Xxavier Edward Carter was surrounded by fragile works in progress last month as he prepared for two concurrent solo exhibitions in West Dallas. Circulate: 7 Works on Paper, a series of large pieces on newsprint weighed with ink, watercolor, and heavy tape, lay precariously on the carpeted living room floor of his home in North Dallas.
“The movements needed to put it all together,” Carter said, were as important to Circulate as the materials themselves. Federal paperwork, receipts, and headlines were vehicles for abstractions in rich color, and, in the case of Black Summer, Carter’s own blood drawn by a trained phlebotomist for a performance at 500X gallery in August 2020.
Circulate was the first show at Cluley Projects, a new satellite location to Dallas contemporary art mainstay Erin Cluley Gallery. Director Nell Potasznik Langford runs the space under Erin Cluley’s brand as a way to get work by regional artists without representation in front of potential buyers. The founding pair of curators aims to host experimental art and partner with independent curators at the gallery, a short wander downhill from the Belmont Hotel. Cluley Projects opened with Carter’s exhibition on Dallas Gallery Day, Saturday, April 17, and ran for a month. Every piece Carter installed at the gallery sold except Black Summer.
Cluley Projects’ next show is a significant entry for Arlington-based artist John Miranda. Movidas: New Work, which opened on May 22. Miranda, who splits time between Del Rio and Texas, makes tactile paintings, textured drawings, and wooden sculptures that reflect the tether between rural and city life, the nurturing of his five sisters, and the presence of cultural markers Miranda first saw as design trends in Lowrider magazine in his upbringing as a Mexican American. Except for a brief pop-up appearance, Miranda’s work has been seen only by audiences at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he earned his undergraduate art degree, and at UT Tyler, where he was the recipient of a graduate fellowship for the fine arts program there.
“Me and a lot of my classmates, we’re pretty much making art because we love to make art. There are very few people who have that entrepreneurial mindset to really go out there and get involved,” Miranda said. “They don’t really prepare us for networking in grad school.”
Introducing artists to the commercial gallery scene is an aim of Cluley Projects, but there’s also a desire to give patrons more dimensional experiences. The gallery is at 2123 Sylvan Ave. in West Dallas, less than a mile from Carter’s large-scale installation Anh Yēu Em at ex ovo, which opened on April 11 thanks in part to a grant from the city of Dallas. The dialogue between the two shows was exactly the sort of uncommon collaboration Cluley Projects’ founders want to help foster locally.
“This is how I want to present my work from now on, in this mold of having things be in this expansive model that is immersive,” Carter said.
Cluley Projects came together six months ago. A piece by Nick Nicosia, who’s on the Erin Cluley Gallery roster, caught the eye of a collector who’d been working with Langford. This collector acquired the work and played matchmaker for Cluley and Langford, who were both interested in starting something new.
“There’s plenty of talent, but not enough exposure opportunities, and so this is a conversation I’ve been having for a long time with friends and other artists and collectors,” Langford said.
“I had been thinking about a secondary space, and a place where you can try these different ideas, for new artists but also artists who’ve been doing this a long time, not necessarily young in age but maybe just early in their career. Or maybe they’ve been at it for a long time but haven’t had a platform or mentorship,” Cluley added.
Erin Cluley Gallery was where you could find Francisco Moreno’s peculiar, large-scale Chapel, a wooden architectural structure walled with paintings inspired by the 12th century murals of the Hermitage of the Vera Cruz de Maderuelo, in 2018. It was acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art a year after out-of-town collectors and gallerists could gaze at the Chapel while waiting outside Cluley’s space to get tattoos for Friday the 13th at an offroad party thrown by the gallery during the Dallas Art Fair.
This year’s art fair will be significant for Cluley, whose anchor gallery space is in the same building as the event’s offices in the Design District. Independent curator Leslie Moody Castro will put an exhibition together for Cluley Projects and write the accompanying materials. Known for curating shows that invite the public to participate, Castro splits her time between Mexico City and Dallas; Langford and Cluley say that “regional” for them mostly, and loosely, means artists who identify in some way as Texas artists.
Miranda talked to patrons Saturday about the symbols in his work, a kind of language the artist describes as a “deep emotional reaction to a lived reality.” He, too, inspected his paintings and sculptures as installed at Cluley Projects and learned something. “It’s kind of hard because before [in my apartment], I kept looking at them, asking myself if the composition was right. Sometimes we don’t know when to stop,” he said. “When I saw them in the gallery I was like, oh, man, it was good the whole time.”