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UnDO Index

unDO Column #3:

Deja Vus, Skewed Views,
3
-D Oohs & the Muse

Jay Silber - Jumbo; Head Monkey; Bought the Farm - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Jay Silber - Jimbo; Head Monkey; Bought the Farm
steel - 24 x 24 inches — See more info below.

 

A too-busy week. Five art shows, two lectures, a panel discussion, a garage picnic and sculpture tour, one new gallery opening, and two shows I've yet to catch up with. I remember some of it.

Indented text indicates either critical opinions
or a speakers' own words.

 

blue dot  Off The Wall opening at Haley-Henman Wednesday night September 17 2008 with work by Jason LaJudice, Kelli Howie, Silvia Thornton, Cynthia Daniel, Keith Livingston, Brad Abrams, Laura Walters Abrams, Jerry Dodd, Nan Phillips, Mirtha Aertker, Cassandra Fink, Carolann Haggard, Valery Guignon, Gisela-Heidi Strunck, Jay Silber, Annelies Christain, and Chris Blackhurst and curated byHaley-Henmann co director John Marcucci and Dallas sculptor Eliseo Garcia:
 

The title is an elderly standby that keeps coming back. Like much of the work in it we'd seen before. Nothing wrong with that, just disconcerting to go to a pristine art opening and find we already knew a lot of the art, like greeting old friends. I remembered photographing a bug on Laura Abram's Water Lilly at the Bath House last summer, and I spent too much time trying to remember where I'd seen other pieces. It's a fool's game, of course, but once it starts, it's hard to end it. After awhile, everything in the show looks too familiar.

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Laura Abrams - Water Lilly - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Laura Abrams - Water Lilly, 2008
welded found metal, painted
26 x 31 x 7.5 inches

 

Curated by John Marcucci and Eliseo Garcia, Off The Wall coincided with several painting shows already on the Haley-Henman walls. One set, of three, up to 96-inch long brushed and lacquered aluminum rectangular pieces on the wall looked like chromed, vacu-formed Karl Umlaufs, only shiny and new. I'm not sure if they only looked 3D thanks to more contemporary optical delusions, or if they really were, but the deja vu sensation sustained.

Valery Guignon - Glass Dot Mobile - courtesy Haley-Henman

Valery Guignon - Glass Dot Mobile
steel and glass - 84 x 54 x 54 inches
image courtesy Haley-Henman Gallery

 

We were also enchanted by one amazing piece by Valery Guignon that we had to touch and feel and watch and stand in reach of for a long time, see how it all interlocked out from itself. Kept coming back to that delicately balancing, branching nexus of extensible motion, and liked being in its vicinity.

Brad Abrams - White Rose - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Brad Abrams - White Rose, 2008
fused glass, metal - 26 x 31 x 7.5 inches

 

We were likewise affected by Brad Abram's large undulating wheel of white fused glass standing on another one of his strong iron stands in the front gallery's window. I remember thinking while I was still in awe of this beautiful chunk of glass, that Brad's work has always been pretty and often interesting, but now that his work has gone nearly entirely abstract, and without the traditional glass crafts frills and cute textures, he had finally found his way.

And those stands are as much about metal doing metal's job as his cast or slumped or fused glass does its. He's just not getting in its way any more. Move over Tom & Frances, here comes Brad and Laura.

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Jay Silber - Jimbo; Head Monkey; Bought the Farm - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Jay Silber - Jimbo; Head Monkey; Bought the Farm
steel - 24 x 24 inches — See full-sized image above.

 

A piece that boggled my brain at the opening, so I didn't know what to think about it, but I now look back upon as just amazing is this strong, delicate, curvilinear, solid, enigmatic, elegant piece that defies my experience and expectations.

I don't think I've ever seen anything like it, and I wouldn't know where to start comparing it or what to, although it is remarkably unlike Valery Guignon's Glass Dot Mobile [above]. A sox-knocker, I even like the shadows. I haven't discovered anything about it I don't like, though I assume it's expensive. It should be.

Also showing was Carolann Haggard's Monolith that I just knew was a Middle-Period Jesus Moroles that was just a little rough around the edges. It wasn't. But it still looks like one. A lot. Talk about deja vu flippin' back on you.

Chris Blackhurst - Time II: Platonic Solid Series

Chris Blackhurst - Time II: Platonic Solid Series - earthenware, sand, paint, medium
density fiber (MDF) board, steel, Masonite — four of five pieces, 70 x 29 x 36 inches each
 

The description on the pricelist goes on and on. Four trapezoidal white sandboxes standing at adult waist-level on white risers, and boxes scattered with geometric shapes to play with and leave imprints in the white sand.

I remember Frances Bagley's sandbox at 500X a million years ago (early 1980s) for the same purposes. Hers was smaller, mounted on the wall, also included pieces to play with and leave impressions. This new one is more an extended toy than sculpture but impressive looking at first.

Another visually fascinating interactive concept retro-activated.

Our story now wanders from the Dallas-based
Texas Sculpture Association for a few paragraphs,
but we were never far from sculpture.

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blue dot  CADD ARTLAB had their "top secret" invitational opening of Indexing the Moment Thursday September 18 and their public opening all day Saturday September 20 featuring work by Ted Kincaid, Kristen Lucas, Kenda North, Brent Ozaeta, Ludwig Schwarz, Allison V. "and many more," like they don't even know who all they're showing.

CADD interior - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

CADD ArtLab "Top Secret" opening two days before the public one
 

There wasn't much visual consistency through the event, although the flat work aligned along the middles of every piece. My favorites were sculpture. We watched glittered video on the monitors in front of the little crowd in the right in this photo, but even looking now at this image, I don't remember any of the flat pieces on any wall.

Ted Larsen - Transit - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ted Larsen - Transit, 2007 - mixed media - 8 x 20 x 22 inches - PanAmerican ArtProjects
 

The mezzanine in back had scribbly little drawings and this, which held our attention as we talked with friends. It reminded a little of Valery Guignon's angular mobile [above] at Haley-Henman. Mostly for its angles and simple construction. Nothing here moved, but it looked like it might.

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Miter - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Miter or Miter Not
 

Outside, this impromptu contemp archi tech reminded about what's really art and what couldn't possibly be. This could but probably wasn't.

Rusty Scruby

Rusty Scruby
 

And this is. Anna and I both liked Rusty Scruby's tall all-white piece woven of 3-D corners — not photographs — that dominate the space downstairs, but it was oddly hung, awkwardly placed and looked better than these photos show.

Still, it's an in-joke on three-dimensionality. An flat curtain made out of corners.

Vince & Martha Smiles - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Rusty Scruby Piece with Vincent & Martha Falsetta Smiles
 

Here's a detail with smiles by Conduit artist Vincent and his wife Martha, Falsetta. Visiting friends is what attending art openings is about.

CADD Window Sculpture - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Unidentified Contemporary Sculpture in the Front Window
 

This is out front with the valet parkers — we parked in Neiman's one street over and at time to pay, they asked if we'd attended the opening, "yes." They comped us. We don't like valet. — was this unidentified piece I liked as much for its modern lines — not sure it's contemporary — as for its reflections of the street scene outside.

CADD Cabbage - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

CADD Cabbage

But what I remember most were the exotic flowers on the bars.

Red Callas & Gold Lillies - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

CADD Lillies

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From the flyers on the table, CADD's new building's most important project is to rent itself out. And I quote:

"CADD Art Lab was designed to enrich the community with artistic and cultural knowledge and open Downtown Dallas to more opportunity. Our mission is to integrate patrons of Dallas with their downtown by means of educating the public on art related issues, but also [to] serve as a venue. CADD Event Venue is ideal for hosting a reception in the heart of the cultural downtown Dallas. Neighbors, such as the flagship Neiman Marcus and the enchanting Joule Hotel echo the quality space we have to offer."

Prices vary by day of the week and season. Autumn, spring and weekend dates are much more expensive. I did not see any notices for upcoming art education events, but by then we were eager to get on to the next venue.

 

blue dot  OD on Sculpture at Oldfield Davis Thursday night September 18 with work by Brad Abrams, Laura Abrams, Andrew Bachenheimer, Elizabeth "Sissy" Bingham, Jessica Burnham-Hinton, Diana Chase, Annalies Christian, Adriana Cobo-Frenkel, Karen Garrett, Valery Guignon, Carolann Haggard, Deana Hinchcliff, Jason LaJudice, Keith Livingston, Marilyn Parrish, Nan Phillips, David Randolph, Giesela-Heidi Strunck, Silvia Frazier Thornton and Dottie Julie Pitman Whiplash:

Laura Abrams - Cosmic Dance

Laura Abrams - Cosmic Dance — steel vs. steel
 

OD was too true to its title. Were some lovely gems but many were awkwardly placed or less than carefully attended. More like a fun, go-for-it member show that members were enjoying fully, than anything presented for critique.

We've been fans of Laura Abrams' work wherever we find it, but this placement is dismal and not thought — or seen — through. Tone merger's what we call coincident objects sharing the same tones, so adjacent objects seem joined. Often happens with dark hair and dark backgrounds. Here I've Photoshopped the image, so we can see the sculpture for the girder. But there in the gallery, the juxtaposition was annoying. Did no one notice or care?

Another Abrams piece we keep seeing, Morning Star Flower competes heavily with a derivative painting of a grove of round trees on an orange sky. Dark sculpture plunked in front of the hinged-panel painting, thematically related, I suppose, but not visually. Sculpture should be easy to see, not just tacked on.

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Diana Chase - Fourth Wave - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Diana Chase - Fourth Wave - fused and slumped glass
 

I've been following Diana Chase's Wave series with fascination. Light and shadow are important to show these breaking waves suspended in all their bubbling liquid color. Because they are translucent, light through enlivens them, but here the top-light distracts, and the shadow is interrupted by a crooked I.D tag, as if whoever put it there hadn't a visual clue. Light it at an angle where most of it goes through the piece and move that tag away, so viewers have room to think.

Brad Abrams - Two Fishies Playing - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Brad Abrams - Two Fishies Playing - cast glass (detail)
 

I didn't mind these striped gleaming gold fishies hanging against striped — barred — background when I saw them in the gallery, where I so enjoyed the jumping fishies flashing in an imaginary sun, but now I can't see the fish for the river of bars and lines. A matter of interest and momentary focus.

OD didn't seem curated or placed, more thrown. Mixed bag with a lot of work that might not have got in a juried show, though almost everything was better than the paintings already on the walls.


blue dot  Revisiting Laray Polk - Gaza Zoo installation at The MAC

Laray Polk - Detail from Gaza Zoo - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Laray Polk - page detail from Gaza Zoo installation at The MAC
 

In the neighborhood, we wandered back through The MAC to give Laray Polk's big graphics another chance, and I came away with more appreciation for single frames and their meanings around and about seeing and sensing, but still a little disoriented. That much text, but an elusive unity of message. It was being more and more like a big book, the parts of which were often fascinating. A field unified by muted colors and odd old pictures. A picture book with some great pages is usually plenty. I look forward to seeing more of her books on walls.

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We skipped openings at Craighead Green and Gerald Peters next door on Dragon Street to drive to Fort Worth, have seafood dinner at our Flying Fish favorite and see what we might find at Art in the Metroplex but should have stayed in Dallas.

For a more robust and illustrated explanation of that statement, check out the much more recent CG + GP Addendum to unDO#3(b).

James Michael Starr - Swift Tuttle & Associates - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

James Michael Starr - Swift Tuttle & Associates, 2008
60 x 48 inches
Slight review [below].
 

blue dot  The Artist's Opening for Art in the Metroplex at TCU's J.M. Moudy Building in Fort Worth Friday September 19 included work by Paul Abbott, Samuel Beck, Lou Chapman, J R Compton, Matthew Cusick, Mark Doerfler, Ann Ekstrom, Steve Fisch, Jon Flaming, Jacque Forsher, Paul Harris, Sharon Jacobus, Lola Kantor, Norman Kary, Richard Lane, Susan Lecky, Patrick Lewis, Frank Lopez, Sara Lovas, Roma Misra, John C. Moore, Jan Partin, Nathan Porterfield, Don Radke, Teresa Rafidi, Eddy Rawlinson, Jason Reynaga, Matt Sacks, Joel Sampson, Diane Sikes, Libby Slone, Jerry Smith, James Michael Starr and Sarah Tune, as curated by Art in America Contributing Editor ('course that doesn't mean she actually edits or directs anything there, just that she's a freelance writer for them.), Eleanor Heartney.
 

Big disappointment, and I'm in it. Nor was I the only exhibiting artist embarrassed by being in such a clunker. At least we know whom to blame. The curator, who spoke at the artist's opening — two weeks after the just plain opening that coincided with the Fort Worth Art Dealers Association Fall Gallery 'Walk' — thoroughly confused artists who wanted to attend the real reception.

Paatrick Lewis - True Stories - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Patrick Lewis - True Stories, 2008
acrylic on canvas

 

In years past, what I like calling the AiM Show — though it's never officially called that — invited the artists, and the artists only — no boy- or girlfriends, husbands or wives, for an afternoon including lunch at the cafeteria across campus and a private audience with the curator. Now we're scuttled into a smallish auditorium that wouldn't even hold the 70+ of us. It was SRO as it's often been, even when they used the big auditorium a few more steps down the hall.

This artists' opening comprised simply the reception and Heartney's long lecture. I was so bored I walked out, briefly toured the campus, further explored the show and took more photos. After I wandered back in, she spoke briefly about some of the work and how it fit neatly into her "new" categorizations of art. I never expect mine to coincide with another critic's opinions, but to hers I was opposed.

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Susan Lecky - A Bouquet of Silent Echoes - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Susan Lecky - A Bouquet of Silent Echoes — (extreme detail), 2008
acrylic on canvas

 

These last two pieces were on in-facing walls either side of the path into the gallery. We thought their placement wry. You can see full-size pieces of Susan Lecky's work on her Member Page, but I've always wanted to present close-up detail of her work, so you can see the gritty nitty of pure paint, scratchy graphite and canvas.

In many ways, it is similar in style and presentation with Patrick Lewis' True Stories just above. Lecky's is larger thus perhaps more commanding, but we were impressed by Lewis' update of the too many stripes we've seen in the past half dozen years. He's given them mass and texture and individuation in ways remarkably similar to Lecky's.
 

As Heartney ranted her book a mile a minute waving her notes in the air, she covered topics I knew deep down. But from where? I kept wondering how I knew, seemed like since forever, because I don't read other critics. Eventually I realized nearly everything she said had been covered in more fascinating detail during a series of lectures here in the early 1990s sponsored by DARE. I.e., almost all of the research she'd uncovered via her uncannily bad questions to herself after each chapter had been widely understood more than 17 years ago.

Her prize choices were similarly outdated, though I liked that she awarded James Michael $500. His piece, at the top [above] is, as usual, expressive and enigmatic, although the pieces of it were mounted too tight. Who doesn't know that the shadows shouldn't overlap pieces?

Others of her choices, however, were just weird.

Sara Lovas - You Are Here - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sarah Lovas - You Are Here, 2006
steel, enamel, wood, yarn, acrylic, polymer clay

 

As I'd explained to some artists before the lecture — who had asked my take on the show, the juror selected an abundance of photographs, which were lined up across walls but not well lighted, and an under abundance of stand-alone sculpture. Others enjoyed the big, 'chair' piece with a plumb bob hanging from the ceiling, but there wasn't enough in any realm I could grab on to.

Samuel Beck - Bury (detail) - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Samuel Beck - Bury - mixed media, 2008 (detail)
 

I wasn't sure they even were sculpture. One might have been. It looked like an old lawn mower with too many parts.

This one involved an old dining room chair, one of whose legs had a shovel attached while a ersatz bat with black-wrapped grip leans against the seat and back. The chair sat atop a four-inch thick dark, muddy brown platform with a recession in one corner and was supported by four triangular 'wheels,' actually saw horses with their legs cut off up to the triangle. The business end of the shovel looks gold-plated and is shallow into a short pile of dirt and straw.

I don't get it.

But I like the rectangular recess holding a block of wood wrapped in raw string. That speaks to me, but not in words.

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 Matthew Cusic - Chasing the Dragon - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Matthew Cusick - Chasing the Dragon, 2006
maps and acrylic on wood panel

 

A traveling dragon comprising meshed map highways branching over that blue gray texture world out into the infinity of a dragon. I'm a fan of dragons, anyway, but I looked close and could not see any seams. It's a fantasy, like most, made of realities. The ancients saw dragons in the stars. If the road leads on forever, why not into dragons?

The curator entirely ignored this piece most often cited as the best in show by artists I asked at the opening. The first piece we see coming in the gallery. That whoever hung the show placed on that first wall facing out at everyone entering the space. A place of honor, but it didn't net a cash prize, and at AiM all prizes are cash.

Jon Flaming - Snake in the Road - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Jon Flaming - Snake in the Road, 2008
oil on canvas

 

Nobody once mentioned this charmer. I like that Flaming plays havoc with size and dimensionality in this contempo-primitivist painting that disjuncts time and space. Essentially a landscape gone absurdo-cubist with muted mix-and-match primary colors.
 

When I'm in the AiM Show — and this was my seventh — the curators never discuss work in the show. They talk about themselves or their latest project, usually a canned speech and generally, though not always, less than interesting to the artist audience. When I'm not, I get word the curator spoke extensively about each piece, why it was selected, what's right and wrong, and how it fits the current pantheon of American art.

Perhaps, for the benefit of other artists, next time I'n juried in, I shouldn't go. I was following that train most of her torturous lecture. I'd thought the free-swiveling chairs in that smaller auditorium would save me, since they tilted and swung, but they just got more uncomfortable. Slumping made it worse.

See all the work in the show on TCU's site.

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blue dot  The Texas Sculpture Association's 25th Anniversary Panel Discussion, Collecting, Public Art and Sculpture Trends Saturday September 20 at the Nasher Sculpture Center, moderated by Gail Sachson with Kevin Vogel of Valley House Gallery, Margaret Robinette, Public Art Specialist, Ashley Tatum Casson of Gerald Peters Gallery, and Thom Andriola of New Art Gallery in Houston.

blue dot  Lectures by Hereitage Auction Galleries of Dallas Chairman of Fine Arts Dr. Ted Pillsbury and Texas artist and sculptor James Surls

Upstairs at The Nasher - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Upstairs Inside The Nasher from Outside
 

Too early the next morning — I was downstairs in the auditorium where I last saw Raymond Nasher speak — at The Nasher's press opening — and looking out past rising tiers of backless stone and grass seating up to the famous garden, whose inane hallmark always makes me think there really are people looking up, so I do.

Attending a panel discussion I couldn't repeat any notion from till I borrowed TSA President Nan Phillips' notes. I should have recorded it, but it was too early to think. I'm not a morning person, and a cup of coffee would keep me up all the next night.

Thanks to TSA President Phillips for sharing her notes, which I have reformatted though edited only slightly. Apparently, there's no official video or audio of the panel.

Subjects and comments during the panel included:

What makes a sculpture “important?”
How should sculpture be marketed?
And public art — eyesore or eye candy?

Paintings are like windows, but sculptures are like “beings” — they have a presence in space. To answer the question whether a piece is “important,” one might answer by asking if it is fresh. Is it unique? Does it have vitality and exude a feeling of pent-up energy?

Luncheon on the Grass - and Stone - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Luncheon on the Grass — and Stone

Marketing issues:

The importance of using the internet and having a well-designed artist web site;
Getting exposure and educating the public about your work;
Promotion, networking and collaboration

Sculptors are more likely than other artists to promote their own work and try to sell through venues other than galleries.
When sculptors place their work in galleries, they prefer to retain control over their care, movement and placement.
Media support and positive media coverage were discussed.

The good, the bad and the ugly" of public art:
The good is the exposure that public art brings.
The “bad” of it is the very public criticism it may well receive.
The “ugly” is the dirty little secret that public art is often difficult to execute, since the sculpture must satisfy so many different people with so many different needs, and the pay is minimal.

A sculpture that involves the landscape relates to the city’s visual image of itself, and evokes a positive response from viewers and reviewers makes a piece “good.” Some sculpture may be reviled when first displayed, but public opinion may change over time.

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Ted Pillsbury - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ted Pillsbury
 

Former Kimbell Museum Director Ted Pillsbury spoke, first about the many major works of sculpture that were commissioned or purchased for this area, some that were created for our spaces, that have been sold and are now somewhere else. He called them "our cultural patrimony."

I didn't take notes, but I did record segments of his and James Surls' talks on what was left of the RAM on my MP3 player:

"The most important constituents of any major art museums are artists, art makers. My docents at the Kimbell almost rose up in revolt when I started asking Vernon Fisher and James Surls [and others] to come in and talk about the Kimbell Collection.

What do they know about it? [They asked.] And of course, Vernon Fisher came in and sat for 30 minutes talking about the gray that was used in the background of the Goya portrait.

And I politely said to these docents, it's just a different way of interpreting and understanding the collection. But what we were trying to do was to build a bridge and to not only celebrate these artists but make other people understand that this collection has been put together as a resource for people who live here and want to understand art and make it. That's why we've got to buy good things and important things.

I should also say that I was rudely shocked by one of the officials of my former institution — the Kimbell Art Museum — who said to me, "You bought paintings so brilliantly. We're now buying sculpture, and I said, "well that's nice." And he said, "but also we don't have any more wall space."

But I didn't not buy sculpture because of any prejudice. The greatest pieces of sculpture are the works that are commissioned and remain in place. They are not as portable as great paintings.

I tried to buy a fabulous Rodin, but the subject matter was too offensive, so you've got to be careful about public taste. This was a Rodin done in the 1880s, and the piece was acquired by none other than the Boston Museum in 1908, but it's Iris, Messenger of the Gods [on another site] and the Boston Museum decided it wasn't suitable for display, and they sold it.

I tried to acquire it but, shall we say, some of my betters, decided that it really wasn't a work for display in front of our school children. So where's the piece now? Ernst Beyeler's museum [another site] in Basel, Switzerland." 

Pillsbury concluded, asking "are Texas sculptors of any consequence?" Answering quietly, "Of course."

Then he showed slides of many Texas sculptors' work, ending with George Tobolowsky, whom he called "largely self-taught [and] who has in the last five to eight to ten years created a formidable body of work, and his work is growing it its sophistication and its recognition."

"Because we are builders in Texas. Because we have erected major structures that fuel the development of business, because the designer home, with art, has come to be viewed as a status symbol.

Because we are committed to big stadiums, major concert halls and more and more museums and other public structures as essential amenities, we have an environment that is ripe for the patronage and appreciation of sculpture,."

That said, we must recognize that we live in an age in which information about everything is only a flick of the finger away, so we no longer take the necessary time to understand the history or even the meaning of art and allow too little time to appreciate it."

The world is filled with successful professionals and entrepreneurs who know enough to have an opinion, but not enough to say whether something is good, great, mundane or universal, original or trite, inept or accomplished. Some would argue that quality no longer even matters. Only the fair market value based upon supply and demand. ...

I know that in Texas sculpture will grow in importance and one day the dreadful divide between regions will disappear. Texas is really no longer a cultural wasteland. But there still are certain prejudices, but museums are no longer measured exclusively on the basis of paintings alone. Sculpture has achieve parity, and I think we can rejoice in that.

Thanks very much.

What is art? This question becomes harder to answer with every passing day."

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James Surls - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

James Surls 
 

Former Dallas, and long-time Texas sculptor James Surls was the featured, after-lunch speaker. Several attendees later cited his talk as the high point of the session, but it wasn't all new. I've heard him declare in all sincerity that he draws in ink with both hands at the same time without ever making a mistake before. That's hard to forget.

I was surprised not to hear, again, how all of his work derives from dreams. That was always a staple of his public pronouncements, and I missed hearing about it. He did, however, several times cite his inspiration from his wife, Charmaine:

"I do have an inspiration, and it really is her. I guess you could call that 'your muse.' There's a reason. The reason is I've always been physical — very strong physically — and most of my problems were solved in physical ways. And when I met her, my problems started getting solved in psychological ways. And that's a huge transition."

In images of his work, Surls showed how his drawings relate to his sculpture from the last half dozen years and talked about his boyhood in East Texas.

"If you make a terrain change, inevitably it will beget a head change. It's awful difficult to go from a dense, thick envelope of green in East Texas, which is where I'd lived my whole life, and where I grew up — playing along creek banks and watching sunlight filter through the tops of trees to make little reflective spots on the ground.

Charmaine and I used to talk about "going sunning." And to us, going sunning was walking out in the yard, standing in a little spot [of sunlight], and then following it as it moved across the yard.

My art came from there. It came from the trees and limbs and conjuring what I would call out of that envelope. And now, that's not true. Now it's conjured from head, and it is conjured from distance, and clear and open and vistas and views.

Instead of only being able to only see, at best, fifty, sixty feet, a hundred at most, through the woods, I now can see fifty miles, a hundred miles. I can see long, great and vast distances. And what seems to pop in between is really what my art is about now."

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blue dot  Winning Works Saturday September 20 with work by Laura Abrams, Delbert Beckham, Elizabeth "Sissy' Bingham, Diana Chase, Annelies Christian, Adriana Cobo-Frenkel, Karen Garrett, Eric Gioia, Valery Guignon, David Hickman, Keith Livingston, Nan Phillips, Gisela-Heidi Strunck and George Tobolowsky at Bryan Tower downtown:

Again works we'd seen before. Some fine, but sometimes awkwardly placed, like David Hickman's lovely garden piece [on the Fierce page] I'd juried into Fierce in July. A heavy, metal piece with acrobats on a tight-wire on top counterbalancing below, a swinging ball that, if swung like I was often moved to at Fierce where it had plenty space to swing, would either destroy the stone veneer wall it was immediately up against or what David described as the fragile metal ball itself.

During the reception TSA President Nan Phillips profusely thanked Bryan Tower for the "great place to show sculpture," but what it is, is a lobby where sculpture's likely to get bumped in someone's tardy run to the office. Not a place one would necessarily know to expect such esoteric stuff in their way. A nice enough hallway around the base of the building but with no accommodation for sculpture or any other form of art, and lots to visually compete with it.

George Tobolowsky - Need More Power - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

George Tobolowsky - Need More Power
 

My objection to Tobolowsky's work is that it is essentially flat. A collaged cast of characters in the round doing a jig on an old-time proscenium stage in-the-square. The obvious overriding front always first. Other sides so inconsequential the work doesn't lose much backed into a corner or shoved against a wall, like here.

Neither superficial nor facile, but shallow in the absence of a serious third D. Some sculptors are comfortable in adventuresome other dimensions, but many are tethered by height and width.

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blue dot  TSA Picnic and Sculpture Tour at Hall Office Park (HOP) and Texas Sculpture Garden in Frisco, Texas Sunday September 21 involved a picnic lunch, a dip from a large vat of cobbler and buses every ten minutes running through and around HOP that would stop anywhere one asked, but only three buildings and their art collections were open. The full list of artists keeps changing but is available on HOP's site.

John Henry - Jaguar

John Henry - Jaguar - 60 feet high

We'd seen it from the Toll Road before we had any notion whose or what it was and had already promised us we'd get close. So when our tour bus turned the corner to parallel the highway, we asked the driver to stop and spent ten minutes with it under the hot sun. Walked all the way around it for the right view without blowing out the clouds, tilting the wide angle to include all sixty feet vertical, squishing the HOP buildings on the horizon.

Isaac Smith - Panther

Isaac Smith - Panther

Intriguing how two sculptors can see big, ferocious cats then come up with such diverging interpretations. I love Smith's cat's vicious teeth and Henry's slashing claw.

James Surls - Three and Three and Seven Flower - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

James Surls - Three and Three and Seven Flower

Surls is Surls, and nobody comes close. Distinctive style expressed in color, line and shape, of course, but mostly in all those elements' ineffable sense of space. Some sculpture you look at, some you walk through. Others twist your thinking. Surls' lyrical fantasies always set my mind to wondering.

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See also The Texas Sculpture Association's Silver Anniversary show at the Plano ArtCentre

right diamond  This is my third unDO (not the Dallas Observer) column.
The first was I'm Not The Dallas Observer's New Art Critic & Neither Are You.

#2 was Repeating Patterns & New Ideas
. Then there's The CG+GP Addendum to unDO#3, which extends coverage of the evening we went to Fort Worth instead of Craighead Green and Gerald Peters, but shoulda stayed here all along.

When the DO first talked about hiring me as their art critic, they said they wanted a wrap-up of local art happenings every two weeks. But they wanted to see an example of my work doing that first. So I began writing these unDO columns. As usual here, they got out of hand and became a series. Since I did not hear back from the DO, I assumed I did not get the job. - JRC


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All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in any medium without specific written permission.