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War & Peace at The MAC
Looking at these images, it's strange to consider they're from a show called War & Peace. If friends weren't in it, I probably would not even have attended, even though mac's last member show, Trinity — about that river that flows through this city, among other meanings — was quite good. Proof in the general quality of work it sparked, this theme did not reverberate with Dallas artists, although there were two big galleries and one smaller room full of it.
Peace is okay, but war's a difficult subject most of us would rather just go away than have to strain through our psyches and extrude into art. There were plenty toy soldiers, a few peace signs and George Bushes. An abundance of flippant reactions, puns and two small, precise, color delimited abstracts that were difficult to parse.
I didn't figure them out till later, did not photograph them, because I wasn't immediately moved by them. The first one stopped me in my tracks and made me think. But the thinking didn't lead me anywhere. The other one reminded me of the first.
Now I wish I had recorded them. May have to go back to do that. Almost always nicer to see a show without the crowd. In the quiet. Might discover other gems except the mac's not open again till Wednesday. I hate the current war and its evil perpetrators more than most but did not have any visual concepts worth exploring, either.
Jimmie Hudson's Sacrificial Lamb Chop struck me. Then struck me again. I didn't want to photograph it. It seemed too obvious. Too odd. Visually funny, even without the title. I found me arguing with myself about it. I didn't want to look at it but felt compelled. I kept looking, so had to photograph it. And again later, last thing I did before leaving, to be sure I got it.
Some work included explanatory text, but I don't read it. I'm staring right at it, and I don't want to read Ludwicka Norton's movie promo caption. I've seen Rita Barnard's piece before. I didn't read it then, and I didn't read it again tonight. She gets wordy sometimes. I see it as another texture. Words in art can be more than incidental texture but usually aren't.
I try to consider art without its titles, but when I photograph it, I also photograph the I.D. tag, so I can identify the images here. That fleeting glimpse to see if it's in focus, tells me what i often do not want to know.
This may be the only time I've ever used all the images I made for an event. Well, I did shoot some DARts Members' work, so I can stealth update their pages, but these five images are all I felt compelled to photograph for this story.
A while back I publicly asked Is Rita Barnard the Only Dallas Artist Concerned About The War? and now with this blatant attempt to pull such a notion from the artists of Dallas, I see that the answer is: Just About. An artist has to be especially tuned to get anything decent out during or just after an actual historic event.
Usually, if you have to explain it, you didn't do it right. Atomic Light is the only image here whose title makes sense. Without it, this piece is still pretty and simple a composition — perhaps a little Hopperish, but its meaning only becomes full when we know its name. The rest of the work shown on this page are overt and funny or ironic or something without recourse to text or titles.
Not so overt we know what they're about exactly, but conspicuous in other ways. Blatant in some. If I read all of Rita's text I might know more than I now do what that piece is about, but I don't care. Putting our dufus President in a painting is almost enough. The more doof the more obvious. His context is what tells.
I don't understand Yes, Father any better than I understand the obvious visual messages of the unsubtle Lamb Chops or the ironic The Second Bush Is Burning. Understanding is vastly overrated. I am affected by these works. Critics used to use the word visceral. My intellect comes in handy describing shapes, colors, compositions and narratives, all stuff you can see as well as I can, make up your own minds.
What these few pieces in all that whole show of more than a hundred works do that the rest do not is cause me not just to think, but to feel.
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