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Autotelic Salsa
Story by Michael Helsem
Photographs by J R Compton

John Hathorn - Letter to Rubens - oil on canvas - 82 x 78 inches (detail)

John Hathorn - Letter to Rubens - oil on canvas - 82 x 78 inches (detail)

A casual interloper would have no trouble deciding the art of the salsa is more highly developed among us than the art of painting. (A certain velvety-smoky one i tasted in New Mexico, of a miraculous poignancy, still brings tears to my eyes just to think of it. It took three civilizations to make that salsa.)

Nevertheless it was paintings and not salsa i was seeking when i wandered industrial desolate lanes, in the “Design District,” on a steamy weekday afternoon. Twice before i’d gone looking. This time i found them.

Just emerging into luxurious interior space after heat and dust and neglect is frisson enough (needs a name; call it “frabjous”) though familiar also (whole cities are constructed on the idea) that i wanted not to pretend i belonged or could remain here, contained within four corners of meaningfulness at a time. But nothing i saw addressed that particular velleity.

John Hathorn - Letter to Rubens - oil on canvas - 82 x 78 inches (detail)

John Hathorn - Letter to Rubens (detail)

New Texas Talent XII (at Craighead-Green) is a pretty innocuous show, though diverse and at times engaging. I paused by the twin, mostly Prussian blue miniatures by Carolyn Zacharias McAdams. Their pert melancholy lingered on into the next room.

Editor's Note: McAdams and Sales are C-G gallery artists whose work was not actually in the New Texas Talent show, just in the gallery with them. And yes, it was confusing determining which was which.

An unexpectedly dark Susan Sales, Expert Witness, combines the mastery of an achieved style with the exuberance of a personal breakthrough, its lyric texture rife with almost-spatial illusions. I did have to wonder after this if it was possible to do anything more with squeegee painting.

By way of contrast the other large, dominating work in the show is John Hathorn’s Letter to Rubens simply a glorious mess. Parts of it are brilliant, parts terrible, and some parts just gave up and went somewhere else. You keep wanting it to make more sense, but you can’t look away... Transgression seldom goes with so light a tread.

Gregory Bergeron - Metropolis - mixed media - 24 x 48 x 4 inches

At last i was drawn back to Metropolis, by Gregory Bergeron. It’s a folkish sort of painted wood construction, uneasily rectilinear and a bit too tidy to be truly outsider. But it strongly exudes an air of autotelic order, like a solitary lighthouse in a storm. It didn’t ask to be here. I can imagine Robinson Crusoe, or maybe Hiroo Onoda, building this. And feeling very peaceful when he was done.

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