Art Reviews: Why Is This Family Drilling Through Their Walls?

I spent the past weekend catching up with a few shows and openings, beginning with Fort Worth on Friday with Thursday night’s State Of The Arts talk at the Dallas Museum of Art fresh on my mind. Everyone I know seems to have an opinion on whether or not this is a tired conversation or a dialogue we must champion. At the moment, I veer towards the latter. I grew up here, left briefly, and moved back ten years ago. Every year since that return, I have found more and more reasons to stay in the area—many of them related to our arts community. So bravo to Carlos Donjuan, Kim Cadmus Owens, and Lucia Simek for their thoughtful perspectives on questions we are all continuously puzzling over. The conversation flew by, addressing too much to mention here, and left me feeling that these talks do more good than harm.

An unexpected highlight came from Carlos, who said we must continue to give our time and attention to young people. Whether it’s providing opportunities for studio based educational opportunities or just giving them space and permission to be curious about art—not because they all need to become artists, but because we should all take a long view in building a community with sustained interest and awareness of the arts.

Notably absent from the conversation was a point Peter Simek raised about funding for artists North Texas in a year-end article here on FrontRow. Support can’t just come from collectors buying work. More grants of varying scales would do wonders for this community, and I hope this topic finds voice in the next installment at the DMA.

Now, for some (painfully) micro-sized responses to a weekend of looking and listening.

(Click on all the images to enlarge)

Bradly Brown, Attention Retention (2012)

Transmission at Ft. Worth Contemporary Arts

An exhibition of work by nine MFA students currently at TCU, this year’s Transmission is packed with a range of approaches to art making. While I found myself wishing there was more empty space surrounding many of these works (particularly in the case of Lucia Simek’s haunting Retreat), the close proximity also generated some interesting tension between artists and materials.

As with many of these artists, this show marks the first time I’ve seen Bradly Brown’s work in person, and the stand out pieces were …best idea ever!, a motion activated hanging light in the men’s restroom, and Attention Retention. Literally attention stealing, Brown considers the latter to be a kind of sculptural animated gif—as small expressions of the marvels of physics, its cleverness is caught in a loop of delightful uselessness.

A week into the exhibition, Hiroko Kubo’s assorted found objects turned containers in thoughts of water had begun to collect a thin film of residue on the water surfaces. Whether or not this is an intended effect of time in the work or due to a logistical inability to regularly tend to the water, the outcome is a welcome one. Like many opposites of a perfect Wolfgang Laib milkstone, these banal and weathered forms brim with longing and history.

Hillerbrand + Magsamen, ‘Masking: Blue Mountain Youth Ski Hood (Walmart), 2013

Stuffed at Brand 10 + And X Artspace

Taking over both exhibition spaces, Houston-based artists Stephan Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen have installed recent work contextualized by a number of photographs and videos from the past few years. Of the newer works, Whole (shown at And X) left a lasting impression. Viewers watch the family use hammers and sawzalls to tunnel through the walls and doorways of their own home. Crawling through ragged gaps from room to room, they assist one another while becoming caught in a paradox of escaping and conquering.

Loaded with meaning far beyond the suburban domestic realm, House recalls the Israeli military practice of “walking through walls.” A melodramatic action-style soundtrack only reinforced this association. Additionally, images from the Masked series on display at Brand 10 may have primed this militarized reading. Each of the four large photographic prints documents their son Emmett wearing various ski masks, directly confronting our biases as viewers.

In the Son portion of Family Portrait, young Emmett searches for parental approval while picking up plates from a tall stack as wobbly as he is. As he drops them with increasing confidence to the kitchen floor, it’s clear that he is being documented as a participant more than a performer in his parent’s poetic questions.

Having to drive a short distance to view the other half of the exhibition at And X, I couldn’t help but project Hillerbrand + Magsamen’s concerns onto the residential district I passed through—households full of possessions and their implications. How do these families and individuals deal with material realities and pressures? Perhaps the most significant result of Hillerbrand+Magsamen’s practice is they are providing their children with unconventional opportunities to question the world. By making work as a family, they teach Madeleine and Emmett how to strategize and physically rethink what it means to be human.

Brad Tucker and Sterling Allen, Cross Talk Installation View at Circuit 12

Paintings are People at El Centro and Cross Talk at Circuit 12 Contemporary

Later that evening, I managed to catch the last two songs performed by Brad Tucker as “Bad Trucker” in the H. Paxton Moore Fine Art Gallery amidst his current installation, Paintings are People. Cycling through endearingly awkward phrases and movements, Brad’s sincere presence was disarming and kept a smile plastered on my face as I watched and listened. I’ve seen Brad’s work many times throughout Texas, but after this occasion, his materials will forever be enlivened with a new sonic layer. Performance aside, Tucker presents a range of handmade forms that all point towards a whimsical faux cubical advertised by an unassuming strip-mall style sign: Mini-Office, Paid Electric, 288-0909. Its rapport with the gallery’s default industrial carpeting is not to be overlooked.

The evening of his work in isolation at El Centro formed a fortunate backdrop for a visit to Cross Talk at Circuit 12 Contemporary the following afternoon, where Brad Tucker and Sterling Allen are expertly paired and celebrated through Nathan Green’s curatorial efforts.

Kyle Evans performing de/Rastra at Homeland Security. Photo by Sally Glass

GO at Homeland Security

On Saturday at Homeland Security, Kyle Evans’ closing performance of dr/Rastra made me nostalgic for time spent roaming Chicago with friends attending sound and noise performances by the likes of Kevin Drumm and Tony Conrad. (I had also thought back to those days the night before at Black Lodge, with Mike Morris and Stefan Gonzalez forcing me to lightly plug my ears and pay attention.) Evans’ finesse with an old CRT television prepared with a variety of digital technologies was enchanting; he never appeared burdened or out of sync with its output.  While the monitor-based works inside were brief repetitive loops, the result of his outdoor performance was a finely wrought essay in light and sound.

Work by Ricardo Paniagua at RE Gallery

Champ! at RE Gallery + Studio

Next door, I took a peek at Ricardo Paniagua’s show at RE Gallery + Studio. Thirty-three intimate works populated the two front galleries and spilled into owner and director Wanda Dye’s attached living space. While there were a number of dead ends (mainly moments of figuration that felt too consciously taped and controlled), there were several great successes that are easily the most refreshing works I’ve seen by Paniagua. Each piece reflects consistent craftsmanship and attention to the relationship between cast resin and MDF support. Interestingly, Paniagua “collected” the bulk of these forms by burnishing foil on city surfaces during neighborhood walks, retaining a mix of crisp geometry and organic rumples. The most successful works appear as solid hunks and fragile pillows simultaneously.

Michelle Mackey, ‘Watching’ (2012) and Eli Walker, ‘Wallpaper Making Machine’ (2009) (Photo by Andi Harman)

Contemporary Drawing Today at Fort Worth Drawing Center

The weekend came to an exciting close with a return to Ft. Worth for the inaugural exhibition at the Ft. Worth Drawing Center. Contemporary Drawing Today includes materials as diverse as breast milk (Linda Arrendondo) and unfashionable cellular phones (Michael Mazurek), situating local with national talent.

Twenty intimate works are installed contrapuntally without any sense of crowding—so far, the constraints of FWDC’s triangular space feel like an asset, and it will be interesting to see how Francisco Moreno and Kevin Jacobs continue to work with this limitation.

Since Sunday, I’ve reflected most on Eli Walker’s Wallpaper Making Machine, a literal ink rendering of the title in a humble wooden frame. Questioning flatness and repetition within art and image production, Walker’s work is ghostly and quietly satisfying. Make an appointment to see all of the work, and enjoy tracking it down within a gated business-storage park (seriously.) FWDC is an admirable example of carving out a space for possibilities where one finds a lack of discourse.

Here are additional photos of the opening at FWDC. All photos by Andi Harman:

Marianna Williams
Michelle Mackey, Eli Walker
Sedrick Huckaby

Michelle Rawlings
Eli Walker
Esteban del Valle
Michael Mazurek
Top: Katie Bell, Bottom: Hilary Doyle
Left to right: Sedrick Huckaby, Bruce Wilhelm, Anthony Giannini, Marianna Williams
Josh Smith
Marilyn Jolly
Installation view


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