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The Annual 500X Open Show featuring hundreds of Dallas area artists -- who paid $15 each to put our work in this annual exhibition tradition. -- through May 20

Risky Risque - 500 X-rated & Beyond

The annual 500X Open Show is one of my favorites in all of Dallas art history. Over the years, this one show has introduced many fine and terrible young and old artists. Anybody with the entrance fee can exhibit here, and it's always a great opportunity and an odd mix of quality.

Quantity is up this year, which means 500X will be better off than in some years past and might be willing to take more risks over the next year, which would be good for the whole Dallas art scene. It also means it takes longer to find the better stuff. But there's lots to see in this amazing show.

There is, for example, a giant ramming, red-tipped phallus, complete with heavy-equipment operator's chair and controls built into the small end. It's crude, not entirely rude and takes up a lot of room, but it doesn't advance any standards of quality for art or this show. In fact, it fits right in.

A work in a similar vein that does push the envelope while manifesting remarkable quality is a too-small, but superbly executed digital collage, Flesh Bonnet by Ken Shaddock that hangs on the brick wall outside the small, enclosed, special projects gallery, near the front stairs.

Follow the links to Ken Shaddock's X-rated page

Comprising recognizable, porn-like elements into a classic, architectural composition, it balances gender appreciation for body parts with an almost prim propriety that manages -- especially in an environment splattered with the above image -- not to overtly offend.

There's also the usual assortment of naked females, but this is, by no means, any more a sex-obsessed exhibition than any of the others listed in this calendar.

The special project room has become quite the room for open show photographs, forming over the last couple of years, a mini exhibition in the tradition of the old Allen Street Gallery, just up the street. The Open Show has neither the stellar heights nor abysmal lowths of bygone eras at the Big X, but it still offers a great cross-section of art in Dallas.

One of my favorite works here is Linda D Stoke's Sacred Heart of Che acrylic ( Left ), which combines the disparate clichés of the fatigue uniformed Ernesto Che Guevara, his red-starred beret, and that exposed, crimson, muscular organ whose name we apply to so many divergent emotions. We usually only see exposed organs like this in religious art depicting Jesus or the BVM. Hardly subtle, but oddly effective.

This martyred Che's exposed, multi- veined and arteried pumper is, in turn, intersticed with Cupid -- or some other assassin -- maybe the CIA's -- arrow. An amazing amalgum of intersecting icons in vivid red and green.

Is there maybe a little of Elvis in there, too? It wouldn't be his first entry at the X's Open. At least I didn't see any drippy Michael Jacksons or sanctified Martin Luther Kings, whose previous, semi-precious portraits have been this historical exhibition's most purloined paintings...

Another favorite is this ( right ) subtly-toned photogram by Marie Van Arsdale. Inexplicably titled The Ghost of the Cavalry, this impossibly large, camera-less photograph is mysterious and elegant, in a room full of intriguing photographic art.

My own theory is that the better works are hung downstairs may be historically accurate or it may just be my opinion. Years ago the X crew admitted they hung the really awful stuff up the back stairway, but that space is empty now.

Things are grimmer upstairs. But then, this show has never been known for its overall finesse or subtleties. It's an individualist's show, with lots of shining gems and lots of dreck. But probably no two of us would agree which are which. - JRC



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