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The Dallas Contemporary "Biennale"

Dallas Biennale - Morehshin Allahyari (Iran); Nick Barbee (USA); Anthea Behm (Australia); Kim Beom (Korea); Michael Corris (USA); Zoe Crosher (USA); Sylvie Fleury (Switzerland); Louise Hervé & Chloé Maillet (France); Pierre Joseph (France); Claude Lévêque (France); Gabriel Martinez (USA); Nicole Miller (USA); Charlotte Moth (United Kingdom); Okay Mountain (USA); Hugues Reip (France); Delphine Reist (Switzerland); Michael Smith (USA); Mario Garcia Torres (Mexico); Clarissa Tossin (Brazil), through August 19  map with dates and hours  

See How to Get the Most Out of the Bi below.
 

Michael Corris - Rules for a Biennial - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

129 Leslie   Michael Corris   Dallas  Twelve Rules from the Collection of the Artist   2005
 

The title rankles and confuses. It's not a biennial and was never intended to be, although that could change and it wouldn't be a terrible thing, just way more complicated, and there are already pieces of the puzzle that don't fit, but that tends to happen often at Texas Biennials* and maybe all big shows.

It takes two every-other-years between, before it even could be a biennial. Or it has to last two whole years, which would be a bit much. Wiki says, "The term is most commonly used in the context of major repeating art exhibitions." So I assume The Contemporary chose the name, because it was just too cool not to, which adds to the slap-dash, scattered aspect apparent in too many of this thing's details.

It is in Dallas, and one Dallas artist is in the show, as are one each from Denton, Galveston, L.A., Brooklyn, Mexico City and Seoul, South Korea; two from Geneva, Switzerland; four from Paris, France; and five from Houston — Big H is hardly the center of the known art universe. No Germans, no Icelanders or Scandinavians. No Africans, Chinese or Australians, and only one artist who used to live in South America. This massive exhibition mirrors a skewed art world, not nearly universal.

Still, it is an excellent and rewarding exhibition, scattered in various voluminous spaces mostly around inner central Dallas and curated by new Dallas Contemporary Adjunct Curator Florence Ostende. Maybe she has a vacation house in Houston.
 

My other favorite NO from Dallas artist, writer and art historian Michael Corris' series created after his own, unnamed experience with 2005 Venice Biennale, was: "No musing, self-righteous, megalo-maniacal architect-urban planner-social theorist-systems managers.  No informal use of inkjet prints. No deception of the public. Architects are not as cool as artists."

I looked up, saw his rigid lines of colorful posters and was directly involved in the mockery and recognized in his tongue-in-cheek prohibitions several ways the recent history of art has gone awry. Fun, startlingly incisive, thought-provoking and a great way to show off the show's only Dallas artist at the top of this story.
 

Charissa Tossin - map installation - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

150 Turtle Creek   Clarissa Tossin   Houston, born in Brazil   map installation
 

Tossin's loose floor installation of geometrically folded maps in black & white grayscale of Dallas — no wonder some of it looked familiar to this satellite-view fan — Detroit and Los Angeles on one side contrasts with full rich color images of Fordlândia, the abandoned industrial jungle city Henry Ford established in 1928 near the city of Santarém, Brazil in the Amazon Forest. That Ford never visited and that failed utterly. See that fascinating story of industrialist idiocy.

In its dense colors, direct simplicity and deep back-story, her installation is so much more compelling than her goofy words tracking an oval through the Contemp's big parking lot we're supposed to drive around on getting arted.
 

Claude Leveque - The Dying Swan - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

151 Glass Street   Claude Lévêque   Paris and Peteloup, France   La mort du cygne (The Dying Swan)   2012   site-specific installation
 

A dark, partly cloudy sky of black, broken umbrellas crowd the middle altitude of a very large room at The Contemporary. Matching black oscillating fans at each white column and equidistant down the outside wall blow the umbrellas about "accompanied by a creaking sound of metal dissonance." So it sounds like the umbrellas are doing the creaking, but disappointingly, it's a soundtrack. Art as scale. Art as multitudes of broken black umbrellas hanging like Pigpen's dirt storm everywhere he went..

Breaking all those umbrellas must have been fun. Wonder how long it took? Or were they returns to an umbrella factory?

The sky, walls, floor and ceiling are darker on the left side, far from the clearstory windows on the right. I really wanted the umbrellas to be making that screeching metal-on-metal sound. That would have been powerful, although they probably could not have turned it off at night, and that would have been even more powerful.

I wonder if that many fans makes a dent in the heat on a warm or hot day. We might get to find that one out.

I missed his The Law of the Strongest, 2000, "in a building just outside Dallas Contemporary" presenting "a metal forest of car exhaust pipes, music by rock bands, blasting out guitar solos creating a metaphoric setting," though the wall info sheet did not explain what it might be a metaphor for. Repeating patterns calms me.
 

Clarissa Tossin - As Long As I'm Driving - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

151 Glass Street Parking Lot   Clarissa Tossin   Houston, born in Brazil   As Long As I'm Driving   installation
 

I was so unimpressed with yet another text-based art installation I did not look at any of the others, but then I'm hardly Mr. Sweetness and Light when it comes to tired old art ideas in a show as good as most of this one is. I turned around and drove out of the parking lot and looked for some birds. Corliss should have prohibited these things, too, but maybe it's a little too close to his text-based art.
 

How to get the most out of the Bi

Single-click the small map on The Contemporary's home page, and a big-enough version will download, with addresses, open times and dates. Their home page says, "Click to enlarge address + artist details," but it's just funning us. It's not interactive, but the downloaded map does includes that information.

The map says The Contemp has "regular museum hours," which means 11 - 6 Tuesday through Saturdays and noon till 5 Sundays. Not sure why they couldn't just say that. The Austin collective OKay Mountain's video event that "takes a satirical look at the visual language of mass media … and is only available through May 13 on channel 2 in hotel rooms," so when Okay Mountain comes to town, they can see it, but it will be a challenge for anybody who lives here.

Sylvie Fleury's neon in the windows at Neiman Marcus downtown were gone two days later, and if you missed the opening Friday the Thirteenth of April, most showings are only open Thursday through Sundays noon till 4.
 

ear plugs - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Free Ear Plugs at 331 Singleton Boulevard
 

Pages for individual artists are available from museum-style plastic document holders scattered around the various venues. If you collect them all, you'll almost have a full catalog of the show, although there's not nearly enough space to hole-punch the pages into a binder, though it's a good-enough read and some pix are color.

The map and everything else's design seems erratic and low on unifying white space, with last-minute details of importance, like the show dates and times, tucked away in corners we didn't think to look into, and we've both done well past our fair share of publications design. Employing an actual designer might seem like a good idea, except the publication portion of art programs tend to be the only ones with real deadlines.

I'm guessing Board Members and sponsors got colorfully bound editions, although that was probably missing some last-minute pages, and I'm sure I missed a few wandering around the larger stops. There's also a double-size, printed both-sides, full-color (such as it is) folder with the show title reading bottom-up crammed onto the side. That holds all the pages and other typed sheets available near the art, but I haven't figured out yet how to attach the neon ear plugs.

My own paper gathering for this bi includes one typeset page with the tiny heading, "The Sense of Belonging," that's mostly empty till the bottom, where are six footnotes that may have something to do with photographs, but there's no artist's name, so I don't know what that's about. One note's poignancy struck me: "It is not a question of whether or not they are invited rather it is the legitimacy of who invited them that is in question." Oh, boy.

There's no real order for the show or the loose-leafed 'catalog,' although there is something of a natural map flow. We followed a hulking black Escalade most of our Sunday afternoon's viewing. They seemed to know where they were, and what wasn't open yet, 'because the big projector for yet another video blew, and they hadn't got a new one yet, etc.'
 

Hugues Reip - White Spirit - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

1335 Levee   Hugues Reip   Paris, France   White Spirit   2005 - ongoing  
white moving figures on a rotating carousel projected onto a screen
 

"White moving figures on a rotating carousel projected onto a screen" and the screen is visible from both sides of the room. Entering the room, from back and to the left of this scene, we saw the dark, shadow projections of these white fanciful shapes, and on this, back side, we saw the simple magic that put them there. Anna and I were both charmed by this simple device, but then we love merry-go-rounds.
 

Delphine Reist - the horn room - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

331 Singleton Boulevard   Delphine Reist   Geneva, Switzerland   sound performance
 

On the table just inside the main door to 331 Singleton Boulevard, was a basket of soft flexible neon orange ear plugs, and the guy recommended we use them for this innocuous looking performance. You can't really see them well in this photograph, but attached on or to each of the ice chests are automobile horns that play extraordinarily loud and disharmonious just when you think it's safe. The entire building acts as an conduit, so don't take them out even when you go upstairs.

You may recognize this gutted office building as the September 2010 home of Sustenance, organized by Anne Lawrence and Stephen Lapithisophon, although that installation called the address 337 Singleton. It and now this building's Biennial installations are deeply redolent of Modern Ruin, which was organized by Christine Rees and Thomas Feulmer in February 2010. Together with the somewhat rougher Crash Collective installation, Demolicious, this group — including The Contemp's Bi, probably comprises the best and most interesting exhibitions in recent Dallas art history, and all but this newest one was ensconced at only one address each.
 

Delphine Reist - spew room - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

331 Singleton Boulevard   Delphine Reist   Geneva, Switzerland  
 

It's almost as if this, what I'm calling "The Spew Room" for want of an actual title, is a direct physical response to the horn room, to its left in that same building that has brought us such intelligent and even witty installations the past few years. Visceral. Splatter punk.

Immediately reminded me of a poem by Susan Whitmer published in the spring/fall 1982 edition of DallasArtsRevue on paper.
 

PAINTING WITH A DOUBLE BARRELL

Sunday morning
I traded my broken motorcycle
For a shotgun
Went to Garland
Found a secluded spot
Climbed over the barbed wire
Loaded my big new gun with shells
Set up paint cans
In front of
Large old flat piece of tin
BANG BLUE
BANG BROWN
BANG WHITE


Dalphine Reist - stripes and poles - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

331 Singleton Boulevard   Delphine Reist   Geneva, Switzerland   stripes and poles
 

I saw this and thought of Michael Mazurek's Hypostyle XL that's four pictures down my Sustenance story in Art Here Lately #10. I liked that for its closed-in, claustrophobed loose construction installation that only slightly resembled art, and this for its clean, light, tight use of the same, albeit cleaned-up, extended space, and all but the blue and yellows and extended paint rollers were already there.
 

Kim Beom - How to use a chair defensively - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

1414 Dragon Street   Kim Beom   Seoul, South Korea   How to Use a Chair Defensively   video
 

Cameron Gallery hosted Korean artist Kim Beom's multi media presentations that we could hear the moment we entered the door. Like Bob Ross on public TV's The Joy of Painting, the instructional video showed us how to paint, and when the artist applied paint ever so carefully, he screamed like a Karate adult. Attention-demanding and funny. So was his video teaching how to use a chair and other household objects as defensive weapons. How to swing it and move our centers of gravity while executing the swing. Not loud but equally amusing. Nice dense color imagery, also.

 

Nick Barbee - Commonwealth - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

103a 150 Turtle Creek   Nick Barbee   Galveston   Commonwealth   (detail)   2009   installation
 

And I quote, "Commonwealth is a series of crudely crafted figurines on a long pedestal — the clay figures portray disparate historical figures whose only connection is where they were born." The central figure above appears to be tennis star Arthur Ashe. I don't know those other guys.
 

Hugues Reip - Book Shrooms - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

1335 Levee   Hugues Reip   Paris, France  
 

For titles, dates, mediums, etc., I usually photograph nearby I.D tags. But this Bi had nearly none of those handy things and when they were placed, they were placed oddly enough that it was a challenge to figure out who did what, so I'm doing detective work to pull up even this much information. It's much more important that this work be seen than us being able to accurate identify it, but there is an email address and phone number on the contemp's home page map and the printed ones we found at most venues for "more info." But it's in the middle of the night as I write this, so it'll take time when I'm not writing, sleeping or swimming.

 

There's more of this show that we haven't seen yet and when we do, I will probably update this page.

As always, if you have information this page doesn't have but needs, or know to correct some mistake I've made, send it to J R via my latest email on our colorful Contact Us page. Unlike most publications, I am happy to correct mistakes as soon as I learn them.

 

* = I was somewhat involved in DARE's early Dallas Biennial way last century, and watched closely the one in Austin (2005, 2007 and 2009), but probably even The Mac's 2001 also so-called Biennial was electric last-minute disorganized. And the 2009 iteration of the TX BI had a similar, falling apart, loose catalog that was practical for the committee and their disintegrating deadlines but less so for users.

 

 

 

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