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Stories by Michael Helsem

down ON THIS PAGE: Trifles  +  Glass As  +  Chips

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new Noseblind in Gaza

Jill Parr – 1948 - 2012

I Have Staved Off Disaster for Another Day - Calatrava and the Little Blue Toy Bridge and John Adelman at Holly Johnson

The Drama of Discontinuous Space - Christopher Schade at Conduit and Rusty Scruby at Pan-American

In the Garden of Acidulous Flowers - Steven Hull at Conduit

In Constellated Dreams - Nancy Rebal at Craighead Green

The Unforseeable End - Lorena Tinajero at Decorazon

How to Paint

Autotelic Salsa - the 2005 New Texas Talent show at Craighead Green

Schooled for Magic - school children's and other art at the African American Museum

Orange & White & Compound Eyes - Terrell James at Gerald Peters, the TVAA show, Rusty Scruby and Janet Tyson at Pan American

Kali + Macaroons

Moonbase Alpha - South Side on Lamar

Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops at the Biblical Arts Center in NorthPark

Colloquy of Colors - Art in Haute Cliff and Oak Lawn

Speke, Parrott - The Artists' Showcase

Plunging Into the Darkness - Jack Mims' Black Maps at The MAC

Gesture of a Fate - Connie Connolly at Craighead-Green

Cutesy-Sinister Assemblage, Angst Domesticated, Art School Foolery, Ode to Cadmium Red + Bank Lobby Modernism - at Craighead-Green and Cidnee Patrick

Wild Garage Muses - The Webb Collection at The MAC

See also some feedback by artists Michael has reviewed:

Positive feedback from Cathy Miller & A teapot tempest from others.



photo from the website linked below

I sometimes run across live piano playing at NorthPark, so i suppose i shouldn't have been surprised to find there a lifesize effigy of one in shiny white marble &, reclining across it like Michelle Pfeiffer, a meticulously rendered marble "babe."

Aside from the hair (which looked like a bad wig) it wasn't altogether a waste of two & a half years of grinding & polishing this intractable stuff, though i was reminded more of Jeff Koons than of Michelangelo — with whom the artist, one Francisco Sotomayor of Colorado Springs, rashly invokes comparisons as he hands out the leftover chips.

His sculpture, American Woman (sans irony — i guess he never heard of The Guess Who), is touring the country at malls like this one. He says it's already been seen by more people than "all the museums in Texas."

I did not have the heart to tell him that sculpture, being the most earthbound of arts, absolutely has to have a touch of poetry, a spark of transcendence, else its maker has only served to clutter a cluttered world further.

I doubt he will hear it at his next stop, either.


. . . . .   Trifles   . . . . .

by Michael Helsem
Photographs by JR Compton

Chuck and George

The Sad Day the Toys were Sent Away by Chuck & George


A group show is like a box of chocolates. There's always going to be some you don't like; & nothing can keep you from finishing the whole thing.

I had high hopes for Island of Lost Toys at Gray Matters (closed earlier this month). Toys are one of our last holds on the numinous, & after a long diet of numbingly appropriated religious kitsch, perhaps my contemporaries would be able to find fresh juju there.

Gray Matters itself, though by now far from the brash newcomer i remember it as, somehow has managed to preserve a house style (hip cuteness?); & this also seemed fitting. Alas, i did not even find the show as diverting as a stroll through a well stocked Sanrio quartier.


Only two works stood out. The Sad Day the Toys were Sent Away by Chuck & George (not their real names, i understand) shows a desolate drab landscape with a Dallas skyline on the horizon & in the foreground two slightly misshapen kids, clutching a fence that kept them away from presumably an enticing dump full of broken toys.

Its uneasy mix of sentimentality & irony (one can only imagine the two protagonists as time-warped self portraits) hinted at larger issues without bringing into focus an actual situation (are we living in the ruins, or are they lost to us?). But i liked the quasi-Lynchean mood it evoked.


The other one wasn't particularly profound, but so well made i could almost believe it came off the shelf. Randy Reiger's American Mars is a game box with a colorful lid design, a spaceman doll & a small pile of reddish rocks. That's all. While a reductio ad absurdum of manned space travel, it also suggests a sinister possibility, since "breaking rocks" is the traditional occupation of chain-gang prisoners in old movies...


I've only been sporadically returning to 500X of late, & probably have missed a lot of good stuff, but it's funny how no matter how the personnel changes (& i imagine a hundred artists have passed through here since i've been following it) there's always going to be many of the same ideas in any given group show.


Tape Heston

Kyle Wadsworth - untitled mural
(Chuck Conners as John Egan in
Arrest and Trial, 1963
in New Mexican landscape
pink insulation tape


toy soldiers

Brennen Bechtol - Not So Fast There, 2004
plastic, paint and ink


It's like the space itself dictates that, as in the case of February's, there will be a portrait of Charlton Heston on the wall, executed in pink duct tape; & elsewhere, someone will have filled a tabletop with toy soldiers.


Baseera K Khan - The Second One, 2004
marker on wall

Upstairs, a vaguely handgrenadelike shape is drawn with tiny squiggles.

I find myself longing for some object with even as much physical presence as the heavy, rust caked, steel front door, which swings easily on delicately balanced hinges, yet closes with a dreadful, echoing clang — a sound that belongs to one of Poe's feverish insomniacs, not these etiolated & self-involved epigones.

500X Door

the door at 500X


Detail of MADI Museum façade

The MADI* Museum, on the other hand, surprised me with not only a new venue (it's less than a year old) but an "international art movement" i had never even heard of.

Started in South America half a century ago, its characteristics—bright colors, geometric shapes—do not strongly suggest any particular programmatic intent, or perhaps (& this seems to be the case, judging from a pamphlet in which its founder, Carmelo Arden Quin, is cited proposing "abstract forms that Peronists could not twist into government propaganda") the actual avoidance of one.


from the MADI website

Unlike Op Art of the Sixties, which many of these pieces resemble, MADI art & artists are very much a thing of the present day. For example, Lorenzo Piemanti's 'Madi' TR454 (above) is dated 1994.

I thought this piece, composed largely of horiontal wooden bars in two or three shades of middle green, quite the most subtle & suggestive of the show. After you stare at it a bit, shifting illusions arise in your peripheral vision. It creates a feeling like the first night spent in a strange house: mildly unsettling, unidentifiable sounds (or in this case, flickers) that are never distinct but impossible to entirely ignore.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, on the other hand, opts for an all-out visual assault. His principal weapon is narrow, subtly modulated stripes, each diagonally divided into two colors; the resultant eye-watering is worthy of Bridget Riley.

These paintings are hard to look at, but they command the room. Another op-artist, Jesus Rafael Soto, makes use of interference patterns in a strikingly elegant simplicity.

I rested my sight at Ines Silva's Eclipica, perhaps the most playful piece — & one that might have figured in the Toys show. Half spaceship, half enigmatic diagram, it did not rely so much on the insistent materiality that seeing a large number of geometric works at one time makes finally tedious. As i left, Volf Roitman's What is MADI? 2, activated by my passage, opened like a ponderous & sterile bloom.

02 08 04

(*MADI either stands for Movimiento Artistico
De Invencion, MAterialismo DIalectismo, or
carMelo ArDen quIn)


. . . . .   Glass As   . . . . .

Glass as an art medium has only lately escaped the realm of the decorative-functional. Its aesthetic, invariably, is the Beautiful rather than the Sublime. Which is not to say, for example, that great music cannot be written for the harpsichord. You have to adjust your listening.

I went to the 11th Annual Scent Bottle Invitational at the Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass gallery (in The Village On The Parkway shopping center) primarily because Melanie was hoping to see some vintage perfume bottles.

In that we were disappointed. But the show, & the gallery's permanent collection, (or merchandise), though not without its share of the merely exquisite, surprised with the range of techniques & sensibilities sampled. There were necklaces & earrings, but also glass sea-anemones & glass guitars; humorous works, & pieces that incorporated holograms.Three artists in particular brought me back for a second look.

Working in what might be called the "crystal ball" tradition, Jak Brewer fashions roundish objects lit from within, with fascinatingly intricate textures that invite deep scrutiny.

Susan Gott, almost alone in this group, adds a contemporary Folk Art feel to her curiously monumental, small statue-like abstract images, rough in texture & redolent of myth like translucent Clyde Connells.

And the scary-funny entities of Patrick Morrissey, halfway between giant bugs, exotic orchids & deep sea fish, exist in a class all their own. With these he out-Chihulys Chihuly & i think that glass, for once, starts to touch the Sublime. They look like they are about to jump up & gobble some of their nearer neighbors. I'm not sure there shouldn't be a cage around them.

02 17 04 


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