Still Think Dallas Has No Culture? Look Underground.

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Ponchaveli Design Group
Man, I still get the same old tired line: Oh, you write for the Culture section? In Dallas? What Culture.

Yes, yes. We know. Dallas is no New York. Or, Paris. Or, hell, even Austin. I was just the same when I left here in back in 2006 with both barrels blazing and two middle fingers waving. But, then I realized something. Cities like Dallas, and you know what I mean, tend to foment rebellion. Her manicured nails and sky-high coif -- reaching gloriously to the heavens like a tribute to Reunion Tower -- inspire folks of a recalcitrant nature, giving us something to buck against. When I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was just another pinko lefty nerd drowning anonymously in a sea of my own kind. Back here, I'm that obnoxious pinko lefty asshole nerd, and if you're reading the Mixmaster, something tells me you might catch my drift.

But, for those still spitting jokes about the City sans Culture, after Saturday night, I've got to think that maybe you're just not paying attention. Underground 4, a mashup of everything art by 2011 MasterMinds finalist ArtLoveMagic, went down at the Janette Kennedy Gallery at South Side on Lamar, and it was worth every penny of the $15 cover charge. DJs were spinnin', artists were creatin' and patrons were drinkin'. It was loud, busy, bright and alive, and it was Dallas at her finest.

A yearly event, Underground presents emerging and established local artists working live, all to the tune of live bands, musicians and DJs, as well as spoken-word poets, dancers, and performance artists like the always-entertaining Circus Freaks. Our intrepid photog Taryn Walker snagged shots that are worth a thousand words, but if you've got time for about 500, we've got some observations of our own.

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I don't roll on Shabbos.
Hey, careful man, there's a beverage here! Underground was crowwwded. Which is a great thing. And, the abundance of hot bodies in fabulous outfits, made for primo people-watching. From the gorgeous ladies in pin-up corsets to the gent in the burnt orange suit -- replete with the plaid undershirt -- the fly denizens of Underground were not the side of Dallas typically observed in West Village or along Knox-Henderson. And, they were having a blast. The only things missing were White Russians.

Shit, I need more cash. I've got a big yen for local art on my walls, but turning tricks for my beloved Mixmaster will, in fact, not likely get me in Forbes. But a lot of the art available for sale last night was affordable, which is not always the case for such high-quality goods. Hey man, artists gotta eat. I totally support the price-point, intellectually, if not financially.

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Robb Conover
There were a few damned fine items that even I could take home last night, and among them, my personal favorite was a $20 coaster of a graphic painting of Amy Winehouse by popArtist Robb Conover. Check out more of his bright and bold (and NSFW) work here.

Do not feed the artists. As I stood, mouth gaping and crudely snapping shots with my iPhone, the evening evoked a subtle sense of ... school children at the zoo. I gawked impotently as the brilliant artists before me worked, laser focused on their respective tasks at hand and entirely oblivious -- or so it seemed - to the all-encompassing chaos abounding. High heels stamping dangerously close to $300 canvas paintings and oversized butts (mine, specifically) swinging clumsily toward breathtaking sculptures, it is totally unclear how so many artists kept their cool and continued working throughout the shenanigans.

But, they did, and two of my favorites were Theo Ponchaveli of Ponchaveli Design Group and Jaime Navarro. Poncaveli was working ceaselessly on a killer painting of J.R. and Bobby Ewing (Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy) from TV's Dallas with insane cut-outs that added dimension to the city's skyline. His glitzy, massive homage to the Purple One, also made the kind of glorious, gender-ambiguous statement that would make a dove cry.

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Jaime Navarro is all-business through the bacchanalia.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jaime Navarro sketched among his Southwest sculptures, including a Native American chief and all-too-sexy feminine figures (one of which he likes to call the "J.Lo"), that are constructed of drywall plates and thin set finished metal. Because Navarro was so hard at work, I chatted with his brother-in-law who said that this was the artist's first time showing his incredible work.You can find more here.

Did you miss it? Mark it down, dude! On your calendar, for next year, I mean. Underground is living proof that there's more to Dallas than meets the eye. See some of your work here, un-credited? Let us know, so we can get your name up here where it belongs.

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24 comments
cho 817
cho 817

Ponchaveli's shading is unreal...

huntertheone
huntertheone

Amazing Article about #Underground2012 - so blessed to have been a part of it!

dirtyrapscallion
dirtyrapscallion

It's not that Dallas doesn't have any culture. It's just that the culture here is "anywhere,USA" culture. There's nothing bad about it....there's nothing great about it. Just because it's a large size city doesn't mean it automatically is endowed with creative free spirits. Heck, some of the best art i've personally experienced was being produced in towns folks would refer to as "podunk"...go figure!

Rangers100
Rangers100

Not surprising. Many small towns are much more real places (and thus more conducive to art, intellectualism, architecture, etc.) than suburban sprawl.

Ashton Ham17
Ashton Ham17

It was an amazing showing, and I was honored to be a guest!

Tim
Tim

And to show the great art at work we see people's renditions of movies or music in pictures rather than original conceptual art which reinforces the knock on Dallas in the first place. If your idea of Art is someone's rendering of Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse, then yeah, Dallas is right up your alley. The art here rarely rises above amusement park caricatures. 

Tim
Tim

Well I did dig through the rest of the examples and was still not impressed really. Lets just get down to brass tacks on the issue. The reason there are limits here locally on art is that there is a very slim chance at an art career blossoming locally. For you to seek an actual career in art you have to move from here, which doesn't allow art to grow locally. We see these same articles about local music. if you want to succeed, you have to be seen, and if that's the case you have to go to Austin. Its been this way for 30 years. 

Its also obvious to me that the commenters of this article are largely artists and not consumers or supporters of the Arts.  Which makes your point of view a bit skewed.

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

Everyone has their own appreciation of different types of art.  I for one like the "cartoon" type as well as fine art and sculpture.  There's no one specific type of painting or drawing, that's why you see so many different materials and styles.

Brentney Hamilton
Brentney Hamilton

You should check out the slideshow. There were over 100 artists who presented diverse works that appeal to different tastes.

freelisa
freelisa

Perhaps the author here didn't choose a good variety of examples to illustrate his story. But certainly you aren't forming your opinion on the Dallas art community from the examples cited here, are you?

When was the last art opening you attended?  Our city is buzzing with fantastic local artists and galleries- and every weekend there are plenty of openings worth attending.

Perhaps if you opened your eyes (and mind) a little bit you might notice that Dallas has produced- and continues to produce- many nationally and globally recognized artists in a variety of styles ("caricature" and otherwise).

IK
IK

Dallas is absolutely a cultural wasteland, and only somebody who was annoyed at being a little fish in a big pond (see MA) could ever believe otherwise. 

If you actually believe that there are any artists here with a future, I really don't know what to tell you. Those that have any real talent left years ago, and continue to do so once they realize that this place has only more wal-marts and idiots drawing big-lebowski portraits to offer them. 

"The creative, thoughtful, engaged parts of Dallas are all south of Woodall."

No, the low-budget, gentrifying, idiotic hipster demographic is all south of Woodall;  people in their 30's and 40's who will be stuck here the rest of their lives working on their "art" in an effort to "make it some day". In the meantime, that cashier's job at Whole Foods certainly isn't going away!

"Its also obvious to me that the commenters of this article are largely artists and not consumers or supporters of the Arts. "

No shit. The people in Dallas wouldn't know decent art of any stripe if it shat right in their can of Lone Star. Accordingly, anybody with half a brain and half a lick of ability when it comes to the arts gets the fuck out of here at the first available opportunity. 

The proof? I just can't help myself but to be hyperbolic one last time, and this time it's actually and literally true...you can't find anyone, ANYONE who has ever moved to Dallas for any reason other than:

1. For work. 2. A family member made them (see number 1)3. It's cheap4. See number 1. 

That's it. There's literally no other reason on earth to move to the cultural black hole known as Dallas. It's easy and cheap to live here. Easy and cheap. And just like a hooker, easy and cheap tends to leave you feeling rather empty inside after one too many encounters. 

Cody Benton
Cody Benton

So since you moved away from Dallas. You must be big now? Tell us who you are what you have done to put your name on the world map? 

IK
IK

Well, man. I respect those who're trying to actually do something to change the city, but to me it is a lost cause. 

Art is actually about values. What do the people in your city value? Is it beauty? Justice?   Equanimity? I'd say not. I was a Dallasite from birth to age 29, so I have just a bit of perspective on this matter. Dallas values three things....money, status, and convenience. That's it. Now, I agree that as an artist it can be fun to rage against that machine and what have you. However, I take my art a bit more seriously than that, and actually prefer it when people other than my eight friends enjoy it or experience it. 

So I, like many artists and creative people who want to make something more out of it than a 'fuck you' to the establishment, have taken our ball and gone to a new home. Places where people actually value beauty and art more than simply cash and a gigantic home in a remote suburb. 

Dallas was my home for a long time, but during my lifetime I've just seen her decline and the yuppies completely take her over. 

Brentney Hamilton
Brentney Hamilton

I don't think anyone would argue that the state of Dallas arts is as sophisticated as we'd like it to be. However, I just can't understand this culture of "complain, but do nothing to contribute." Why simply hate the city when you could make an effort to better it. And, why disparage those who are honestly trying to make their mark?  

And, respect, but I'm afraid you've misinterpreted the MA comment. Art (and those who make it) should challenge people by rejecting normative culture (inasmuch as that culture is archaic) and by pushing intellectual and aesthetic boundaries, and Dallas has a lot to buck against for the right artist(s). The mindset here sure pisses me off, and -reading these comments - it sounds like it pisses off a lot of folks. Technical skills aren't enough to make great art. And, a little fish can shine in any tank with the right fire in its gullet.     

fair balanced
fair balanced

Wow, harsh words, partly true.In the late 80s there was some awesome stuff going on in Dallas, Deep Ellum and Exposition Park.  You're probably right that many of the truly inspired left Dallas.On the other hand, since we don't have so many "aspiring" artists such as in MA, we don't have to tolerate insufferable incredibly annoying poseurs on a constant basis.  You could argue that it is just as annoying to see people try so hard to convince you of their wealth (even if they are rich, I don't care, hell I'm rich).Contrary to what you seem to believe, some people, including myself, like Dallas.  And wouldn't it be great if we could build on some positive perceptions of Dallas?

Rangers100
Rangers100

The problem is that when most people think of Dallas they think of North Dallas and all the reality TV show material and mindless sprawl that comes with that.

The creative, thoughtful, engaged parts of Dallas are all south of Woodall. 

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Funny, when I think of Dallas, I think of decay, and everything south of Woodall. What's so engaging about Dixon Circle, or Malcolm X Blvd. on a Saturday night?  So, blight is thoughful......well eff me!

Rangers100
Rangers100

Very telling.

You need to get out of Collin County a little more often.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I did today, but I went north-sir. Can't hike in Dallas, unlessin' you wanna get genked.

CCC
CCC

"The creative, thoughtful, engaged parts of Dallas are all south of Woodall."-your statement clearly shows that you're not part of the group. What's with the high school mentality?

Terrycart
Terrycart

This articles never touched upon the high school mentality, the fact lies there without dispute.

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