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August 4 2001

The MAC Invitational Show and
Art Squared in Deep Ellum Lofts

alking up the front parking lot toward The MAC without my camera, I looked up. And immediately went back for my camera. Working my way back, camera angle by camera angle, I wondered whether DVAC would ever have the chutzpah to do something like this. I knew the answer almost before I'd formed the question.

McKinney Avenue Contemporary Missle Defense?
  

The color on top The MAC's indigo brick and against the Texas blue sky is amazing. I wondered what they were aimed at.

The annual invitational membership show inside was tame by comparison. As often, the best stuff was on the galleries' outside wall, facing the wide, open commons, shop, etc.

Not surprising, I suppose for a digital photographer, I was drawn first to two works on the far wall. I recognized Paul Rogers Harris' Victims immediately, thought they looked grand in that room filled with art. I'd seen it before, when I put it on the cover of the catalog for his retrospective last winter, but it's a piece I greatly admire.

Barbara Mabli
The Space Between
collage and acrylic

  

Next to it, looking sharply digital itself, was Barbara Mabi's The Space Between, identified as collage and acrylic. I remember pleated and wrinkled material looming over a face in a smart, simple contrast. I'll have to go look at it again to see if I'm right about that. I knelt to consider it in its low gallery perch, twice. I kept comiing back to admire it further. Smart, textured, enigmatic.

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Lots of shows are best seen at a run. This is mostly one of those. Oh, there are gems here and there, but much dreck in the betweens. I remember programmiing exhibitions at Allen Street Gallery. Group shows always brought the most audience, made us feel like we were really serving the art public. Almost every artist has several friends.

One unamed artist was pleasant to me, even chatted briefly, after I'd said nice things about their work in a show recently. Before that, it was snub city. I worried they'd not talk to me again, if I said honest, but uncomplementary things about their piece here.
 

Diana Chase
I'll Carry You
cast glass

Though I've often admired her cast and slump glass work, I didn't recognize Diana Chase's style, at all, in her elegant, floating cast glass swimmer, I'll Carry You, all mythical and free and fully 3-D floating atop a small armature. Simple, straight-forward, easy- looking, no arty fussing, just there, floating. Like Ms. Mabi's work above, I had to watch it swim.

OK, so I'm prejudiced for photo. Sybil Bauer's Strip, video still was small, subtle, almost but not quite, colorless, a luscious and carefree, abstraction of a quiet, stopped reality.

After three persistent circumambulations I learned the better, more mature works were in the gallery on the right. Overall, there were too many colorful abstracts, too many big, stupid nudes, way too much globby sculpture.

Paul Covington
Forest
tape and Plexi

  

Against those odds, Paul Covington's tape and plexi piece, whose title's letters have bled together on the postcard I picked up on the front table, because the only pen I could find in my just-cleaned car was a big, fat, black, bleeding marksalot, was a marvelous little composition of textures and subtle colors, gentle, rough-edged verticals, among so much gnarly, mean-colored and blotted abstracts on the walls around it. Oh, the smeared title must be Forest. Carefully appropriate, telling, without telling too much. Nice piece, nice title.

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I thought I was just gonna go see whether it'd be worth coming back in quieter moments with fewer people and more time. Maybe. But I was here now, and all these notions were rushing through my mind about the stuff before my eyes. I'd been wondering who I thought I was, somehow worthy to write about other people's art, at all. Maybe we all have these moments of doubt. I decided I was eligible, mostly because I love art enough to write about it, and I didn't mind expressing opinions -- difficult, in fact, to stop me from it.

But this show brought me around. Worthy or not, I had opnions forming in all the corners and spilling them out seemed awfully important, even if those blotting, bold notes were bleeding all over the porous paper I'd purloined.

Kathy Robinson-Hays
Snails in the Studio
mixed media, wood and pencils

  

Kathy Robinson-Hays' snail storm mixed media construction with pencil drawn pencils all lined and gridded up on one side and helter skelter snail patter rhymes and rhythms on the other, stopped me in my tracks. It is called Snails In the Studio.

The last piece I'll mention is my friend Alex Troup's upended drawer that someone had to point out to me, or I'd have walked blithely under it, trying to dodge all the dreadful blobs cluttering the room's middle.

Tilted on wires from the ceiling, it looked like a flowered parcel on the high side. On the obverse, a melange of small, mostly plastic toys flooded flush with the glass "top" on the drawer. I could only wonder what it all meant.

I lingered long, talking to friends and passing out DARts business cards to anyone who looked like they needed one. I was hoping more pieces would startle me, make me take notice, stand out. Eventually, I fled the scene, remembering the few fine pieces, shrugging my shoulders at the rest, reminding myself, "it's a membership show... If you're a member, you show. It's the only chance some artists get..."

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A friend had told me about a show across town in Deep Elm's Continental Gallery, where the EASL show had been, whenever that was. I knew the way, made quick work of it, and as I walked up the sidewalk, another friend passed me and told me I'd like the show inside.

I did. It was so amazing, to have come from the mixed bag membership show in that big blue building I so love to photograph, deep ellming to an old brick building on Elm, full of serious work by serious, mature artists. Instead of a cross section of humanity, in here was a careful selection of intelligence, maturity and craft.

Both shows had a theme. The MAC's was W, whatever the hell that might stand for. One artist told me she'd read the invitation 14 times without catching on that W was the theme. The guy i asked at The MAC couldn't find one of the on-paper invites, but he showed it to me on a computer monitor, and its big Ws would be hard to miss, but it never seemed to get around to naming it as a theme. The resulting exhibit had no visual traces of having one.

At Art Squared in the Continental Gallery in Deep Ellum Lofts -- under that popular neighborhood's only water tower, all the art was square. As in a figure having four equal sides and at least four right angles.

And it was so fine to see a gathering of eagles after watching sparrows. I lingered the longest at Caroline White's mixed media Matchbox Games, a series of lilting, delicate textures and materials collaged and painted, and each 3-D framing an illustrated matchbox, although getting close was not easy, since people tended to want to have long conversations in front of them.

Simeen Ishaque's handmade paper, bright melodies of screen printed characters and shapes on cloth and wood squares of squares on the far wall, delighted me more than twice. I kept coming back to enjoy again the textural interplays of color and shape.

And, of course, Derrick White's fun goofy, yet sophisticated, softly toned down, digital prints kept my attention. The one with the marching dogs was especially wonderful. And I liked seeing David McCullogh's rhythmic wonders, only one of which was actually called Jazz, but most of them are, anyway. Standing in front of the one up on the mezzanine, I couldn't help thinking, some artists actually know what they're doing when painting abstractly. I could see all the crisscrossing improvs, riffs, harmonies, chord patterns and enthusiasm. My head bobbed with the invisible notes...

Okay, now I have pix of the high points of W. I hoped to just drop by the Deep Ellum Lofts, but it's srictly By Appointment Only, so I keep hacking at it. I've already changed the more annoying text here to avoid upsetting anyone too much. This ought to do it, now.

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