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UnDO Index    This is unDO#2

Repeating Patterns & New Ideas

Story + Photographs by J R Compton

Simeen Ishaque - We Won't Kill You

Simeen Ishaque -Simeen Ishaque - We Won't Kill You, 2008 (detail)

Could not work the enthusiasm to visit any commercial spaces on the DADA Art Walk, even if I now know they don't still accept just any gallery. DADA closed the Open Door policy after they'd accepted that set of just anybodies, now new ones must exist two years before they're blessed by Dallas' oldest established gallery group.

Of course, most new businesses go under by then, and membership in a collegial organization could help, but tough luck! If it doesn't make two fiscal years, DADA doesn't want it. Hard to infuse new blood and new ideas that way, but does DADA really want new?

Discussions — panel or otherwise — in the morning and "walk" your gas-guzler that afternoon, every six months, is same-same every time. Pete and repeat. All that changes are the prices. Why I dread art walking. Used to be a party that night, but nobody went. Anything that costs, benefits the Edith Baker Art Scholarship to send Arts Magnet grads to college somewhere else, but should send Dallas artists to school here, build our own community, not deplete it.

I didn't even make all five on my short list, skipping three I didn't know on Dragon, the one place in Dallas where art walking is still possible, and worth it — as if being there is all they need to succeed. And I'll catch those up eventually. Maybe.

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

Simeen Ishaque - We Won't Kill You, 2008 (detail) - installation

Loved driving in the cooooool wind and rain that wasn't violent or scary as promoted and projected by the local news and weather. Instead, I drove through a beautiful dense world, vivid with late summer greens and gray. Gray everywhere. Through that wet beauty I drove to The MAC expecting to be thrilled by Laray Polk's work I'd been referred by a mutual friend, but I'd idiotly forgot Simeen Ishaque's Words without voices, forms without bodies installation in the next room.

Not surprising, Ishaque's work was impressive beyond the third dimension, into emotion and mystery and physically manifested figurative extrapolations. Expressed in sculptural forms that once would have seemed strange and startling. But so many artists install headless, faceless, colorless or otherwise vacant forms, they've lost a lot of their thrill.


Simeen Ishaque at The MAC - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Simeen Ishaque - Left to Right: Shroud of Silence; Body Language;
and We Won't Kill You, all 2008 - life-size installations

Still, that cross-lit room seemed spooky, charged. The shapes close enough to real to make us wonder. Peopled with soulful, uninhabited burka shell women, crowding in the darkened salon. Strange and foreign, some projecting tightly-knit, black webs of exotic symbols. The life-size figures almost human in that low-lit room. Theirs a palpable presence. But what do they want? What are they saying? Why are they here? And what is the jumbling black all about?

In her artist's statement, Ishaque talks about Westerners' "simplistic perspective of the veil," but the only veiled figure in this gray room of empty women lay on the floor. Shroud of Silence draped with white, a complex vertical spire floating like a charred Holy Ghost over her pristine white-covered face.

While the semioticians in us see symbolic transmission in those dark emanations, and we can sense their elegance, it takes hand-outs to tell us it's classic poetry. Up close we might experience it as lyrical, but we do not see nor sense its rhymes or rhythm.


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

Laray Polk - Gaza Zoo installation at The MAC

Not sure whatI expected from Laray Polk's Gaza Zoo, but giant, flat pages of low contrast, spot color and subdued multiples didn't draw me in to what looked like a Graphic Arts display — ads for something I wasn't buying. I was put off enough I didn't engage the word-based displays, although several viewers were carefully studying each successive panel around the room. Seemed a too-easy setup, like for a traveling show, like The MAC used to foist on us, half a year ago, or so.

I was up for sculptural figures and moodily physical spirits but not the flat intellectualism of Polk's panels. So I missed the point and may have to go back to catch up her discourse.

Laray herself came up as I was leaving, stiffly introducing me to whom she called "The MAC's new director." Startled to have my reverie intruded, all I could think to ask was how long she'd been there. "Seven months." Hardly new. Unlike that other contemporary, MAC directors are not firebrands leaders of an avant. I should have complimented her all-local art regime, but I still wonder if that's hers, the board's or what they've finally discovered is just the cheapest way to go. Then Laray asked what her little setup was about anyway. Did I like her work?

I winced. Thought I didn't but did not like being asked before I could think it through. I fumbled, told the one direct truth I knew. "I'm still thinking about it," and I still am. Perhaps on a less already gray day I might have interacted with those disembodied, large, low-impact red, gray and black book pages — or if I hadn't just come in from Ishaque's multi-dimensional flurries.

After The MAC I headed toward that Other Contemporary on Swiss Avenue, to find an empty parking lot. They may not be Dallas art dealers, but they are bona fide members of DADA and not to even be open that day of mass transit for art seemed a lot silly unto full stupidity. Maybe they were worried about doomsday weather. Nonmember galleries manage to be open, bathing in the no-cost advertising of their competitors, and I was set to see maybe the first out of town artist ever honored with a solo D-Art Legend show. Who's next, some guy from New York City?

I've "walked" DADA's walks too many times. Once — and only once — I visited every then-DADA-member gallery on one long fuel-inefficent day and published about it for some other rag. I've also visited just a few. Both just blur.

It all just blurs. There may be ways to make these things fun and new, maybe even exciting, but not without new people and new ideas. But we get the same thing every time, rain or shine.

CADD Members

The Members of CADD - from the CADD site

Till CADD. The breakaway Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas is up to something oppositely different that just happens to open the week after Art Walk. Instead of stringing potential purchasers all over the Metromess wasting gas and getting lost, they're opening a new gallery next to Neiman Marcus downtown — where the parking isn't easy. Their new gallery is called CADD ARTLAB.

Following from their gala Vernissage early summer a year ago and that bourse's repeat this last summer, they are centrists who want everyone to come to them. One dozen galleries with already one building or suite — and the concomitant mortgage, landlord, upkeep, advertising, commissions, ever-rising expenses and deep need to draw patrons to their unique physical space wherever, are instead opening one central space with not only all those usual challenges but the joy of working with the best of their competitors, who are probably already their friends.

ARTLAB opens September 20. Should be interesting.


For too much more information, visit the DADA and CADD websites.

This is my second unDO column.
The first was I'm Not The Dallas Observer's New Art Critic & Neither Are You.

and #3 is Déjà Vus & Skewed Views, 3-D Oohs & The Muse