes. I've always liked those vivid, neon orange construction fences,
and I keep a soft spot in my heart for earth mounds. There's something sanctifying
about dis-integrating a structure and putting it into the ground. This mound
may be subtle and smallish, but it means something and it is still beautiful,
even if there's a house down there.
I rejoined the trail a couple days later.
Rick Lowe Trans.lation at 6329 Ridgecrest Road in Vickery Meadow
Texas artist Rick Lowe's Trans.lation along Ridgecrest Road
in Vickery Meadow on the other side of Central from NorthPark is where I found
this structure, which appeared to be an ersatz art gallery, except no one was
in there looking at art, except me. According to The Nasher, "The work
of Houston-based artist Rick Lowe tempts viewers to question where process ends
and product begins, what is "art" and
what is community activism?"
Jonathan Harris Art Inside the Temporary
"With roots in the philosophy of Joseph Beuys,
most notably the idea of "social sculpture," Lowe has professed that
a large part of his work includes
"Introducing poetic moments into mundane activities." Like Beuys, who
proposed an enlarged definition of art that could include every conscious act,
Lowe works toward a social system in which every person is a creator."
On the Inside left of the temporary building,
I found this poster
I saw real hope in that cold and drafty little prefab with its large, always-open front door and slatted bottom vents along both sides to maintain breezes, no matter the weather — even with only me in it — because of this one poster, which visually explains that one solid piece of art on wheels in it when I visited. I have fixed some of the contrast of the color copies, so we can better see their details.
Anna later said there was another, green temp
gallery a little farther down that street. I guess I stopped when I saw the first
Ugo Rondinone Dear Sunset with cormorants
My favorite stop along the Nasher Trail was on Fish Trap Road, not far from Oak Cliff Gardens and just behind Pinkston High School, which I've long heard about on the news in reference to lead contamination and then the long, drawn-out clean-up, but that I'd never before laid eyes upon. It was an active place with friendly people walking by and a post woman who insisted that the cormorants on Dear Sunset were ducks. But she also warned me against walking on the rainbow pier, which was roped off, though at a very low level — about six inches — I might have easily walked over.
I love piers, and my favorite one in is in Sunset
Bay on White Rock Lake, although there's a couple in San Francisco I liked, too.
This lake is smaller, much less irregular with significantly fewer trees, bushes
and people, but it has its own loveliness. I wonder if anyone swims there, legally
Ugo Rondinone Dear Sunset with
Great Blue Heron
favorite part of Dear Sunset is the white splatter of cormorant scat
extending from the far end, back, and well into the blues
and just into the darkest greens. The rainbow is integral to the concept, but
the white splashes change up the pattern a bit, thanks to purely natural processes.
The real reason I made this image is that there's a Great Blue Heron I'd accidentally
flushed from the reeds where I hadn't noticed it, flying out past the end of
the pier. Too late for a decent photo of it, but I'd always rather try than not. Turns
out this may be my best bird-less shot of the piece.
The White End with Who Put It There
I love birds and their habitats.
Our Last Three Sites along The Nasher Trail
Vicki Meek Black & Blue: Cultural
Oasis in the Hills detail one of 15 porcelain enamel
Our last three stops seemed to take forever, although getting out to what is now the Paul Quinn College campus was smooth and fast. To understand the art there, you need to know that what is now the Paul Quinn College campus used to be Bishop College's, and it's still confusing that Dallas Artist Viki Meek's work for the Nasher Sculpture XChange that I'm calling The Nasher Trail, involved fifteen essentially two-dimensional posters about the history of Bishop College, which no longer exists.
Meek, director of the South
Dallas Culture Center, and the only Dallas artist on the tour, is an artist
who sometimes creates good work, but often settles for didact,
at which she's okay, but not necessarily inspiring — although
I'm hardly in her target audience.
Vicki Meek Black & Blue: Cultural
Oasis in the Hills detail one of 15 porcelain enamel
I don't see any intelligent reason to call these objects sculpture, except there's 15 different posters dotting the right-of-way along both sides of the main drag through campus, looking from any distance, more like inter mural politics than art — though we liked the animals on cowrie shells (African currency) at the lower left of the few we we bothered to study. The Nasher called them, "Commemorative markers — both physical and virtual — [that] honor the rich heritage of Bishop College," but many of the posters were hidden behind cars parked along the street, so they weren't exactly commanding any space.
What they most resembled was a public project
for a governmental agency that didn't get past the citizens' approval committee,
so it was bumped to the Nasher.
It has that mix of Naturalism, History, Civic Beneficence, Historical Sentimentality
and the oodles of text such committees go for in the art they approve,
but I still think sculpture needs at least three dimensions.
Bishop Blue at Paul Quinn
The so-called sculpture was so dull, I tried
finding collateral art nearby, and we lucked out with an on-campus, Greek extravaganza
of painted trees and object after object that almost could have
been sculpture if it had tried harder. In addition to the deep indigo blue tree
trunks, there were red and white, blue and orange and green and pink trees; a
stack of vivid red cinder blocks and bricks; several unburied brick buildings
trashed on a far edge of campus that I tried to photograph as if it were art,
or sculpture — nice
shadows but it just didn't work. And
a low-leaning telephone pole that I thought had real character, but not enough
Entry to CURTAINS
2nd to last stop was downtown Dallas to check out Curtains by Good/Bad Art Collective of Denton on the 14th Floor of Bryan Tower, where they had the whole floor but used but a dark corridor down the middle — with electronic keyboards and gizmos sticking out here and there between dark curtains, alone on a floor of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on some of downtown's more interesting skyline visions.
Good/Bad Art Collective CURTAINS sculpture, video
I don't know what the dark object above is
— from some views it looks like the profile of a giant human head, but
I was fascinated by its shape and variety of video surfaces, although figuring
out what was going on in those moving pictures was difficult and perhaps purposely
challenging. And there were little bits of still or moving color all through
Another Angle on Nearly the Same Scene
I'm terrifically impressed with the many parts
of this extensive piece. No doubt about this one being sculpture. Even the curtains
in CURTAINS prove that, but those strange, large objects that showed or bounced
or whatever they are doing, videos nearly took my breath away. Fun. Exciting
to see sculpture doing something moving, without grind or strutting.
CURTAINS' Curtains and video sarcophagus
The curtains were pretty, if plain. And sometimes they moved — I moved myself through the far left dark corner into the 14th floor of a a building with new views of downtown, walked all the way around just inside the windows watching out but still saw little of the wizard in the cloakroom hidden, and phased back into the curtained room. I love repeating patterns, and this worked. Simply but attractively, and that video cube on the near wall might have been enough all by its lonesome. Impressive uses of spaces and shapes and color. Lots to look at and ponder.
I don't know the Good/Bad Collective's term for that solid video object billowing molten blue and white. A cuboid snow globe undulating time-lapse skystuff that was video suggestive of what the scary little girl was watching when she announced, "They're back."
some hallway at UTD's new Art Building
Then we got notched under a wreck on northbound Central where we averaged 7 mph till we finally got clear of it going up, then about forty-five minutes later we managed four times that speed in 4:30 traffic coming back down Central from UTD. The Nasher map was vague — the guy at the Bryan Building told us if we used the UTD address on the Nasher map we'd end up in a field.
I knew right
where that building was from studying the map, but I couldn't get there without
a road or a closer lot to park in. Anna had researched the X-marked spots better,
brought us in off Floyd Road, where was, long ago, the proper entrance to the
university called Dallas that's in Plano, where we parked comparatively close
and walked the noisy rock-n-roll sidewalks to the spacious new art building
following what we thought were instructions. Later, just wandering lost
along the path we set through the two Xs walked us back to Parking Lot G
quicker and quieter after our photo session with X and X.
Liz Larner X Maple inside
the new UTD Art Building
Nothing in the show was as innovative
as the Good/Bad Art Collective's multi-media
CURTAINS, Lara Almarcegui's thought-worthy Buried House or
Ugo Rondinone's nearly comic but not quite cosmic
dear sunset, but this ingenious and seemingly uncomplicated
pair of straight-ahead sculptures were easy-on-the-eyes, simple and superlative
from every viewing direction.
Liz Larner X Stainless
This is the sort of solid sculpture we could just sit or stand and stare at for a while, get ideas and extrapolate notions. Up close, the effect was dampened slightly by an splatter army of rain stains, but keeping it polished would be a full-time job after all these many wet days and nights of winter — and with any distance they seem to disappear.
Liz Larner X Stainless Steel from above
The Nasher XChange advertised itself as occupying "386 square miles" of a gallery called Dallas, but actual displacement space was significantly smaller. Everything along The Nasher Trail would easily and neatly have fit — and looked great — in The Nasher's back yard, but if brouhaha advertising sells sculpture in Dallas, I guess that's almost okay. The tour was often fascinating, usually fun and generally multi-dimensional. I'm glad I finally took it up and can only wonder why I didn't do it sooner than the week before it closed.
The Nasher's mapping method left much to be desired. As noted, having some addresses actually helped globally position ourselves, while others left us out standing in a field. Somebody probably should have tracked the trail before the show opened or the map went to press, so a little common sense might have snuck into the design, and I still don't understand why all the titles, sizes and dates couldn't have been in there, too — in one easy-to-access place. Green blobs on an otherwise empty page was seriously insufficient as a guide.
Still, nice show, and I hope we don't have to wait another decade before they attempt another serious, city-wide sculpture show. But I hope by then they can find one actual Dallas sculptor. Maybe the last stop on the trail should have been the front box of The Nasher, full of 3-D Bates.
David Bates Retrospective at The Nasher
David Bates Dog with Wagging Tail 1994
The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas is a very different place from the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. David Bates walked among his paintings and the gathered metroplex press in the big upstairs galleries in Fort Worth and will speak there February 11 with Tyler Green. At the Nasher, he talked animatedly with his show's Curator Jed Morse on a low riser in the downstairs auditorium, where much of the audience of 200+ couldn't see him most of the time, because neither was seated high enough.
At the Modern, they followed him and the crowd around with speakers on wheels. At The Nasher, we often could not clearly hear all of everybody's words because there was so much cross chatter and thick coats to soak the sound. At both, the speakers were wired for sound.
The paintings in The Modern are in giant, closed-in rooms, and the only piece I remember near a window that let in outside light, came from behind the Thanksgiving Diner. The Nasher's upstairs space is open to the sky through the roof and windows. When the sky is dark, the lights come on inside. The Modern feels dark but safe. The Nasher is light and bright.
At the Modern, Bates was nervous about something
from the start. At the Nasher he spoke easily and comfortably, as if among friends.
In Fort Worth, the Modern Director interrupted him once he finally got
going, to make a grand announcement of a pre-announced purchase. At The Nasher,
the facilitator stayed out of the artist's way, speaking only when he needed
to lead the conversation or supply just the right word.
David Bates Woodpeckers 1998 painted
fabric, wood and metal Cece and Ford Lacy
Soon as I learned it would be okay to photograph, I set out to show Bates' sculptural innovation, which was easy to find. The first instance of that to catch my eye was the Dog with a Wagging Tail. And since I wanted to show Bate's historical progress, the images in this story are in chronological order.
I know there were other sculptures, just I didn't find any that showed his remarkable unconventionality, although I remember seeing early forays into that third dimension at Dallas galleries.
This particular sculpture widened my eyes. At first I had little idea what I was looking at with those jumbled and contrasty rectangles, but I was already enjoying both birds' nearly abstract backgrounds, which I eventually determined were trees — in the red, yellow, black and brown icon on the left, which is complete with wood-pecked holes; and the gray, black and white one on the right. Each bird is strongly counter-balanced on the right sides of their bold rectangles contrasted against and superimposed onto the tiny, repeating icons on that vivid yellow cloth and paint.
Because they're so strongly and instantly recognizable
as woodpeckers, I'd hoped to report that there's
verisimilitude in them thar birds, too. But I could not find a species to match
either configuration in my more than a dozen bird I.D books from my other
David Bates Standing Female Nudes,
I, III and II 1998–2013 painted wood private
If I get the audio file, I might be able to explain more of these pieces in Bates' own words, instead of mine, because of course I'm just guessing. Here's three ladies standing. I'm pretty sure the middle one was created with a chainsaw, because I remember the slide, and she's pretty roughed up. But it's a nice set of figures, so many obvious differences for attempts at the same form.
praised the expertise of those guys along the sides of American highways
who actually sculpt with chainsaws. They have control, he repeatedly
noted, and as we can see, unless the outer two pieces were also done with chainsaws,
which I don't think likely, Bates doesn't really, although he may well have got
better with practice. He seems to do that.
David Bates Self-Portrait 1998-2013
aluminum and paint quarter view private collection
I guess it shouldn't surprise me that I am
more strongly affected by sculpture than paintings. Sculpture, especially deeply
intelligent sculpture, gets me, and I get it. In the west gallery at The Nasher
were many classic works, from The Nasher Sculpture Collection. Some I greet as
old friends, others are worth pondering and re-pondering from time to time, especially
the simpler and more modern works.
Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman 1957 painted
The one I most identified with the Bates
Self-Portrait was this by Pablo Picasso. Yeah, it's in those same monochromatic
tones with maybe just a little amber in Pablo's lady's eye, and Bates has
a tad of brown-red, especially in his eyebrows, cheek, chin, mustache and beard.
I guess it shouldn't be much a surprise Bates didn't stick to the color
conventions, but neither did Picasso and those other classical art heroes
we tend to adulate.
Female Head 2002 painted
plaster, steel and wood private collection
According to The Nasher's label for this series, "This series of plaster heads began in 1995 when the artist was active at the Walla Walla Foundry in rural Washington State. The experience of working in three dimensions, as well as with a team of assistants, resulted in a radical departure from the artist's signature style."
"Bates momentarily abandoned his interest in narrative and regional specificity and became increasingly interested in process. Working with plaster gave Bates access to a new vocabulary of textures and shapes, allowing him to emphasize the physical qualities of the material and the process."
"In 2002, Bates again returned to the medium
of plaster to create a series of female heads. The white plaster and stoic expressions
recall ancient Egyptian busts, as well as Pablo Picasso's plaster heads of the
David Bates Skull 2009
And here's another monochrome black and white face with just
a hint of amber and what looks like might be fingerprints. I know Bates and his
Nasher curator had talked about these skulls, but I was too far back in a crowd
that was too busy making its own conversations to get anything, and I'm hoping
The Nasher will let me use their own words for this story. And I might
need to wander back through the show looking for some intermediary year dates,
so we can see a more transitional pattern down this page, if there was one.
David Bates Black and White Owl 2011-12 painted
bronze private collection
Pared to the simplest slats and chunks of richly-textured
but never complexly organized, attached, nor even compounded wood forms. Simplified
in original composition then all that rough wood texture translated by skilled
technicians into bronze, which he then painted because, as Bates kept explaining
and exclaiming, "I'm
a painter." Here the colors are mostly white and black or gray with browns
and ambers only on and around the owl's feet.
David Bates Skull 2012 bronze
with paint and patina private collection
Then cutout cardboard simplifies it even more while making much more difficult his bronze-detailer's job. All of which brings us up to a couple years ago, and of course you probably, and I definitely, want to know what he's up to lately. Has he, as he must often have, gone back to big paintings?
I guess that's something else I need to look into. Stay tuned.
David Bates Retrospective at The Modern in Fort Worth
David Bates The Deluge III oil
on canvas 2006-07 Arthur Roger
From David Bates' now widely-acclaimed Katrina series, this painting tells the story of one New Orleans resident's arduous escape from his flooded home. The part of the story I remember best was him finally struggling up and out of his mangled home and hearing the hollow bump of a boat thump into it, then escape in it using slats of wood to paddle to safety.
It's a grand show in a giant suite of galleries upstairs, but it's not a full retrospective, because Bates' Forty Paintings showed at the Modern in 1988. Those works, according to The Fort Worth Star Telegram, "were from his Grassy Lake series, works inspired by fishing trips to Arkansas — and some of his most powerful. Now they are accompanied by an equally intriguing series that documents the savage aftermath of the 2005 hurricane in New Orleans" in a retrospective opening February 9 at The Modern.
Some more recent large paintings from that series — and other works from the last 32 years — are included in the Modern's current, major co-showing with The Nasher Sculpture Center (showing his sculptural work and work on paper). The paintings we saw are amazing, large, superb, beautiful, impressive, poignant, human and colorful, but there's a vivid, glossy sameness about too many of them in one place, with a few standouts heading off into alternate futures, and I miss seeing his earlier, less glossy, rougher work — especially in a show billed as a retrospective.
I later learned that the paperback catalog from
the Forty Paintings show might still be available (new from
Amazon for $112.60 or used from $13.69 — limited
preview, no reviews.
David Bates Black Water II 1988 oil
on canvas Private Collection, Dallas
We were enchanted with this and others of Bates' richly-detailed naturalist depictions of avian and amphibian life. I wasn't aware while staring, still astonished at this giant painting, but the central figure of a Great Blue Heron is stealing a baby snake for supper from this angered and protective parent, while at least one other tiny snake wriggles on the brown felled-tree below.
The best online reference I found for that earlier showing is included in The Fort Worth Star Telegram's Indulge coverage of the current shows, which by now you've read just about everywhere, so I don't see any reason to slog through all those same facts and factoids again, up here — although the full press release is reprinted at the bottom of this story.
The one other current story that impressed me
was D-Magazine writer Peter Simek's The
Most Successful Dallas Artist Ever I found on the Arthur Roger gallery
site. Much less impressive was DFW.com's a little behind-the-curve listing of
Bates as the DFW
"artist to watch" in 2014.
David Bates at the Fort Worth Modern's Press
Opening February 4, 2014
62-year-old David Bates was a delight at the press opening, where I was surprised to see the artist instead of a series of experts and curators waltz in front of the press corps. Anna and I are used to dealing with Kimbell Museum press openings where all the artists are centuries dead. This was our first press reception with The Modern, and Bates is an especially good artist to start with, because he is so richly identified with this city, where he still lives and works. Bates has every right to be, because he's so good and has stuck solidly with his original style and subject matter — experimenting and improving in little aspects that grew in importance over the decades, but did not noticeably in any way, seem conceited or full of himself.
In fact, he was nervous at first, speaking a little
too quietly and in short sentences and making smaller gestures, but he gradually
settled into a more open conversational-tone while discussing some of his favorite
or most story-worthy pieces, eventually speaking in longer and more involved
sentences, letting his gestures swing wider and more naturally, while warming
to talking and even thinking out loud before the crowd of art journalists. Only
maybe once did he lose track.
Ed Walker Cleaning Fish oil on
canvas 1982 Dallas Museum of Art
gift of Mr. and Mrs. Claude Albritton III, John C. Tatum, Jr., Mrs. John W.O'Boyle,
Elizabeth B. Blake, Mr. and Mrs. I.D. Flores III, and two anonymous donors
One of at least two, earliest pieces in the show — from 1982 — this painting, whose true tones might be easier to see if you cup your hands together, telescope-style in front of your eyes, to block out the surrounding white. Like many of his portraits of -African-Americans, this painting is dark and dense, and one of Bates' more famous earlier works. I'm sure it's important to the painter to present his subjects in their real colors, made all the more noteworthy here in sharp contrast to Ed's brilliant white shirt.
David Bates The Cleaning Table 1990
courtesy of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Just as David was getting up his speaking steam,
Modern Director Maria Price interrupted his train of thought for a raffle-like
announcement that the Modern had been gifted another large, David Bates painting, The
Cleaning Table, 1990, an image of which is on the thumb drive, but Photoshop
won't parse that copy. The best image I found was on Edible
Austin (?). The artist seemed totally flummoxed by the interruption — staring
blankly off into space till she finished, then it took him awhile to get back
on track. Not sure why she had to announce it in the middle of a sentence like
that. Peculiar timing.
David Bates Katrina Portrait VII
(Buddy) 2006 oil on canvas 72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans
Bates wandered from painting to painting, telling
the stories he wanted to tell. At first, he was flushed and probably over-warm
in his cozy-looking yet stylish, all-black outfit — I had to take off my
comfy-outside vest, but gradually over the next hour, Bates calmed down and spoke
up with artist-point-of-view stories about many of his paintings, big and small,
around the galleries. We were impressed. I still wonder whether I should have
recorded the whole thing, so I could match stories with artwork, but I was expecting
to deal with a panel of experts, so when David stepped out, my main concern was
to get some decent photos of him and tonal-true images of his work for DallasArtsRevue's
audience of artists.
David Bates discussing process and what he
was thinking for
Beer and Cigarettes
I'd already picked out my favorites for my attempt
at more-accurate-than-average shots of his work, and I got all but one of those
that really struck my fancy, and that one seemed a little more lyrical and less
detailed a nature scene with, I think, people in a greenhouse. The museum provided
a 4-gig thumb drive with images and data of only seven pieces, but I always prefer
my own photos, which I work at making better than the quality you'll see in all
the newspapers, many of which only vaguely resemble the actual work. It always
seems important to me, but not so much for art institutions, although the Modern's
were mostly adequate.
David Bates Thanksgiving Dinner 1982 oil
on canvas Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
This is the other painting Bates made in 1982,
tying for the oldest in the Modern's second-half retrospective. It was off in
a room of its own, somewhat separated from the other Bates. Though it is not
at all in the style of, it certainly involves the usual subject matter and presentation
of Norman Rockwell. While some of the characters around this Thanksgiving table
have dark skin, none show enough non-White visual characteristics. So, cute as
it all might be, the people here just don't ring true as humans, like Rockwell
would have insisted upon, and most Bates work decidedly does. This early representation
comprises a strong contradiction of all those careful depictions in David Bates' portraits
and other representations of people living life, fishing or fleeing Katrina's
David Bates among his self-portraits
looking like he's on top of the world
I have to wonder what time span separates that naive, Norman Rockwell representation from the portrait of Ed Walker Cleaning Fish above, done that same year. But all that hardly matters, this is one impressive exhibition, all the more so because it stars a Dallas artist.
Although I've made attempts, DallasArtsRevue has not been on the Nasher press list since Ray Nasher was still alive, so although we will attend show-related events there, and I'll probably have something to say about it and its presentation, I doubt we'll get anything like the unrestricted photo access to the Nasher portion of the Bates Retrospective that we were accorded at the Modern, so I don't know how much more we will accomplish. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the full history of Bates' sculpture and works on paper.
David Bates Self-Portrait with
Green Nose 2011 oil on panel Private Collection
Art Museum of Fort Worth & Nasher Sculpture Center
David Bates Retrospective Press Release
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas present a joint exhibition of the work of Dallas artist David Bates on view February 9 through May 11, 2014.
The exhibition is a retrospective of Bates' work installed in both locations with an emphasis on painting in Fort Worth and sculpture and works on paper in Dallas. This is the first collaboration between the two museums. The exhibition is organized by Dr. Marla Price, director of the Modern, and Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher.
Dr. Price, who organized David Bates: Forty Paintings for the Modern in 1988, the first major museum exhibition of the artist’s work, says, “David Bates’s exuberant paintings, sculptures and reliefs are memorable and treasured works in the Modern’s permanent collection. His masterful technique creates an unforgettable portrait of a particular place and its inhabitants. He translates his own experiences into works of art that transcend regional boundaries.”
David Bates Male Bust with Hat #2 1994-45 painted bronze Mr. and Mrs. David B. Duthu
“David has been long hailed as an extraordinary painter, but his achievements in sculpture have been equally significant, despite receiving less attention,” notes Nasher director Jeremy Strick. “Following in the footsteps of the great painter-sculptors Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, David’s work in sculpture has expanded his expressive range and had a profound impact on his work in other media.”
In a career spanning more than forty years, Bates has combined exquisite technique with a deep understanding of American modernist traditions, resulting in a body of work that is at once sophisticated, soulful, and accessible. From his lush early paintings of the Arkansas nature conservancy Grassy Lake and the Texas Gulf Coast; to his reliefs, sculptures, and assemblages created in a variety of materials; to his most recent paintings depicting survivors of Hurricane Katrina, self-portraits, and a return to still life, this exhibition provides an in-depth look at the work of a unique and significant American artist. This exhibition includes approximately 45 paintings on view in Fort Worth, and 45 sculptures and 20 related paintings and drawings on view in Dallas.
David Bates was born in 1952 in Dallas, Texas, where he lives and works today. He studied art at Southern Methodist University and participated in the Independent Study Program sponsored by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where he experimented with a wide range of styles. Bates was influenced early on by his favorite pastime and passion, fishing, and the natural setting of the Texas coast and lakes, as well as the vibrant people (and all forms of life) that inhabit these worlds. Many of his works bear imagery that relates back to his relationships with and memories of his parents—his mother can be recognized in the still life paintings, and his father is suggested in the portraits of fishermen.
In the early 1990s, Bates moved on from the paintings and small reliefs of his earlier period and began to experiment with larger, more refined, and ambitious sculptures in bronze at foundries in Walla Walla, Washington, and Houston, Texas. He has continued to work in the two media of sculpture and painting exploring figure and still life subjects. In 2005, reeling from his experience and feelings about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Bates began painting detailed scenes of the destruction caused by the storm. These emotional images capture the suffering of the survivors in a stark and powerful way.
The exhibition at the Modern concludes with recent work, including Bates’s self-portraits and still lifes, while the installation at the Nasher will include a gallery devoted to the artist’s studio practice, highlighting connections among his paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
Bates has been the focus of many solo museum and gallery exhibitions, including David Bates: The Katrina Paintings, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; David Bates since 1982: From the Everyday to the Epic, Austin Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; and David Bates: Paintings from Texas Collections, The Grace Museum, Abilene, Texas. He has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including Still Life Masterpieces: A Visual Feast from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Elements of Nature: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, California; Variations on America: Masterworks from American Art Forum Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the 1987 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His work is prominently collected by museums, corporations, and individuals nationally, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Dallas Museum of Art. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has 12 works in its permanent collection.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell Street Fort Worth, Texas 76107 Telephone 817.738.9215 Toll free 1.866.824.5566 Fax 817.735.1161 www.themodern.org; Museum Gallery Hours: Tuesdays 10 am-7 pm (September-November, February-April); Tuesday-Sundays 10 am-5 pm Fri 10 am-8 pm; General Admission Prices (includes special exhibition) $4 for students with ID and seniors (60+), $10 for adults (13+). Free for children (12 and under); Free for Modern members, and Free the first Sunday of every month and half-price every Wednesday. The Museum is closed Mondays and holidays.
Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora Street Dallas, Texas 75201 Telephone 214.242.5100 www.NasherSculptureCenter.org. Museum Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sundays 11 am-5 pm. Special events open until 11 pm; First Saturday of each month 10 am-5 pm; General Admission: $10 for adults (13+) $7 for seniors; $5 for students; Free for members and children 12 and under.
The Latest Dallas Biennial with complete schedule
Francisco Moreno Coronation of the Virgin with Saints oil on canvas 2010
I've just come from one of an already series of shows in the latest Dallas Biennial attempt.
I say attempt, because a biennial is not truly biennial until it happens the second time two years later — although according to the dictionary, it could be a biennial if it happened six months later — then it will have some history and continuity. Usually two years worth. As I write this it's got less than a half a day of those. Although so far, nobody who's ever wanted to do a Dallas bienniel has wanted to do two of them in one year, let alone keep on doing that many that fast forever. In fact, most people who thought they wanted to do any biennials ever, quickly realize they don't even want to do another one two years later.
Most don't do it again. That seems a satisfactory turn of events after many first ones. DARE did a first Texas Biennial; Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston did a first Texas Biennial; then there was that bunch in Austin who did a first, second, third and now fourth Texas Biennial. They started out funky and community but too quickly got way too polished pro. A little closer to home as well as closer to now, The Contempoarary did a first Dallas Biennial, but only just that one.
Well, there's The Whitney and The Venice Biannial, and probably some others that have from some to hardly any at all influence on art around here, but I'm talking Texas, and now more specifically, Dallas. These biennials and biennial attempts are almost always a noble ambition.
Michael Vorfeld untitled (book) art book, photo-graphics 2013
So forgive me if I roll my eyes when anybody even mentions trying another biennial. This one in question is a Dallas Bi. It hardly seems that long ago when The Contemporary announced that it would not ever do a second of their Dallas biennial, and here's a new one already. Starting not in spring or autumn when the weather is amenable, but sprouting in the dead of winter.
I visited my first of this DB exhibitions at the art gallery at Eastfield College this cold, snowy and gray Friday evening. So, unlike the latest Biennial's website, I have pictures. I also had one, probably store-bought chocolate chip cookie from the wholly enclosed snack area snuggled just inside the front door, and a brief conversation with the gallerist. I was about a half hour early.
So I was there too early, and I only even saw the one human, and the video that was to have taken-up one entire end of the already smallish space hadn't arrived yet.
Jeff Gibbons Knotted Noodle knotted noodle, stand, pedestal 2014
with Brad Tucker Kidney and one other piece fabric, acrylic, wood 2012
Iris Bechtol asked me what I thought of it. I told her it was a little spare. I didn't think there were enough pieces or diversity of pieces. But I just said there weren't many pieces in the show. She defended that she didn't think it would have been right to have a lot of work in such a small gallery with the video taking up that much space. I didn't say much more after that, because the reason I go to galleries is to figure out whether I want to write about the show, and arguing with gallerists only confuses me, and I need to not participate in other people's decisions, but it takes longer for a lot of art to catch into my consciousness, so, overall, I didn't mind the smallish amount, it just looked like there wasn't very much of it. Probably because there wasn't.
I've learned to trust my initial instincts to photograph some of the art that affects me, or that I love or hate or — something. And personally, I don't object to busy walls. I love salon style hanging, but I didn't have to hang this one, and so I leave that up to whomever does.
I wanted to stare at it awhile, begin the notions in my mind that might eventually become words and let those form opinions. I don't figure out till much later whether I even like the stuff or which ones. I etch some art, almost seems like at random sometimes, to get it loose in my mind, then think about it. I usually avoid talking with gallerists, but she was the only other person there, and I was twenty minutes early, because I wanted to get there, see art, photograph some, then get home before the serious snow started, although it never did.
But this was a particularly small and austere exposition with some very interesting work I really didn't know quite what to make of, a couple bright-colored reliefs, a really well done book whose artist author did not mind my dirty fingers turning his then-pristine white pages of black ink drawings of and pertaining to electric lights. Illumination is the word I kept thinking about that beautiful book, though it was not at all ornate.
Hard to give it much credibility yet, though, since the site's supposedly been up two years, and it has yet to snag a single pic. Text-only? How strange. I'd think art-oriented folk who would want to do this, would see in pictures. Was a time when all the 'net was text-only. But surely not no more. I suspect it's more like 15 minutes old. That'd account for it.
But another try at another Bi is always worth some pixels. Good luck, ya'll. And keep me posted.
And wadn't there one just a while ago? Dint we write about it at The Contemp's Bi, but then they said they'd never do another one, so let's let these folk have a try at it.
Objective Strategies at El Centro through February 21
Tol Hay rends curtains in Alison Starr's Action
9 / Wrestle at the opening reception
Strategies features work by eight Dallas artists — Val
Curry & Robert Reedy,
Jeff Gibbons, Michael Morris, Ryder Richards, Alison Starr, Nicky Tavares
and Monica Ugartechea, all working in three-dimensional and time-based media
including sculpture, installation, video and performance.
When Randall Garrett told me Objective Strategies would counterbalance the show he did last summer called Surface and Mark that was based on two-dimensional art-making strategies, I told him I was glad I got to see this one, which emphasizes "three-dimensional and time-based media — including sculpture, installation, video and performance." But now I really would like to have seen both.
Unlike most curators, I've learned to trust Randall
Garrett's shows. A lot of what he puts into them frightens or appalls me. At
first. Then I open my mind and see things anew, and he's on to something else.
He stays way ahead of me and most others. But by paying attention to whom he
shows and what he says about what they are doing, I can eventually almost catch
up. Some of it suddenly becomes obvious. Others take awhile. A pattern which
has proved itself with this show.
Tol Hay in Alison Starr's Action
9 / Wrestle
I wasn't at all sure I'd enjoy Alison Starr's opening-night-only performance. She directed it; Cambodian Immigrant and U.S. Military Member Tol Hay performed it. The day before the opening, Garrett described Hay's performance in Starr's Action as "struggling with curtains" ... "until his energy runs out." I've seen most of Starr's early performance, and I may already have written about it too much, but I was eager to see this one.
Except instead of the permission to photograph the performance I requested from Garrett, I got an offer to share my photos with Starr, who did not prohibit me from photographing — like she sometimes has, but she asked Garrett to ask me "to consider giving her a copy of images, if [I] end up documenting it," which I did, and I continue to consider the possibility, even as I share my best documentation here.
Turned out, this performance was by far the best
Alison Starr performance I have experienced. Often during it, I thought how in
so many differing ways it was like Robert
Boland's Running Spiral performance at the Casket Factory it was, and I still
consider that June 21, 2003 event one of the best performance art I've ever seen
by a Dallas artist. Although almost all of the late Jerry Hunt's performances
were amazing, and I may have seen and photographed on film, more of those than
End of Performance — Tol Hay Leaves the Gallery
I've been watching and photographing performance art in Dallas since the early 1970s, and although my understandings of the medium keeps growing — and confounding earlier expectations, I have a good idea what the best of it is about. Symbolism, words and meanings are nice, but pure kinetic energy expressed eloquently is usually better. Like this was. Boland's was more visually complex and kinetically intriguing, and Hunt's were fascinating in more mediums, including talk, sound, music and dance, but this piece by Alison Star was superb.
I'm glad I got to see it, and that I got decent
Val Curry and Robert Reedy One
Day 2013 cast paper pulp dimensions variable obverse
with Michael Morris Blue Movie 2012 cyanotype emulsion on 16mm
film transferred to video 3 hours and 30 minutes
Some of the art here is more conservative than what Randall Garrett has shown at the several iterations of his Plush Gallery almost all of this century, and this selection is more careful, studied and precise. I was surprised that I'd not only heard of fully half of the artists in this show, but I've written about them, photographed their work, and I have previously hefted some of the pieces Val Curry and Robert Reedy turned from one day of one Starbucks' refuse into exquisite pieces of this sculpture, although this piece looked substantially better at El Centro than it did in Ro2's dingy downtown space a few months ago.
Here, those deceptively lightweight, cast chunks of soft, porous "repurposed paper pulp" go considerably farther than, as Garrett noted in the show's publicity, to "reposition the context of this waste material, bringing it within the confines of the art gallery." Here in this art gallery, it shines — even if it sometimes looks like precariously-balanced concrete. It helps that it was beautifully illuminated. Or at least this piece was.
The other one,
set up in the shallower and much less well-illuminate window box set higher
into the upper front of the gallery — where
I didn't even see it on my first visit and only noticed it well into
the opening reception the next — seemed almost lifeless; dynamically
and colorlessly flat. Pity.
Val Curry and Robert Reedy One
Day 2013 cast paper pulp dimensions variable reverse
But this version more than made up for it, blending remarkably into an elegant environment of red walls, dark and light architectural lines and nearly neutral beige floors amid a generosity space, glass and shadows. I've seen wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling student shows in that space, where I've had to search for something, anything, worth writing about, and this was the best, most elegant presentation I've seen in it.
Even if some of the subjects are a little goofy.
Jeff Gibbons Slow Squeezed Orange
(Done) 2013 orange, clamp, shelf 3.5 x 7.3
x 5.5 inches
Quoting Garrett's press release, recent UT Arlington MFA graduate and new UTD CentralTrak program resident and co-founder of the Apophenia Underground collective, Jeff Gibbons "creates small objects made of dried intact fruit, skin and all, that encapsulate the element of time, even as they present a type of stasis.
Another, more vividly and slightly more resilient
orange in the grips of a vice is clamped to a narrower shelf nearby. It
is Slow Squeezed Orange (In Process) and came the next year.
My father was in the citrus business in far South Texas, even helping develop
new species, so I immediately felt kinship with these compressed
objects, neither of which had yet turned fuzzy blue or smelly.
Jeff Gibbons Slow Squeezed Orange
(In Process) 2014
I remember raw beef, spoiling and beginning to stink as we watched it presented as art by Oak Cliff Four [or Five] Artist Bob Wade at Northwood Experimental Art Institute, here in the very early 1970s, so vice-gripping an orange for a few months, forty years later is hardly outré, but it is still funny, despite its simple yet serious format, and Gibbons' results have more to do with time than the film and video motion pieces in this show.
Ryder Richards Conflagration 2013 gunpowder,
acrylic, wood 100 x 55 x 48 inches
My early favorite piece — before the performance, though well after I had fallen for Curry & Reedy's One Day — was Ryder Richards' Conflagration remix of Giambologna’s classic Rape of the Sabine, with what Garrett's press release describes as elements of Southwest America's "flat signage, billboards, windmills, and oil derricks."
Alone in the gallery with it the day before, it seemed imposing. Add people, as in the opening reception, and it began disappearing, even if the best and most dimensional parts of it were well above most of our heads. I guess I wanted a more dimensional base to match its complex superstructure, although that unity probably made it a more secure a structure — with more obvious action.
According to Garrett, the Eastfield College Instructor is a member of several collaborative art groups, a curator and writer "Interested in the area's utilitarian reference of the figure, cultural propaganda, and the seduction of violence. The work also presents a surface treatment of gunpowder-burned patterns derived from a decorative rifle breech." I saw and appreciated the patterns but entirely missed their explosive reference.
I have repeatedly been a fan of Richards' work, each succeeding example of which seems to be in a different medium. His 2010 Ro2-sponsored performance on Tyler Street, Ergonomics of Futility, was exquisite. His aggregate of small paintings at 500X in 2007 were worthy of note.
The three artists with whose work I am still
not familiar are those whose art may still be educating me.
Monica Ugartechea The Performance
of Little Joe 2012
video installation with projector, wood, Plexiglas dimensions variable
Even I can see that as these projected moving male images transluce the six Plex sheets in its path, they distort and dissolve, effectively contra informing simultaneity in service to time. It should be noted that this piece was placed in a darkened alcove facing away from the front of the gallery — and the student center beyond. And over the gallery-sitter desk opposite Ryder Richards' piece was a sign warning of Adult material. I assume for plausible deniability against those who equate naked humans with evil.
I stared at and studied this piece often, and although I still don't get it, I realize that one of the more subtle yet important purposes of art is to teach. Again, I quote Garrett's publicity:
"Born in Laredo, Texas, Monica Ugartechea is currently pursuing undergraduate degrees at the University of North Texas in New Media and Sculpture with a minor in LGBT Studies. She explores the "landscape of constructed normativities, Ethnocentrism, and privilege through various mediums such as performance, sculpture and film.
"For this exhibition, she presents a video installation that calls to mind both the motion studies of Edweard Muybridge and the natural health and body-building cultures of Mid-Century America."
When it became clear, even to me, that I did not understand this piece, Randall explained by relating an anecdote Monica Ugartechea shared with him at the opening:
"She said that two young men in athletic gear, fresh from the gym, walked in to the reception, and when they saw her video piece, one replied to the other, "We've got bigger d--ks than that." She laughed and said they could almost have been performers, for so ably demonstrating the idea behind the work — the cultural obsession with body comparisons."
Nickey Tavares At the Zoo with Mommy Scene 1 2013
35mm slide collage, LED light cube and magnifier 2 x 2 inches (larger than life)
Three 2 x 2-inch pieces are widely spaced on an otherwise ordinary, though dark wall centrally-equipped with a metal-cradled magnifying glass.
"Nicky Tavares is a multimedia artist whose work spans from experimental documentary to handmade film to installation and sculpture. She has shown work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Lincoln Center, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and at numerous film festivals nationwide. She is currently a lecturer at SMU.
By making her images physically smaller, Tavares' work becomes
more involving. They pull us closer into its superimposed details,
and she burns those tiny messages, mixed though they may be, into our consciousness.
I liked looking, but I might have liked understanding even more.
Magnifier on wall by Nickey Tavares' 35mm slide collages
As different as are these last three pieces, there are similarities. Mom here, Little Joe, and the figure of the beaten husband with his hand extended above its head in anguished defeat in Ryder Richards' Sabine piece are all bright, superimposed and literally floating. Jeff Gibbons' oranges; Val Curry's and Robert Reedy's repurposed Starbucks refuse; Ryder Richard's Conflagration; and Nickey Tavares' tiny human landscapes are all, in one sense or another, compressed; while Monica Ugartechea's expand. And the colors in all the pieces but Alison Starr's and Michael Morris' are somewhat subdued.
Which more than accounts for all but one, rather more subtle piece in this pristine show.
Curator Randall Garrett says of the 2010 University
of Illinois-Chicago MFA Graduate Michael Morris, who shows at
Oliver Francis Gallery in Dallas and is a programmer of experimental video at
Dallas VideoFest, "His recent work has moved
toward two not-completely separate points of focus: essayistic works in film
and video that mine accumulations of meaning attached to objects, sites and experiences,
and performative works that initiate hybrid situations where an act of interpretation
occurs between technologies. Both tendencies question the evolving understanding
of cinematic reception."
Detail of Val Curry and Robert Reedy's One Day
I don't yet know what that means. I get lost in the meanings and media transitions. But maybe I can parse some of it out, or maybe extrapolate.
Cyanotypes are easily-made darkroom prints that are usually blue. Cyan is one of the so-called process colors which comprise all visible film and printed images. Adhering cyan emulsion to 16mm film sounds like a labor-intensive feat, which essentially involves physically attaching a substance usually used to manifest images to instead show texture and color, which in this case, actually are imagery.
Copying that projected film to video renders yet another layer of abstraction from any original imagery, however it is captured. In the video we see over Curry & Reedy's One Day, and in that "picture" we perceive a rectangle of pretty colors and textures in apparent motion.
When I could think of it at all, I thought of it as an abstraction of an abstraction of several other abstractions, and I liked it for all that and its multiplicity of simplicities, but at least partially because it was already an abstraction twice removed, I failed to track down its inherent beauty or intelligence and instead photographed it only as happenstance background for the other pieces of repurposed mediums.
UTD in the Dark used to follow this story, then I reorganized
these stories, so now it's down there.
UTD in the Dark
Anna and I attended the show curated by Randall Garrett I've been wanting to write about at El Centro College downtown, and I got plenty pix of art and the joy of experiencing and photographing Alison Starr's very special performance by Tol Hey there, but we also encountered a friend who suggested we attend the also-opening show that night at UTD. But won't that take forever just to get there? I asked and was answered, no, there's time enough before the opening closes.
It did seem to take forever, but we were
up 17.8 miles in just under a half hour about as fast as I cared to drive in
Friday night traffic on Central Expressway, and that felt like time travel,
Anna helping me stay in the lanes and turn which way when, and we were sudden
in the middle of the low white metropolis of one-way-streets called UTD, I sighted
the tower, hove toward it, settled in a little, unrestricted lot almost too close
to the art barn, and we were warm and inside in less than a minute,
with plenty to go of the opening, although as a bonus, the gallery was clearing
of everybody but teachers, most of whom I've known for decades.
Val Curry Seven Sides; Two Stories; One of Many Shapes in the Dark
Our target show was layered with rime, reason and blazing illumination, but thin on beauty, serenity or stand-and-stare-and-think. Sensing my quavering ignorance while enjoying watching one video image build and grow on the far side of the vaulted room, Curator and 25-year UTD vet Marilyn Walligore soaked me verbally with intellectual stratifications till I nearly fell over backwards from the weight of nada data. And, as often happens with me and stress in schools, I headed for the nearest studio hoping for visual relief or a spark of ingenuity. And the merciful dark provided.
As I walked into the gathering darknesses, odd treasures I could never have imagined appeared, and when I tried photographing them, they gathered even more light and focus than I could see or feel, till I realized I'd slipped into to Adventure Mode, though still mostly reality. So I went back out into the light to invite Anna in to the darkest deep to discover more quirky treasures, and we all but disappeared for twenty- thirty minutes, and these — photographically, at least — are the best of our visions.
Fergal Purcell The Nihilistic Institute for Collective Individualism 2013
This And Other Scenes in this story were way darker than they appear here, or you couldn't see them here.
I've always loved that art barn though I've seen it in better repair, and I was never sure tunneling back into the blackness around and through underlit space, whether those class and workspace rooms were in current use or long since abandoned. Right Brains once thrived in the non-rectilinear spaces created by that unusual, unconventional and unorthodox space featured in their early "Prairie Flower" promo and posters calling UTD's then-fledgling Art Department "the Black Mountain College of the West," but its unconventional places have always seemed destined for destruction, never perhaps more so than now, as classrooms are moved into a nearby building with such niceties as parallel walls, uniform rectilinearity and seniority offices.
It's easy to call it a creative space, when I don't have to deal with its off-kilter realities, of which there must be many, judging from our dark journey, and although its usefulness as a large, open-space gallery continues, I keep imagining the administration at long last finally getting to blow the silly thing up.
Suzanna Brooks Under-the-Sea Lights 2013 recycled objects 67 inches high
Access available via a variety of entrance/exits beyond the periphery of the large gallery, in that always amazing, yet still simmering controversial, rambling barn that soon as it was raised, the upper wigs of UTD wanted it gone, because it was different and didn't fit in, and that's still the thing, only now the art folks wants their new offices in the much more ordinary UTD spaces and lovely rectangulars. I wasn't thinking of all that till after these pictures, I just felt need to retreat into the deep and dank negative space. Then together we burrowed deeper and darker into our quiet mystery tour, and we disappeared for a half hour or so, making our own discoveries, including these.
Little Friedrich Nietzsche Spin-a-Spin-Spin over the Dark Soft Landscape: Strange things done without a sun in tiny tableaux I wondered was maybe all a fantasy. Nietzsche dolls dangling in space sideways and darkness all around, all around.
Some Recognizable Shapes
These perhaps-abandoned, maybe on-going art projects, spaces, tools, rooms and places — several transitional temporary rooms of Friedrich Nietzsche sense and nonsense, all in blackness, never a light switch in sight, a rapture of dark places the light of day touches maybe a couple times a week, but when we found it, anything but empty, it took a long time to see at all, and many of the objects floating in the miasmas only turned light in my camera I'm amazed even focused.
The Dark Farback Room with a View into the Outside at Night
My favorite room, back though the dark and around and back through several dark corners and night. Were these spaces just yesterday buzzing with students learning and making fun and having it, learning about Nihilism? I don't know. Don't really deeply care. Lost like an abandoned world of crisp architectural shapes in the black. I'd point my trusty art camera into the shadow of a shadow of the memory of light, click, and it would return a phantasm I wondered whose was.
Cynthia Saathoff Jonathon 2013 oil on textured panel 18 x 20 inches
Portrait of a Tall Guy: This was one of a set of self-portraits, standard early assignment in learning or doing art classes lined against one twilight interior space. Students last week, last month, forever ago or soon. Got decent focus all but some ruined by errant light splatter, but this self-assured piece stood out for its confidence and color splashes, yet shadowy nonetheless. All very painterly S-Ps of students learning by doing who they are.
I kept being surprised when my camera snatched the light out of that shadowy veil of shade. A ballpoint pen tatted baseball, tactile a thing even in shadows so dark.
Powder Wall Spine: Anna pointed me to this, too. I don't know what it is any more than I know why Nietzsche dolls spin sideways in a translucent plastic room floating in the bleakness of auditoria in the dull but comprehensible darkness. Anna called it a spine, and I'd have to agree in our mutual journey of little discoveries in the dark. Love the spinning black rain of it.
Big Pink Bag
I'd already been minutes in there when I rejoined Anna into it, and she pointed me at places and spaces I'd barely noticed, of treasured objects of craft and texture and color standing display in the eclipsed nightfall, step-carefully-through-here places with so little light there only was some to a sensitive sensor in the dark yet lush.
Vivid Sink with Flashlight Light
Aha! A sudden splash of light and even color, Anna pointed me to this amazing colorful lowscape. She knew I'd like it. Then as we both absorbed into its lower canyon box, she set it afire with her flash light.
Above it this indecipherable message stronger than any in the bright gallery beyond. The message is the medium unto murk.
C Minus for a list of words whose painting was long lost in the gloaming.
Guts & Glory
Headless bodies abound in the shadowland where drawing faces is never easy.
Howdy Skeleton With Flashlight Shadow
Anna's flashlight adds a starring shadow and most of a small-scale skeleton shuffles into a soft-shoe song and dance among the shadows.
Freed From The Form
Then there's a head.
Dollheads Go Everywhere
And writhing fuselages in the dimness.
Robin Myrick Welcome Center 2013
I originally titled this photograph, "Portal Back Into The Light," but it turned out to have been an art piece, so that's its caption now. It had been "partially taken down when [I] roamed through, the artist said in an email, "but [I] got the essential feature : )" Myrick also told me, "Most of the stuff in that room (the old painting room at the art barn) was part of a collaborative installation called B Space, overseen by Greg Metz [one of those teachers I've known for decades]. What you experienced was the desolate aftermath of it, and you captured that beautifully."
I didn't make this stuff up, never saw it before, don't need to go back and find it again. I love exploring dark and empty spaces where art was made, or not — a thousand years ago I used to explore tornado-thrashed buildings in downtown Topeka after a major twister laid it low, just before my free, all-expenses-paid trip to Viet Nam. Doing the same sort of exploring in colleges near and far is part of how I've discovered many talented young artists. Tim Harding comes to mind, from wanderings in the studios and spaces at TCU when I got bored with Art In the Metroplex and SMU when friends went there and I was killing time waiting.
If the artists of these objects will contact me via the latest info on the Contact Page, I'll be happy to
post title, year date, medium and size of your work in the text below your object. — The Editor
Two Spoons & A Bowl of Ice
Back in the gallery for a snack before we drove 23 miles home, I watched one of the women working the snack table leaning against a door to the right behind the refreshments, stride out and over to the bowl, carefully adjust the two spoons, like hands on a Lincoln Clock, separate and pointing away, into this form, then went back to her place by the door, and I was precise to replace them exactly where she'd put them. Perfect.
If the artists of these objects will contact
me via the latest info on the Contact Page,
I'll be happy to
post title, year date, medium and size of your work in the text below your object. — The Editor
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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