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with subtexts of flight & disaster
Story + Photographs by J R Compton
his time, the story is chron- (Last weekend's Fort Worth Art Walk was visual) -ological from the first gallery we attended to the last. First, Conduit, because it was easiest on the map, and Anna wanted to see Dragon Street next.
Then we mapped on to Oak Lawn — staying central, didn't fling off to Brookhaven or points south. There's never enough time, though once, many years ago, I saw them all. But that will always be a blur.
I loved Billy Hassell's birds in the big, back gallery (I'm a fan and have written about his animals, then birds, since 1986 when we met for a story in Chicago's New Art Examiner — Billy Hassell - Recent Work. Since then, there's him Out Flying in His Field; Bill Hassell + Martin Delabano; Conduit's 20th Anniversary Art-In; Art in Terminal D) and more.
Later, at the loud afterparty, Billy and I talked about his ongoing transition from the only slightly abstracted patchwork of yards and fields in the early work, through exactingly precise, high color contrast backgrounds I called Christmas Wrapping Paper, into the mild abstractions of late 2003 — a transition that first worried me.
Then I watched the birds emerge from subtle, scattered, muted abstraction, flying on through this wild and wilder ground as Hassell further explores.
I didn't tell him how much I admire him for sticking with his vision all these years. It's been grand fun watching it change.
Must be great, too, for his gallerists to have such consistent, progressing set and style to sell. Looking back, it all seems stratified in distinct pages of visual history. As big a fan as I was of his old, vivid fields and patterns, I love the wild, colorful extravaganzas of the present, and watching subject and grounds morph and mutate over 19 years has been transfixing.
ur second stop was Joel Cooner's, where I've been working part-time, five hours a week for five years. As much time as I've spent there, I'm still agog at the amazing, ever changing collection Joel's amassed — tribal and individual objects from ancient to contemporary, all hand-made — for war, peace, joy, magic and art. And those primitive muted colors and strange, real native textures I can still see setting off Bracques, Picasso, Cubism and Modern Art.
We saw more people within those familiar dark green painted and red bricked walls than at any other all day. At the party, Joel said he'd felt overwhelmed. But more obvious, he was happy, always at his best telling people long, fascinating stories about the objects he's gathered from all over the world and back in time.
To see some of those objects, check out Joel's website, most of whose photos are mine.
magine one or more-foot-long colored "beads" of metal, strung on wire, angled and tied, forming a giant, Pick-up sticks pile, wired together into a large, open mesh, cave-like space you dare not crawl into, just gaze at and through. Filling the spaces at Holly Johnson, one small wall in front and this big room in back, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, thin strands of kinetic color almost dancing.
Craighead-Green had a new Norman Kary we liked and Phillip Shore's rusted mixed-media triplet of raised metal arm hands, Beetle, Anaphylactic and Cricket we think we saw at their recent New Texas Talent show, proving their point that admission to that show could lead to gallery representation...
n the Fort Worth tour it was easy to find interesting and new things we'd never seen before, since we're never there. In Dallas, the quest for new was more difficult, because most everything we saw was old hat, familiar as day to day and driving home.
I have long history with El Centro College. I studented there after Nam on the G.I. Bill that supported my Underground Newspaper career; designed and extensively photographed course catalogs there in the mid 70s. And, in the early 80s, taught photography for three years till they figured out I didn't have a Masters. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of photos of old and new El Centro.
So it was nice to see the new gallery in the new building and the new spaces created and colored and glassed. If we hadn't been in such a hurry, I would have liked exploring and, another if — if I had a decent camera — mine's in the shop. These are from Anna's recalcitrant point-and-shoot (thank-you, dear), I'd want more abstracted realities for my collection.
What we were there to see were large, black and gray with white veins of textured painting by Rachel Bounds in what was publicized as a coal-mine like space, where we'd need a lamp to see the art. Anna bought into the premise, taking a flashlight by the door. But looking at it was easier without the splashes of bright light, and we both preferred the dead black birds on the snow.
The one other piece we saw I really liked there is this balanced but nearly abstracted bit of graphix mounted on a yellow wall near the new art space downstairs.
t Gerald Peters we found lots of Bill Haveron puns. Broad, blatant, with punch like this TKO on the boards and ...
... more subtle visions in the reliefs of the ball-and-chain, rocking boat and crutch, cut out of the painted wood on the guy's side or the opened umbrella above her head and the pregnant silhouette in the dark over her left shoulder. Sly first-person commentary on the inter-relating of the couple's real shared feelings.
ots of nice work at Pan American, of course, both visually foreign and richly American. This soft, lilting, textural watercolor stays real and surreal, and we both liked seeing lots of Charlotte Smith dot migrations down the hall.
The feeling of wide open spaces at Pan American may be the grandest in Dallas art.
e breezed through Photographs Do Not Bend — lots of old and new photographs in narrow confines and a jangling back room cum storage kitchen. But what we both remember best was a large, overheated, furry brown dog named Lazlo, who had apparently been relegated to the front porch, perhaps for all the volume he took up inside, though he took up just as much out.
Lazlo was pleasant, not overtly friendly, and he didn't mind posing, being pet or stepped over.
hen the show previously promoted for The MAC's Art Walk presence got bogged down in New Orleans, they had to punt together a last-minute sub. Appropriately themed destruction — Gimmie Shelter — Natural Disasters Hurt Like Hell was one of three shows (with Billy Hassell at Conduit and James Allenbaugh at The MADI) on the tour that knocked our socks off, perhaps The MAC's best ever.
I liked seeing my UD sculpture teacher, the late Heri Bert Bartscht's Refugees, 1955, carved from Magnolia; Otis Dozier's Grasshopper and Farmer, 1938 drawing — both from Valley House; Frank Tolbert's haunty Ship, 2001, very large graphite drawing on paper from Holly Johnson; Barnaby Fitzgerald's St Christopher; and Roger Winter's wild Evacuation Route oil on canvas from a private collection.
Lots of great pieces, many by senior Dallas artists. Maybe capricious Nature should off more of This MAC's planned programs, so they can whip together something amazing, varied — and home-based — like this gem, again.
After all the news from bowls and stadia and convention centers, this evocative, flood-ravaged mixed media photograph hits homeward in the nearly impromptu, themed show.
Leaving The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, I just had to record this vivid, rich, color-soaked shadow imagery gathering on the red baffles just inside the front doors in the sousing afternoon sun.
Outside Saint Mac's, I finally found the appropriate way to capture their brightly religious mural on the tall wall and still tie in some of the building's yellow-blue contrasts and graphic architectural details.
For other fun photos of The MAC, see The MAC, Part I.
've long held deeply prejudiced antipathy toward the MADI museum in upper lower Oak Lawn. As if pure color and geometry could be art. Yeah, as if, which I've learned in these two years' transitions, always manifests reality. If I have to say as if, I am probably already trying to hide something from me.
I told Anna she'd soon understand why I didn't think the MADI was worth visiting as we stopped the car and parked. But she didn't. And neither did I.
Instead, I did a quick 180-degree whiplash redirection. Everywhere I looked in the overcrowded space was more really fine fine art, and I was especially taken with their current show of Dallas sculptor James Allenbaugh's interlaced metal fingers and flags furling.
fter the tour was the AfterParty in the Decorator Center, where a loud band, lots of friends, drinks, munchies and wonderful wild dancing raised funds for the Edith Baker Art Scholarship to send deserving and needful Arts Magnet High School grads off to art college.
It were grand fun, too.
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