Step One to Appreciating Art in Dallas: Showing Up

Red Arrow Contemporary

"They don't really photograph well," says Lucas Martell, as we walk through Lagoon at Circuit 12 Contemporary, the local artist's first solo exhibition. "It's impossible to get the green the right color when it's being photographed."

The Internet opened up possibilities of experience to us. Today we can see the streets of Hong Kong with a click of the button; we can listen to the soundtrack or flip through the image gallery of a production in the West End or on Broadway. Life across the world is accessible to us without leaving the house and it's an obvious critique of the information age that these same advantages can also encourage a sense of lethargy. The household voyeurs can admire the exhibitionist without stepping foot into the real world. And it seems that in the art world in Dallas, a lot of times people just don't show up.

And so far this summer, the choice to not show up has been a huge mistake, because the photographs of what's happening around Dallas aren't even telling half of the story.

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Traveling Bodies: Comparing the Artistic Framework of Austin and Dallas

Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.
Maurizio Cattelan, Frank and Jamie, 2002.

"Sometimes you have to break up to see if you fall back in love." A boyfriend once told me this as I was trying to end a three-month relationship gone sour. I remember thinking that was the strangest last-ditch plea I'd ever heard. Of course, this idea of appreciative hindsight makes sense, it's given the English language cliches like, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." So while my ex-boyfriend might've been leaning on a detached sense of destiny, the necessity to escape a place to return with new affection was the impetus for a quick road trip to Austin this weekend.

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Dallas Culture Can Sometimes Be Like a Fracking Ride at a Science Museum Party

Mike Brooks

Shale was the topic of conversation at the sold out, adults-only party at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science on Friday night. "Who knew we had endless untapped shale right below our feet?" an attractive young woman playfully asked her date, who handed her a $7 glass of champagne. They were stepping off the museum's only "ride" - a video journey into the center of a hydraulic fracturing site. When visitors enter the small theater, the attendant asked that they set their drinks down by the door, because the seats "shake you like a washing machine."

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There's Nothing New Under the Dallas Sun, It's All About Perspective.

Barry Whistler Gallery
Nathan Green's new work in One Night Stand.

There are no new stories. It's a maxim we all accept. And this column is proof. Every week I wax lyrical about a weekend in the blossoming Dallas arts world. Most Friday nights I see a play, most Saturday evenings I visit galleries and then I while away the late night hours at an off-beat concert venue, or late night deejay set. Afterward I login to this blog and scribble down my observations. New artists, new actors, maybe, but the same story: There is good art here and you should go see it.

Last week I interviewed longtime radio host/storyteller/poet Rawlins Gilliland for an upcoming article and we were chatting about the poet's ability to alter their own perspective.

"When I'm at a stoplight, just as an example, even with out realizing it, I'm looking around for the details," he said. "I step outside of an otherwise boring moment and notice something new."

It's all about perspective, isn't it?

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Process in Dallas Art, Process in Dallas Life

Booth at Second Thought Theatre

Saturday night in Deep Ellum the gallery scene was busy. Cohn Drennan Contemporary opened its doors with Dan Allen's scrapbook, a photography exhibit chronicling the alternative music scene in Dallas, specifically featuring portraits of the punk, gothic, and riot girl musicians and fans. Visitors overflowed into the street, while the dj spun records, drinks were poured for tips, and Allen signed book copies.

A quick trek up Commerce St., in the space shared by The Public Trust and Liliana Bloch Gallery, visitors filtered in for the first night of Tim Best's voyeuristic collages inCrush and then caught a final glimpse of Matthew Mahon's Under, a photographic series that casts an open eye on the women working in the sex industry.

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Nerds Aren't That Terrible, or How Dallas Comic Con Won My Heart

Ed Steele
See more images of cosplay at Comic Con in our slideshow.
I used to think that I was a nerd, especially in high school. I spent a lot of time watching C-SPAN, reading The New York Times and generally being awkward and ignoring the interests of my peers. I wasn't into sci-fi or Star Wars or Magic The Gathering, but I had plenty of boring and obscure interests. After my experience at Dallas Comic Con, though, I can never honestly call myself a nerd again. I am an insult to nerds everywhere.

See also: The Cosplay of Dallas Comic Con

And nerds were everywhere at Dallas Comic Con. Before I even walked into the Dallas Convention Center, I saw a family of Star Wars cosplayers, including a baby Yoda, in the parking lot. I stood beside Zoidberg from Futurama while looking at T-shirts and rode the escalator with a woman in head-to-toe grey body paint and a very elaborate hand-sewn God of War (which is apparently a Playstation game) costume.

The attention to detail that only cosplayers have is impressive. There were no bullshit Wal-Mart Halloween costumes at Dallas Comic Con, but there were stormtroopers who had microphones in their helmets, steampunks in hand-tooled corsets, and a Queen Amidala that could have swiped her costume straight from the movie set. Even the simpler costumes, like a Superman with built-in muscles, looked very expensive.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Artistic Accessibility in Dallas

Karen Almond
When is something too elementary?

Do you think that your viewer understands the allusions and the references in your work? Is it important that they do? These were the questions Stephen Lapthisophon asked of Michelle Rawlings at the Dallas Biennial 14 panel Saturday afternoon. Often, the obscurity or the abstraction of an object opens it up to further interpretation, much the same way that Rawlings might incorporate allusions into her paintings or video art to attach new meaning. But does a viewer need to understand everything that's going on to appreciate or to "like" a piece of her art?

She answered in a few different ways, but summed up her opinion on the question by pointing out the generality of the specifics. "The wider an audience you're trying to reach, the more watered down the message."

This leads me to Dallas Theater Center's Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. I'll leave any criticism of the show itself to Elaine Liner, instead I'll pose a question: Do we really need another Sherlock?

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Richard Phillips and the Tricky Nature of Artist-Viewer Transactions

Richard Phillips

It's Saturday morning just before 11:30 a.m. and the staff at the Dallas Contemporary is adjusting microphones and setting up chairs for its Chit Chat with Richard Phillips. I dusted off my hangover from Friday night's champagne-laced gallery hopping, because I felt I owed it to Phillips to show up. At the opening I'd complained, perhaps too loudly, about his over sized paintings of celebrity photographs that, to me, reek of vulgar spectacle and misogyny. What I gathered at the talk was deep insight into my relationship with the living context of contemporary art.

Last weekend an exhibition of paintings, with subject matter not dissimilar from the Phillips paintings, opened in a presidential library. You might remember my review of former President George W. Bush's art exhibition, for which I wrote a vaguely controversial headline labeling it an unreal art exhibition. I was making very large judgments on the definition of art and the value of intention - the opposite of what I experienced in Phillips' work.

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Over the Weekend Dallas Artists Broke Down Walls

Kathy Lovas

We categorize art by medium: painting, sculpture, film, dance. You get it. But to what extent is art meant to be defined by medium? Is it paint on a canvas, a series of movements, a marble carving? Or does the intangible idea transcend the brushstrokes? Much like a person's humanity is constrained to the physical body, so it is with art. But that won't stop artists across this city from taking art out of the museums and music out of the concert halls. It's as simple as transferring the idea of one art form into another to create a new experience. It's as complicated as that too.

Last week, I'm walking through the Kathy Lovas show at the Liliana Bloch Gallery in Deep Ellum. Her Octave Studies explore very specific memories from the artist's childhood: chairs she sat in, her father's hat, an image of a young girl. But she represents these images as archives, rendering them in primary colors and imprinting them to artifacts closely related to her youth: legal pads, manilla folders, sheet music. The memory remains the same, but the backdrop emphasizes different aspects of it. Certainly that's part of the way we use media: to emphasize the idea or message.

Can small alterations to presentation really change the meaning of a work of art?

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The Young, Challenging Dallas Arts World Seeks Adventurous Audiences

Dallas Theater Center

Last week, I met with Kevin Ruben Jacobs, the 25-year-old whiz kid behind Oliver Francis Gallery to chat with him about the local art scene. I asked him what he's trying to accomplish with his gallery. He shook his head at the word "accomplish," saying it wasn't about specific goals but about presenting challenging work. It isn't some grand five-year plan. It's simple. It's about the art.

Young artists are cleaving through the same-old, same-old and tackling projects to shape Dallas into a place they want to live. The creative class is a real thing and they're challenging the establishment and they want you to come visit, stay for a while, share a beer. But you'll need to be adventurous, you'll need to tie your shoes and step off the well-paved sidewalks. The new Dallas arts world isn't Prada and lobster shooters; it's dirty and it's challenging.

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