Art Reviews: Why You Should Avoid Going to Galleries After a Day at The Museum

I was gallery hopping in Chicagoand missed CADD’s Design District weekend. However, an artist friend and I made it out to several shows Aug 4th. Maybe too many.

First off, a word of advice: don’t go gallery hopping after you have been to museums. The bar was set exceptionally high by the work of Omer Fast at the Dallas Museum of Art. Despite my well-honed reluctance to watch video art, Fast’s piece, 5,000 Feet is Best was downright excellent. Three brief stories unfold as a military drone pilot discusses his god-like role, triggering an intense psychological paradox of absolution and confession through evasive narrative.

(left) Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled (2009). (right) Nobuo Sekine, "Phase of Nothingness - Cloth and Stone," 1970/1994

Pensive and considerate, after this film I took a lap around “Variations on a Theme” featuring works from the DMA’s permanent collection before heading over to see three pieces by Nobuo Sekine. Made in the late 60’s and early 70’s as part of the Mono-ha movement, the works have a profound simplicity. Each piece offers an active surprise conveying complexly and balanced tension; the works are completely alive while pretending a formal stillness. The strength of these works decries the exploits of modern art jokers (such as Maurizio Cattelan, Richard Prince, Koons, and Hirst). Cattelan, in particular, comes to mind. The DMA and Menil have recently purchased a piece by the Italian artist that bears a striking similarity to Sekine’s work here. But whereas Cattelan’s broom holding up the canvas is intended as tongue-in-cheek critique, when considered against Nobuo’s stone weight dangling from a rope, cinching an echoing bulbous form out of a canvas, Cattelan feels a little too irreverent of his audience or legacy, its criticism decidedly shallow. Nobuo’s work has the ability to embrace nature, art, and the human condition without breaking a sweat. Mono-ha…

After the DMA we moseyed over to the Nasher, showing my buddy fromSan DiegotheMuseumTowerand out-of-commission James Turrell, which has been turned into a new dark landmark, anotherDallasfunereal monument.

Jeff Parrott, Amass (2012)

Then we went on a four-hour stumble through various galleries. I stopped by Ro2 Art-Uptown to see Jeff Parrot’s works, the best of which are highly reminiscent of Philip Guston, yet each work seems to be trying a slightly different style of early modernist painting. Cohn Drennan opened “Blurr,” new works by Ben Terry and Bonnie Leibowitz. The artist’s styles are quite disparate, yet have a similar trait of hiding and revealing subject matter. Further South, Craighead Green opened New Texas Talent, which ironically includes several not-so-new Texas talents. I saw an excellent Giovanni Valderas piece, but little else due to the insane throng of sweaty, well dressed people. Similarly, The MAC membership show, Trans, had a record breaking 240 something pieces and just as many people.

Work by George Zupp

There are also several new galleries, roughly six months old, that I investigated.  Circuit 12 Contemporary had a series of small, tightly executed, surreal narratives by Madison, Wisconsin artist Sofia Arnold. Red Arrow has a group show with a Wisconsonite and two San Antonio area artists this month, and it looks to continue the San Antonio trend for their next exhibit. Currently you can view one of the most bizarre DVD’s I have ever seen by George Zupp, a.k.a. Chicken George. Balancing the exhibit were twenty or more witty drawings by Bill Amundson reminding me of New Yorker cartoons and the formal, conceptual reclaimed-furniture pieces of Clay McClure. WAAS Galleryfeatured Drew Merritt, a New Mexico artist who has recently moved to L.A. The works are large-scale figurative renderings with a stylistically hip splattering of paint and references to street art. Despite the heat, the party in the courtyard at WAAS was incredible, with vodka snow-cones, gourmet hotdogs with truffles, rock candy doppelgangers for the blue meth in Breaking Bad, and a girl whirling a flaming hoola-hoop. The crowd at WAAS was primarily hipster kids trying so hard that they were just as entertaining as the art.

After dark a friend and I stopped back by the Design District for a pop-up performance at the Goodyear Retread Plant by “In Cooperation with Muscle Nation.” The massive warehouse was starkly empty, except for a couple of excavated pits of soil amidst the concrete, which had been planted with televisions, glow sticks, photos, film stock, and more. This was sexily navigated by a pair of female performers covered in leotards lined with photos and golden head dresses, much like halos from a religious icon painting. A second pit featured an artist/performer wrapping strange objects such as PVC and books in fabric and drizzling paint onto them. The whole time a sort of Matthew Dear techno pounded in the space. I am not sure what I was supposed to receive from all of this, but I would hazard to say the action itself was vital: an exposure of fragmented narratives as a modern garden, or technological voodoo shrine, blooming and writhing in the cavern of industrial decline.