Tuesday, April 30, 2013

DFW to Houston: We're #1!

Robert Boyd

Our art is better than your art

"RR," a blogger from the DFW area, writes a very succinct post about a trip to Houston he made to check out the Forrest Bess show at the Menil. He made 14 stops altogether to check out art--a crowded day of art viewing. Here are a few highlights:
  • #1 stop at Bill Davenport's "Bill's Junk" in the Heights. Always a priority when I go to Houston. 
  • #5 stop - Paul Fleming at the most unfriendly gallery in Texas Barbara Davis Gallery followed closely by Holly Johnson Gallery in Dallas. I should have skipped this one. I will never step inside this place again.
  • #6 stop at one of my favorite galleries, Inman Gallery. You can't go wrong here. Robert Ruello was a pleasant surprise and the first time to see Jim Richard's work in person. Not disappointed.
  •  #9 stop - Devin Borden Gallery, we didn't even bother ringing the bell.
  • #11 stop - A long time favorite gallery of mine - Betty Moody, the friendlist gallery in Texas representing important artists. Helen Altman (wall) and Lisa Ludwig (table) in the back gallery.
(Note to gallerists: don't be rude. Someone might blog about you.)

The kicker after these 14 stops? RR's conclusion: "This trip proved to me that the best art coming out of Texas right now is from North Texas. But I will try again in the fall."

My first thought was outrage. How dare RR draw such a conclusion after visiting two museums, 11 commercial galleries and Bill Davenport? Maybe the art on view in those places at this time doesn't represent Houston very well. One needs to see what's happening in artist-run spaces, in the smaller, funkier galleries, in the schools, etc.

But then I checked myself--I am totally guilty of the same behavior. Every time I go to Dallas/Fort Worth, I find myself drawing big conclusions about the area based on my brief visit. There is something about DFW that brings this out in me. But the fact is that a brief visit to a place can provide a suggestion of what the place is all about at best.

RR might be right. I was mighty impressed the last time I was in Dallas. And even if he is not right, I like the fact that the age-old rivalry between DFW and Houston continues to be played out even in the arena of art. But I don't think that visiting 14 galleries and museums over the course of a weekend (a day?) gave RR an accurate picture of Houston's art scene.

So RR, here is my proposition. The next time you come down for a visit, contact me. I'll be happy to show you the best of whatever happens to be up.


Sunday, April 28, 2013


Robert Boyd

What else is there to say? More like this can be found at panels2ponder.com and even more at the Panels2Ponder Facebook page. Compiled by Frank Young, co-creator of The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song.

Forrest Bess, untitled (The Crowded Mind/The Void) (1947), oil on canvas, 10 x 11 3/4 inches

There's a Forrest Bess show up at the Menil, and I wrote a review of it. That review is not on this site (at least, not yet), but you can go over to Glasstire and read it. In fact, I insist!

facebook farm, pg version from Dark Blood on Vimeo.

Whenever Mark Flood has a new show, he makes a new song with an accompanying video. This one is called "Facebook Farm." This is the PG13 version, which strongly implies there is an x-rated version out there... The exhibit is at a gallery in Birmingham, Alabama called Beta Pictoris.

For some reason, people love creating pastiches of the Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David. I found Helen Mirren doing it in Painted Lady, and Vik Muñiz did one made of garbage, and last Sunday Garry Trudeau did it in Doonesbury. It seems that Marat just won't die.

Cody Ledvina, mural on the side of E.J.'s Bar.

Cody Ledvina has begun painting murals in Montrose because there are not enough murals and especially not enough murals of grotesquely elongated cartoon dachshunds. Swamplot reported this, as they often do with things like this, and Swamplot's devoted commenters chimed in for a little art criticism, not just of Ledvina, but of Houston art in general.
  • From commonsense: “too much shitty visual culture”, says the guy that drew a giant cartoon dog with a paint roller? And people wonder why I have zero respect for “artists”.
  • From montrosechica: I love the Vermont Street mural! Not only has that building gone through some wonderful renovations recently, but now I break out in a smile every time I see the cat sitting on the edge of the pool looking towards downtown.
  • From Northsider: You must be one boring SOB to hang out with @commonsense.
  • From windows95: @commonsense I highly doubt that anyone wonders why you have zero respect for artists.
  • From Harold: I have zero respect for most Houston area artists as well. Most of the “art” that I see at galleries is frankly, garbage, such as facial portraits with genitalia painted on them. Sorry, but the people buying these orange stucco Mcmansions are the same idiots plunking down $2,000-3,000 for this junk.
  • From commonsense: To each is own, I’m entertained by discussing business and politics, some people are entertained by malcontents with a paint bucket.
  • From Tom: The mural on Dunlavy is hidieous. The owners did a good job on the buildings renovations and ruined the whole look with the amature.
  • From Shane Tolbert: Montrose is lucky to have Cody Ledvina. What is with the negative criticism? What are YOU doing to beautify a neighborhood and build a sense of community? Thank you Cody!
  • From windows95: Some people just don’t like art, which is fine but for some reason art is unique in that the naysayers always feel entitled to make value judgements on the entirety of art. I guess visual art is just an easy target. As to the penis art, nobody hears a shitty band at one of the 100 Little Woodrows in town and declares all of Houston music dead.
  • From Robert Boyd: I disagree, Harold. I love facial portraits with genitalia painted on them, and I’m really pleased that this genre of art has become associated with Houston. I was just remarking on this the other day to a fellow malcontent at an exhibit at the Watercolor Art Society of Houston over on Alabama. The theme of the show? Facial portraits with genitalia painted on them, of course.
  • From longdoglover: This is one of the best things that has recently happened to Montrose. Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Ledvina! Thank you for bringing some genuine human charm to this new wave of quickly drowsying urban “development”.
  • From Gene Morgan: Once every fifty years you get a facial-portraits-with-genitalia-painted-on-them painter of Cody Ledvina’s talent.
  • From Tom: If you really think the cat on the lake or whatever it is looks good then your sense of aestetic is obviously out of whack. That “mural” is out of place and poorly done. I actully like some of the fun graffiti art on buildings around Montrose…. but not that horrible mess. It looks like an art project from a kindergarten class. Im sure some of the paragons of “art appreciation” would howl if the next store neighbor painted their house hot pink with polka dots all over it……etc.
  • From doofus: Um, a giant weiner dog painted on the side of EJ’s is hilarious. I love it. Nice to see camp return to Montrose!
  • From miss_msry: If it’s going to be a public mural, get a professional muralist.
Paul McCarthy, Complex Shit (partially deflated) (Getty Images)

I wonder what the critics of Cody Ledvina at Swamplot would think of Paul McCarthy's Complex Shit. I can think of many sites in Houston that would be improved by having this inflatable sculpture on them--Reliant Stadium, George Bush Park, the parking lot of any Walmart, etc.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Some Thoughts about Eric Fischl

Virginia Billeaud Anderson

The fact that they have stomachs that protrude further than their breasts does not stop some women from unmercifully going topless on a beach. Eric Fischl records this indecorous quirk by exaggerating the sway-back on a topless female in a beach scene he is showing in Cast & Drawn at McClain Gallery through May 11. More absurd than the bikini bottom-wearing fat woman is the swishy brush stroke-loose skin on the nude males who stroll self-importantly across the sand. Narrative ambiguity is as much a part of Fischl’s artistic practice as figurative distortion. He leaves the viewer unsure of what is happening. Some thoughts about Fischl inspired this short essay.

Eric Fischl, Untitled, 2013, Hand painted collage with pigment and poured resin, 40” x 60”

The gallery’s press release sparked memories of my first encounter with Fischl’s 1981 Bad Boy. For an instant my eye was drawn to the parallel lines of light reflected through the window blind, and to the still life in the corner. It quickly became clear that the nude woman lying spread-legged on the bed was exposing herself to the young boy stealing from her purse. When examining this erotic and mysterious composition, the viewer is left uncertain if the woman is the boy’s incestuous mother or an indecent adult with whom he is associated. Either way, something disgraceful is taking place in that bedroom.

In 2011 Fischl lectured at the Glassell School and MFAH’s lecture announcement cited the source of inspiration for paintings such as Bad Boy. It said the artist’s “suburban upbringing provided him with a backdrop of alcoholism and a country-club culture obsessed with image over content. His early work thus became focused on the rift between what was experienced and what could not be said.” Fischl received critical attention, it added, “for depicting the dark, disturbing undercurrents of mainstream American life.”

In other words Fischl’s art savagely exposes American middle-class pretensions. He is fascinated by middle class striving and hypocrisy, and called it “tragic and compelling.” Framed against his words, the beach scene figures’ grandiose poses constitute genteel desperation.

Eric Fischl, Tumbling Woman II, 2007, Bronze, 25.5” x 47.5” x 26”, Edition 6/9, 2AP

It’s impossible to see Fischl’s 2007 bronze Tumbling Woman II and not think of Degas’s brand of voyeurism, and from the beginning Fischl has been critically linked to Degas. John Russell’s 1986 New York Times invocation of Degas is unequivocal: Degas “sets up a charged situation with his incomparable subtlety of insight and characterization, and then he goes away and leaves us to figure it out as best we can. That is the tactic of Fischl, too, though the society with which he deals has an unstructured brutality and a violence never far from release that are very different from the nicely calibrated cruelties that Degas recorded," Russell wrote.

I find similarity between Degas’s 1874 Interior (The Rape) and Fischl’s Bad Boy. The Venetian blind light patterns that fill the room in Bad Boy mimic closely the floor boards in Degas’s Interior. Bad Boy’s lady’s purse relates to the open suitcase in Interior. In both paintings the male figures’ hands add to our unease, the boy’s hands are behind his back removing an object from the purse, and Degas’s man’s hands are hidden in his pockets in a gesture of discomfort. Most importantly, the paintings have the same degree of psychic tension, Fischl’s with the suggestion of child abuse, and Degas’s with the emotional distress of the undergarment-clad kneeling woman.

The art historian Edward Huttinger wrote that there were two components in Degas’s art which permeated each other: “the great western tradition of Classicism, plus his passionately direct interpretation of the essential phenomena of his own present existence.” This fits Fischl.

Tumbling Woman II follows a line of sculptural works the artist began after New York was attacked. When he first exhibited this art he suffered grief because New Yorkers found the sculptures too painfully derivative of 9/11 victims. The work found acceptance, though--the pieces all sold.

In 2009 Alfred MacAdam wrote in ARTnews that one of Fischl’s bronzes “looks like a Pompeii casting of a person killed by the volcano.” The critic found the sculpture’s surface interesting, noting bronze fragments seemingly chipped off the figure. He also compared some pieces to Baroque religious statuary.

Crossing over from painting to the three dimensional, Fischl captures movement with the same sharp-eyed observation as Degas.

Eric Fischl, Bad Boy, 1981, Oil on linen, 66 x 96 


Eye Candy at Inman Gallery

Robert Boyd

My New Year's resolution was to strictly limit my sugar consumption. No M&Ms, no Jelly Bellies, no Gummi Bears, etc. I've pretty much kept to it, but I have to say that exhibits like Open Other Side by Robert Ruello at Inman Gallery make it hard.

Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Places #11, 2013, acrylic on canvas

These canvases please the eye in the most basic way possible--with arrangements of super-saturated super-bright colors. They don't project any obvious emotion or meaning. Nor do they exist in a cultural space where they could be read as part of a particular movement or in a dialectic with some other theoretical approach. At first glance, they just are.

Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Places #10, 2013, acrylic on canvas

That was my first impression when I looked at Robert Ruello's paintings. I'm not going to now tell you that I've discovered that they have hidden depths that I initially overlooked. But there is a common feature in all of these paintings that interests me. It's the grid of roughly round dots that more-or-less forms the ground of each painting. The dots are not uniform in size, shape or color. In #11, they are bright orange except for a section where they are light purple. And the orange dots seem to expand into a hairy shape in the middle of the canvas. In #10, they are dark blue, blue-grey and light blue in various places in the picture plane.

Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Places #12, 2013, acrylic on canvas

In commercial printing, reproduction of images that have shades of grey or color is done through a process called "halftones." This is a way for one color ink (black for instance) to be printed in such a way that it appears to have various shades of grey. Photographic halftones started appearing in print in the 1880s. Typically, they create their grey tones with a grid of tiny dots of ink--smaller dots for lighter shades, larger dots for darker. Ideally, when you look at a halftoned image, your eye sees it as a continuous image, not as a grid of dots--similar to the phi phenomenon that occurs when we watch a movie that allows us to see it as a continuity of motion rather than a series of separate images.

If you look at a halftoned image with a magnifying glass or printer's loupe, you will see the dots. And depending on the absorbancy of paper they were printed on, they may appear quite ragged and irregular. (This is known as "dot gain.") Newsprint, because it is so absorbent, soaks up the ink of a halftone dot screen to create really rough dots. Because of this, the "screens" (how many lines of dots per inch) for newsprint halftones are not very dense. These dots hover right at the edge of being visible without a magnifying glass.

Artists in the 60s found this fascinating. Obviously Lichtenstein comes to mind, but his recreation of the dots used to create color in comics didn't acknowledge the imperfections of printing halftones onto the crappy, low-grade newsprint that all comics at the time were printed onto.

Warhol and Rauschenberg blew up newspaper images to gigantic sizes, which made the imperfections of the printing process highly visible. And since that time, designers and artists have been using that technique to create arresting images.

Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Places #8, 2013, acrylic on canvas

I think this is what Ruello is doing with his dots. According to the information supplied by the gallery, the paintings start out in Photoshop, a powerful photo-editing application. I suspect that Ruello is scanning in halftoned images from a newspaper or other print publication and blowing them up thousands of times so that the image is completely lost--and all he sees are the halftone dots, the ink soaked into the paper in a particular pattern.

Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Places #6, 2013, acrylic on canvas

If printed halftone images are Ruello's source, then each of these images is constructed from a fragment of another image. That's interesting to think about, but doesn't change the basic fact that these are eye candy. They're beautiful, rhythmic tasty pieces of eye candy.  Seeing them gave me pleasure. I like art that challenges me, that expresses something in the artist, or embodies something in the world.  I like art that is tentative, filled with doubt and false starts. I like art that makes me think more about the room that it's in or about how I need to go pick up my laundry. But I also like art that is pretty, that is visually exciting. These paintings are pure pleasure.

Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Places #5, 2013, acrylic on canvas

When you allow that a piece like #5 is about the pleasure it gives, you can move on to admire its composition, the brown intrusion from the right, the transparent white box, the nail-polish-like blue dots, etc. These are well-designed paintings. Hal Foster wrote a book called Design and Crime (And Other Diatribes) where he calls out  beautifully designed things (in the book he uses the examples of modern "starchitecture" and art nouveau objects) as being a way that capitalism trivializes art and hypnotizes people. It's a version of the old Frankfurt School argument against beauty (and against popular culture) because they are all just ways that capitalism psyches out the masses. But I personally reject that kind of Marxist puritanism. I selfishly want to live in a world where I am allowed to enjoy paintings like Robert Ruello's.

These paintings are on view at Inman Gallery through May 11.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pan Recommends for the week of April 25 to May 1

Robert Boyd

Lots of stuff happening this weekend in the Colquitt and Montrose galleries, but also in spaces we don't hear from that often. Here are a few of the things that caught our eye.


Nnnnnnnnooooooooooooo by Carrie Cook at the Project Gallery at the UH School of Art, 6-9 pm. I liked her work at the MFA Thesis show, so I expect that this one will be pretty good as well.

Untitled, Victor Vasarely, 37.5" x 38.875", silkscreen

Optical Spaces: The Art of Victor Vasarely at the Museum of Printing History, 6 pm. Vasarely was an artist whose work seemed destined for the walls of dorm rooms. Cosmic eye-candy to be sure, and fun to look at for that reason.


Tom Huck's THE HILLBILLY KAMA SUTRA at Burning Bones Press, 6 pm. I'm not sure I can add much to what Huck says in this video except to recommend you crank up the Southern Culture on the Skids and check this show out.

Marcelyn McNeil, Lemonworld, 54"x52", oil on canvas

Marcelyn McNeil: Lemonworld at Anya Tish Gallery at 6 pm. I like the way McNeil balances geometric abstraction and expressive brushwork. Her paintings have a beautiful rough-hewn feel.

Anastasia Pelias, Elaine, for Elaine (shade grey, translucent yellow, payne’s grey), 2013 oil on canvas, one painting in two pieces, 72 x 144 inches

Anastasia Pelias: Ritual Devotion at Zoya Tommy Contemporary, 6 pm. And if you need more abstraction, go across the hall to Zoya Tommy and check out New Orleans painter Anastasia Pelias.

University of Houston School of Art: Annual BFA Student Exhibition at the Blaffer Art Museum, 6 pm. You saw the MFA Thesis show--now come out and see what the undergrads have been doing.

still from Latham Zearfoss's “Myth of My Anchestors”

Stinky Pinky: a Screening of Experimental Queer Shorts featuring films by Kristin Anchor, Rahne Alexander, Zach Meyer, Dorian Bonelli, Tessa Siddle, Chris Vargas, Matt Wolf, & Latham Zearfoss at Skydive from 8 to 11 pm. Skydive is back with a short film program.


Burning Bones Press & AIGA's: It Came From The Bayou! featuring Tom Huck, Cannonball Press and Dennis McNett, Sean Starwars, The Amazing Hancock Brothers, Workhorse Printmakers and Burning Bones Press at The Continental Club , noon to 6 pm. Printmaking demos, lots of prints, and the sounds of DJ PsychedelicSexPanther--sounds like a high energy event.

Russell Prince, The Silver Chair, 2012, mixed media collage, 20X30”

Russell Prince: Pastmodern at Front Gallery 4–6 pm. Collagist Russell Prince is a show curated by Jay Wehnert from Intuitive Eye.

Kelley Devine: Face Face at Winter Street Studios Gallery, 5-9 pm. Giant faces give viewers cold appraising gazes in the art of Kelley Divine, on view at Winter Street.

Obscure Workings: Anthony J Suber at Commerce Street Gallery, 6 pm. An artist I have never heard of, but I liked the artwork on his website.

Troy Dugas, Falstaff, 2009 Beer labels, 60 x 60" -- this old piece will probably not be in the show, but it's typical of Dugas's work  

Troy Dugas: Modernized for Mildness and Rusty Scruby: Sink Sketches in the micro space at McMurtrey Gallery, 6 pm. Two artists who take printed material, cut it up, and make visuallydazzling new things out of it--they seem like a natural pairing.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Robert Boyd

Have a fantastic Texphrastic day. Harbeer Sandhu got a Creative Capital grant to start his art blog in December, and has now rolled out the blog, Texphrastic. The title is a play on the word "exphrasis." Sandhu explains, "Ekphrasis, or ekphrastic writing, is writing which is done in dialog with visual art. It may or may not even refer, explicitly, to the visual piece it speaks to." But so far, he has written about specific artworks, specifically artworks that have been displayed and are done, never to be seen again. Texphrastic doesn't aim for currency.
"I will be publishing one or two posts per week. I do not intend to keep up with current shows. I want to make a hard distinction between Art (with a capital “a”) and art events. This is a place for art criticism, not for show reviews. [...] If you want timely reviews of current shows–there are many other publications already doing that. I aim to write long-form criticism and independent ekphrastic responses of literary quality–I aim for depth, not breadth, and certainly not currency–and I hope these essays will remain pertinent and interesting long after the artists they discuss have moved on to new projects." [About Texphrastic]
This is quite different from my own approach. Occasionally we'll discuss art that is not currently on display, but generally speaking, if there is an exhibit that I'm interested in but which has closed, I won't write about it. My thinking here is that I want readers to have an opportunity to see it and form their own opinions.

But the internet has a long memory. Shows I wrote about in 2011 continue to get hits today (literally). So even when I write about now, I know I am also writing about the past. Sandhu is just a little more honest about it.

Now you know. Jon Hamm and Elmo explain what sculpture is.

Johnny Marr

Rock star has good taste. "Which painters inspire you? Uh, well, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns — the obvious people, I guess. I very much like people from the sixties: David Hockney and Lucian Freud. I like Susan Hiller. She did some really interesting things. I like the example they set: that you do work come rain or shine, because that’s what you do." ["Johnny Marr on Going Solo, Turning 50, and Fond Memories of the Smiths," Nisha Gopalan, Vulture, April 20, 2013]


Now you know, part 2. Harold Rosenberg, the great critic who coined the term "action painting," created Smokey the Bear.

Now you know, part 3. Carol Tyler drew a massive three-part comic memoir called You'll Never Know (published as You'll Never Know book one: A Good and Decent Man, You'll Never Know book two: Collateral Damage, and You'll Never Know book three: Soldier's Heart.) She gave a talk at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC which was recorded. This video is long--an hour and a half--but it is astonishing in the detail it goes into about how she constructed the book, how she constructed each page--even how she mixed the colors she used.


Friday, April 19, 2013

A NSFW Pan Art Fair--Dallas Memoir

Robert Boyd

In 1951, 16-year old Juanita Dale Slusher appeared in a hardcore stag film called Smart Alec. She soon started stripping under the name "Candy Barr" in Dallas. She befriended Jack Ruby, was busted for pot, became Mickey Cohen's girlfriend, went to prison, was paroled, talked to the FBI about Ruby after the Kennedy assassination, and eventually was pardoned by Governor John Connally. She went back to stripping and appeared in Oui magazine in 1976 (at the age of 41). In 1972, poems she had written in prison were published under the title of A gentle mind ... confused. The title poem goes like this:
Hate the world that strikes you down,
A warped lesson quickly learned.
Rebellion, a universal sound,
Nobody cares, no one's concerned.

Fatigued by unyielding strife,
Self-pity consoles the abused,
And the bludgeoning of daily life,
Leaves a gentle mind . . . confused.
That's also the name of a 45 rpm record that was on view at the Pan Art Fair, which was a hotel room "art fair" I put on in Dallas. The single was produced in a limited edition by Michael A. Morris, and it features his grandfather giving a stentorian reading of Barr's poem.

Michael A. Morris, A Gentle Mind Confused

The Pan Art Fair is so high-tech!

Morris is represented by the Oliver Francis Gallery, which was one of the exhibitors at the Pan Art Fair in Dallas last weekend. Gallery director Kevin Rubén Jacobs not only brought the single--he brought a portable turn-table so we could play it in the suite I had rented at the Belmont Hotel.

The site of the Pan Art Fair--Dallas--a suite at the Belmont Hotel.

The first time I wrote about art in Dallas, I wrote about the big institutions--and the municipal/business power brokers that shepherded them into being. I was looking at the Dallas of businessmen, corporate technocrats who are highly concerned with Dallas's image and branding and how that related to "the arts." I suggested that there must be another Dallas, a Dallas of artists who worked through alternative structures. If the downtown Arts District and North Park Mall and Dallas Cowboys Stadium represented the respectable Dallas of the business oligopoly, what were the artistic counterparts to the less respectable aspects of Dallas--the Candy Barrs and the Jack Rubys, the Peter Gents and the Hollywood Hendersons, the Dimebag Darrells and the Robert Tiltons, the Bonnies and the Clydes of the Dallas art scene? Finding this alternative Dallas was one of the purposes of the Pan Art Fair in Dallas.

As I did with the Houston Pan Art Fair, I scheduled this one to coincide with a larger, more mainstream art fair--the Dallas Art Fair, held downtown in the Arts District.  Unlike the Houston version, the Dallas Pan Art Fair only lasted one day. I didn't have the time and logistical wherewithal to do a multi-day fair. And it turns out that one day was fine--attendance was pretty good and I even sold some things. Plus it gave me the opportunity to go check out the Dallas Art Fair on Sunday.

The metaphor of "outlaw Dallas" vs. "establishment Dallas" came to mind because we had several artworks that related to the bad boys and girls of Dallas--the Candy Barr poem above and several pieces related to Bonnie and Clyde by Michelle Mackey. The three paintings Mackey showed came from the Star Service series, "based on a gas station in West Dallas where Clyde Barrow's family used to live." The amazing thing is the gas station is still there--boarded up now and only accessible by trespassing. But from that starting point, Mackey creates what seem like completely abstract paintings that deal with the mythology of Bonnie and Clyde. (One of them is based on the pattern of the bullet holes in the car in which the pair were ambushed and killed.)

While she was there, we talked about the popular mythology of the pair. I am pleased to note that I introduced her to the classic country song "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde" by Merle Haggard.

From left to right, top row--two pieces by Jim Nolan, a painting by Michelle Mackey, and two more Jim Nolan pieces. The round things in front are individual pieces by Christine Bisetto.

Houston artist Jim Nolan also participated in the fair and I decided to display his work with Mackey's because they had a similar palette of silvers and greys. Nolan is doing a residency at Centraltrak, which seems to be one of the main engines of the Dallas art scene. I had a chance to visit it the day before the fair. The weird thing about it is that the artists live in their studios. Their "bedrooms" are in lofts above the kitchen in the open-plan spaces. The studios feel a little like post-graduation bachelor pads.

left, Jim Nolan; right, Michelle Mackey bullet hole abstraction; bottom center, Chris Cascio's portfolio of small pieces.

Nolan is the one who suggested I contact Mackey, Nathan Green and Oliver Francis Gallery. I was familiar with Green's work from exhibits at Art Palace, but I didn't realize that he had relocated to Dallas from Austin. (Yes, Austinites--people move from Austin to Dallas.)

Nathan Green (top row) and Christopher Cascio (bottom row).

Nathan Green (top row) and Christopher Cascio (bottom row) with some Christine Bisetto paintings on the floor.

I also brought up some work by Christopher Cascio, including his giant blowup images of drug baggies. He had a whole wall of these at the UH MFA thesis show. It was overwhelming.

Against headboard: a painting by Michelle Mackey. On the bed: photos by Emily Peacock and Christopher Cascio.

work by Christine Bisetto.

Christine Bisetto is a Fort Worth (I think) artist who was recommended to me by Christina Rees. She brought over a ton of small pieces (and one larger piece). The paintings are of words she says to her children.

Her disc-shaped pieces (a few photos up) were actually rolls of tape unrolled, sprinkled with holes from a hole-punch, and rolled up again. I joked to Jim Nolan that these pieces were so grungy and abject in their materials that they made his work look precious! I think he took that as a challenge.

work by Christine Bisetto.

The tape on the floor piece (above)  kept coming undone during the course of the day. (Future conservators take note!). The string pieces were meant to be displayed on a wall, but we couldn't drive tacks into the hotel wall so I showed them on this end-table.

Work from Re Gallery--top: Kristin Cochran; middle: Ricardo Paniagua; bottom: Kelly Kroener

On the day before I was set to leave, Wanda Dye called me up. She runs a new gallery called Re Gallery which will be showing work by Benjamin Terry, who I was already showing. I knew the suites were big, so I said yes. So she showed a variety of small work by Kristen Cochran, Ricardo Paniagua and Kelly Kroener (and Benjamin Terry, of course). In retrospect, I wish I could have come up with a different display concept than putting the work in this window--it tends to put the art in a shadow (the effect of which is exaggerated by this photo).

Oliver Francis Gallery, left to right: Arthur Peña (the bubble wrap piece) and Keith Allyn Spencer (three pieces).

Oliver Francis Gallery's other work (by Arthur Peña and Keith Allyn Spencer) was displayed on the ironing board that came with the room. I liked this because it reflected the "make do with what you got" attitude of the gallery. (Over on Main Street in Deep Ellum, Oliver Francis Gallery had three temporary shows up at three vacant storefronts. Apparently they had made an arrangement with the landlord.) The ironing board turned out to be perfect for these small objects because it brought them high up off the floor. You don't have to bend over very much to see them. (That said, Arthur Peña wasn't satisfied with the placement of his piece. He took it and balanced it on the doorknob of the closet. Artists are very particular about this sort of thing.)

photos by Emily Peacock.

The suite had two very comfy daybeds. I took all the cushions off to make big flat display spaces. Emily Peacock's photos were displayed on them. (Emily Peacock, Christopher Cascio and Jim Nolan are all veterans of the first Pan Art Fair in Houston.)

Benjamin Terry

More Ben Terry.

Benjamin Terry had three pieces in the exhibit. I had encountered his work before last summer at Cohn Drennan Contemporary. I liked how alike the three pieces were while also being very different. The self-portrait with triangles piece shows that he is an pretty skilled draughtsman. So it's funny that the other two pieces are so minimal and devoid of drawing (one has a ghostly remnant of a portrait). In a sense, I feel like they were three approaches to the same subject matter, but this is just a guess on my part.

I wanted to have a small item to sell or give away for the show, and it was too late for me to make T-shirts. So instead, I made a zine containing my earlier blog posts about Dallas. They are badly "typeset" and feature the worst low-grade photocopying possible. This hand-bound zine shows a callous disregard for craftsmanship. Dallas is the inauspicious start of a possible series of zines called "Panphlets." I'm a committed blogger, but what can I say? I still have a nostalgic love for physical books and magazines and zines.

I think this is the Oliver Francis Gallery table at the Fallas Art Fair. In any case, this guy with his hand on the chair is Kevin Rubén Jacobs

After the Pan Art Fair officially shut down at 8 pm (and the last attendees were ushered out at 9:30), I went over to the other alternative art fair, the Fallas Dart Air, held in a barbeque restaurant called Mama Faye's over in Deep Ellum. It consisted of various art organizations, both non-profit and otherwise, including Centraltrak , Mai Koetjecacov Editions Wichita Falls, Oliver Francis Gallery, Semigloss Magazine, Shamrock Hotel Studios and Studio DTFU.

I don't know what was in the jars at the Shamrock Hotel table. Art, I suppose.

It seemed like a lot of the Dallas Art Scene was present, many of whom I had met earlier in the day at the Pan Art Fair. There was live music and it was a very social atmosphere.

Centraltrak's table.

The purpose seemed less about showing (much less selling) art than about raising the flag and having a good time. But I did actually buy something--a copy of a local art magazine called Semigloss. I haven't read it yet, so I can't say if it's actually good. But it looks beautiful.

Semigloss magazine.

Pierre Krause and the hand of Jim Nolan at the Fallas Dart Air.

But aside from that, I mainly drank beer, ate barbeque, and fruitlessly tried to follow people's conversations (such as the one in the photo above with artist Pierre Krause, who did one of the Main Street installations that Oliver Francis Gallery hosted). But it was loud and I was tired. I went back to the hotel and collapsed. A long, fun exhausting day.

Is there something different about Houston and Dallas? The two cities are very similar. Dallas is much more like Houston than either city is like, say, Seattle or Boston. But I go back to the piece Christina Rees wrote for Glasstire, "Dear Young DFW Whippersnapper Artists." She wrote, "There is no real economy for your art being made here in DFW. Almost none. Not enough to make a living. And there isn’t a mainstream press, like there is in NYC and London, to cover your career if you made a commercial leap anyway." But this wasn't seen by her as a bad thing necessarily. Instead, she wanted the artists to take it as license "to fuck things up." She was calling on artists to be outlaws.

So maybe this is the difference. Houston artists have so many opportunities. There are all kinds of spaces here to show work--including work that is challenging and uncommercial. Lawndale alone puts on something like 12 shows a year--or is it 16? When I saw Kevin Rubén Jacobs' three shows in the disused retail spaces on Main, I was envious. Why don't Houston artists do stuff like that? But then when I thought about it, why should they? In Houston, Pierre Krause wouldn't need an abandoned storefront. She could put an installation in Lawndale's Project Space--or any number of places around town.

But this is just a superficial reading of the situation. When I visit Dallas, I hardly see a lack of opportunity--on the contrary, I rarely can visit every art space I want to for lack of time. There's a lot of them! So probably I'm pushing the metaphor too far. Nonetheless, it makes me happy to think that there is an outlaw Dallas art scene, and that the Pan Art Fair brushed against it for a moment.