Our Critic’s 10 MTV RE:DEFINE Art Picks

This year's auction event will feature a line-up of mystery bands. But there's also some good art on view, from big international names to Dallas-based talents.

In three years, the Goss-Michael Foundation’s MTV RE:DEFINE auction has quickly established itself as one of the area’s most high-profile art auctions. And while it isn’t yet as big and extravagant as Two X Two For Aids and Art (which announced this week that it will honor Wade Guyton at this year’s event), it’s established a brash, more youthful profile, aided, of course, by its partnership with MTV. This year the event will take place at the Dallas Contemporary, and the artist Richard Phillips, who opens an exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary next week, organized a mystery bill of bands that will play at the event Saturday night. 

The art at this year’s auction also runs the gamut, from a Damien Hirst dot painting and a Julian Schnabel portrait of a Buddha to a slew works by local talents. I went through the list of works on display, and here are ten pieces that caught my attention.


Sergey Bratkov, Beach Rancho

With careful observation, this deceivingly simple image reveals its wry sensibility, a blend of witty surrealism and astute culture awareness. Why this fence? It juts in perspective from the side of the frame only to terminate in the sand, demarcating a division futilely divided. Its gilded posts are decorated with razor-sharp spearheads. The jagged structure seems to respond to the ominous clouds gathering across the beach setting. It is a found moment, but one that seems to resonate with a very prescient political sentiment, suggesting collisions between cultures, the built and natural environment, the east and the west, the rich and the poor.


Matt Clark, Raimiti

I was pleasantly surprised by this painting by Dallas-based Matt Clark. It is somewhat uncharacteristic for the Conduit-repped artist, whose use of color can turn his abstracts into psychedelic smears. But here the simplicity of the composition and muted color tone allows the artist’s feeling for gesture and texture to achieve their full effect, adding an expressive zip to an immersive, energetic canvas.


Thomas Glassford, Stela: Multistripe

After Glassford’s installation at the Fort Worth Modern, which filled a large gallery with broomsticks he collects of the streets of Mexico City, there is something underwhelming about this monolithic presentation.  But the work retains its material resonance, the way the color of the poles, their worked surfaces, and their incorporation into a formal aesthetic turns Duchampian readymades into expressive objects. Plus, I love the idea of a crowd of well-healed collectors locked in a bidding war over what are essentially Mexican street sweepers’ trash.


Michelle Grabner, Untitled

Unpacking the simple metaphor at play in Grabner’s cyclical, plunging void-drawing could take us through the history of painting and its subsequent deconstruction. But there’s a simple pleasure in just being present to the work: the subtle texture of the surface, the marvelous intricacy of its lines, and the way this diminutive, pretty thing seems to open up and swallow you whole.


 Jim Lambie, Metal Box (Tahiti)

Of all the art that shines and blings at MTV: Redefine, Lambie’s does so with maximum effect. The piece is essentially a decorative mirror, and yet its folded aluminum and steel sheets literally collapse reflectivity into a kaleidoscopic color field. The pieces reveals as it conceals; its obscuring adds metaphoric depth to a piece that feels like a performance – an accessible, though elusive art object teasing its observer.


Chris Levine, Lightness of Being

The insipidness and cynicism of most celebrity art rankles me, and there’s a bunch of it in this year’s MTV: Redfine (Richard Phillips’ Lindsey Lohan, Russell Smith’s Marilyn Monroe, Michael Craig-Martin’s George Michael, Joe Black’s Vladimir Putin, Chris Levine’s Kate Moss). But there’s something about Chris Levin’s most well-known image – his pink queen – that works where many of these other pieces don’t. Elizabeth II appears mummified, calcified in pink — demurely dead. I can’t look at it without hearing Johnny Rotten’s sniveling, snarling voice in my head “God save the queen | We mean it man.”


Angel Otero, Untitled (“SK-LT”)

I love the muchness of this painting by Angel Otero, a collage of oil and oil paint skins that still stunk when I saw it hanging at the Dallas Contemporary. Visually, you could say the painting fumigates its vicinity with its richness and assured presence.


Michelle Rawlings, Blue

Michele Rawlings has become one of my favorite artists who consistently shows in Dallas, and this coy little gem possesses much of what I love about her work: its subtlety, texture, color sense, and craftsmanship.


Lionel Scoccimaro, Pebble

Amidst all the art on the wall that seems primed for auction block, this puckish little hung sculpture, a creature-cockpiece, possesses a wonderfully resistant quality – it seems to advertise its bad taste.


Penelope Umbrico, Double Weston with 35mm Medium Format Vintage Instate and Lightleak, from “Mountains, Moving”

There’s something difficult to place about this unassuming pictorial blur from Penelope Umbrico, an artist whose practice explores the physical and conceptual mutations of images in a digital, consumer culture. On the one hand, it looks like photo art you’ve seen a thousand times before, but its particular, peculiar composition, the way the image interacts with the archival rag paper, and the soft quality of the pallet contribute to a ghostly quality and sense of invitation.