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THE ARTS GALLERY HOPPING

Smart art buying in Dallas.
By Ruth Miller Fitzgibbons |

TO SOME PEOPLE, there’s an incomprehensible mystique about the art world. What you don’t know will be held against you. What you do know doesn’t count. So what if your coffee table still sports Jan-son’s History of Art? There are newer things out there. Things you probably aren’t clever enough to appreciate.

Well, welcome to Dallas. The local gallery scene is about as intimidating as a shoe salesman at Sanger’s.

Don’t misunderstand. There’s no lack of sophistication here. We have dealers plumbing the depths of New York’s Tri-beca to bring you the absolute au courant. We have one gallery whose output of scholarly publications would rival a university press.

It’s the attitude that’s as far from New York as, well.. .Texas. People look up and smile when you walk through a gallery door. Ask for a price -no one sneers. Tell them you’re on a budget-they might offer you a layaway plan.

Art in this city is accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be Patsy or Ray Nasher or Margaret McDermott (some of our heaviest hitters) to deal in the big leagues.

What’s your preference? Watery landscapes tinted with pale sunset shades? Geometric forms cut from Texas granite? A ceremonial African mask? The variety is surprisingly rich. There is much from the weekend painter, to be sure -sad-eyed children, vases of flowers, bluebonnet fields. But a number of galleries and dealers are devoted to what is good as well as what will sell.

Dallas has never been known for its overwhelming support of the visual arts. Up until the Henry Moore sculpture was anchored outside City Hall, local art enthusiasts had little they could point to with pride other than a few important private collections. A city’s attitude toward art is reflected in its public acquisitions, and it was generally considered that Dallas lagged behind other U.S. cities of its size – including Houston and Fort Worth.

Today there’s new support for the arts. The desire for the new museum has reassured some and convinced others that fine art should play a major role in Dallas’ cultural life. For the first time, the city is considering subsidized housing for artists. There are murmurs of a burgeoning Soho east of downtown. Local galleries appear to be flourishing at a time when discretionary income for art is at a premium.

Almost all the galleries we queried reported a growing number of Dallasites among their clientele. (Many do substantial out-of-town and out-of-state business.) The less moneyed, they say, are steering toward prints and drawings or works by unknown young talents -local and otherwise. Those with more resources indulge in French or American primitive or impressionist paintings or perhaps one of the finer Western oils.

There is no one gallery or even any one part of town to go to when you’re struck with the urge to shop for art. Traditionally, galleries have clustered near Turtle Creek -Cedar Springs, McKinney, the Quadrangle. But now you can venture as far north as Prestonwood Town Center. (Circle Gallery) and as far south as downtown (Texas Art Gallery).

Deep Ellum (the sleepy district just east of Central Expressway near Main, Commerce and Elm) is beginning to be reclaimed by artists seeking economical studio space and by galleries desperate to expand. Delahunty, perhaps the city’s most prestigious contemporary gallery, was the first to make the move. Murray Smithers, one of the gallery’s owners, says he hopes others will follow. So far, three have: Allen Street Gallery has opened in a new location on Canton Street, two blocks from Delahunty; DW Gallery signed a lease in the old Continental Gin Building on Elm and hopes to move the first of next year; and Michele Herling’s gallery opened on Main Street November 1.

Most Dallas galleries deal in contemporary works. What contemporary actually means is a matter of interpretation -and galleries tend to have drastically different ways of expressing it. To some, contemporary is the avant-garde on the national art scene. To others, it’s more an amalgam of styles being executed in current works.

Artistic media are as wide-ranging as styles. Beyond the conventional canvas, it’s possible to acquire works of paper, wood, stone, bronze, fabric, foil, plastic or a combination. Sizes and prices range from miniature to the monumental. An unframed poster might sell for as little as $10; an original work by a well-known artist, in the millions.

Most of the art on sale here is by local or regional artists, but the newer galleries and even some established ones are branching out to include more national or international names. Delahunty, which recently opened a gallery in New York, is moving in that direction. Carol Taylor Art, which opened here two years ago, never has represented local talent.

Whatever the origin, there’s plenty of art available to stretch the mind, tickle the imagination, whet the visual appetite. Herewith are some of the gallery circuit’s more renowned stops.



CONTEMPORARY



Delahunty Gallery. Since its inception in 1975, Delahunty has discovered, nurtured and helped establish the premier talent in and around Dallas. Now that another Delahunty has opened in New York, it’s likely that there will be more out-of-state artists on view. Last June, Delahunty moved to Canton Street in the Deep Ellum district -an area some hope to see emerge as Dallas’ version of Soho. When the Cedar Springs area became too costly and too chic, the gallery bailed out. Its new space is located in a former World War II egg dehydration plant that had been renovated by artist George Green. Here there’s ample storage and viewing space with room to spare for a full-blown framing shop (considered to be among the best in town). Shows are hung on a rotating basis, and the bulk of the inventory is stored away but is available for viewing. If you can give the personnel an idea of your taste, they’ll mount a slide show for you, then proceed from there. From October 30 to December 15, look for the work of North Texas State University art professor Vernon Fisher, whose “installation works” – large-scale paintings often applied directly to the wall -have shown in several major museums. 2701 Canton St. 744-1346. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5. Barry Whistler, director.

Carol Taylor Art. Carol Taylor opened her business in December 1980, and during these two years has established herself firmly as one of the area’s finest contemporary dealers. Unlike most of her competitors, Carol never set out to represent local talent. “We really don’t have the time yet to nurture,” says gallery director Renee Milliken. “We’ve brought in artists that have been around a while in order to carve out a position here.” It was also Taylor’s intention to educate Dallas art buyers about important happenings in the contemporary art world, a feat she accomplishes by mounting a new show every month. Through the course of a year she will hang a wide assortment of paintings, sculptures, collages, drawings and pnoto-graphs by nationally and internationally known artists. Some of the better known include Sol Lewitt, sculptor Bruce Nau-man, painter/wall-sculptor Bruce Rob-bins and Lucio Pozzi, whose watercolors, oils, drawings and sculpture will be on view November 2-27. 2508 Cedar Springs. 745-1923. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5. Carol Taylor, owner.

Mattingly Baker. The stark, striking exterior of Mattingly Baker is a clue to what lies beyond the door. Inside is a small series of well-ordered spaces that change complexion with the rotating, often provocative shows. The entryway, which has been enlarged, holds the gallery’s collection of photographs and prints. Interior spaces are reserved for paintings and sculpture. June Mattingly represents emerging, nearly established artists -plus printed works by “blue chip” artists such as Jasper Johns, Frank Stella and Roy Lichtenstein. Through November 4, see “Romantic Landscapes” – contemporary impressionist scenes. From November 6-December 2, see a sculpture show of abstract bronzes by Isaac Witken and figurative ceramics by John Frame. 3000 McK-in-ney. 526-0031. Tuesday-Friday 10-6, Saturday 11-5. June Mattingly, director.

DW Gallery. DW began as a cooperative of women artists some seven years ago. Four years later, the business was bigger than the artists could handle as a co-op and still be productive in their own careers so they decided to incorporate, set up an all-woman board and include several men among the contract artists. The gallery has done well in a location above Andrew’s restaurant, but the rent has escalated and the space has become cramped. A much-needed move to loft space in Deep Ellum is planned for January. Walls will be hung with a rotating show, but DW stocks an inventory of gallery artists’ work that is always accessible. Its offerings include folk or primitive paintings, watercolors, photography, collages and ceramics. The current show is at the McKinney location and features geometric constructed drawings by Linda Ridgway Taylor and pencil drawings of the contemporary nude by Ellen Soderquist. 3305 McKinney. 526-3240. Tuesday-Saturday 11-5. Diana Block, director.

500X Gallery. 500X is the new name for the recently restructured cooperative formerly known as 500 Expo in the Fair Park area. Here, 25 Dallas artists rotate their works, which run the gamut of just about everything in contemporary art. This month, the subjects are figurative pieces: A one-person show downstairs features the work of Marilyn Lanfear, whose freestanding representations of clothing resemble figurative sculptures. A group show upstairs combines figurative drawings, paintings and collages. 500 Exposition. 828-1111. Thursday-Sunday 1-5. Gary Monroe, gallery president.

Clifford Gallery. Clifford Gallery near SMU is devoted primarily to artists either living in or native-born to the Dallas area. What sets Jutta Clifford’s collection apart from other galleries in town is an impressive concentration of printmakers whose works span a variety of techniques including woodcut, etching and intaglio. Shows are staged every couple of months, and a variety of works are exhibited in between. This month, sensuous overscaled paintings of vegetables, flowers and birds from English artist Vicki Henderson will be on view. 6610 Snider Plaza. 363-8223. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5:30. Jutta Clifford, owner.

Simons-Lucet. Two years ago, Sharon Simons teamed up with fellow art lover Francois Lucet to showcase contemporary artists, local and otherwise. Thirty gallery artists contribute paintings and sculpture ranging from realistic ranch scenes to pure abstractions. Simons-Lucet mounts a one-artist show each month and a gallery-wide group exhibit every December and July. In November, see the abstract paintings of Greek artist Angelo de Goulandris. 2133 Cedar Springs. 761-9912. Monday-Friday 10-5, Saturday by appointment. Gail Alpert, director.



WESTERN/INDIAN



Texas Art Gallery. If your heroes have always been cowboys, you may be among the swelling ranks of Western art aficionados. Many of the paintings tell a story of lone, strong silent types who, if portrayed well, can both chill and inspire. The oldest Dallas gallery exhibiting Western art on a large scale is downtown’s Texas Art Gallery. Its walls are hung at all times with some of Western art’s biggest contemporary names: G. Harvey, Robert Pummill, James Boren, sculptor Grant Speed. Not all the depictions are cowboy scenes; an assembly of Southwestern landscapes is also on view. Recently, gallery owner Bill Burford has branched out of the Southwest to include 19th-century French and English paintings, especially those from the Victorian Age. 1400 Main St. 747-8159. Monday-Friday 9-5. William E. Burford, owner.

Altermann Art Gallery. Four years ago, Tony Altermann (at one time a theater advertising and promotion man) left an association with Texas Art Gallery to open his own place. He says that 90 percent of his business is done on the phone, and a majority of those callers are from out-of-town. Altermann’s clients know what they want; they just wait until he finds it for them. They might be willing to pay $25,000 for a Harvey oil, or they might prefer to pay $1,500 for a color pencil drawing by newcomer Michael Gnatek. Many of them come to Altermann’s annual Western Collector’s Exhibits Sale and Auction held each year in June. In addition to cowboy scenes, Altermann carries wildlife and landscapes and some non-Western American works. 2504 Cedar Springs. 745-1266. Monday-Friday 9-5. Tony Altermann, owner.

McCulley Fine Arts Gallery. Far North Dallas has its own collection of Western wares at McCulley’s, across from Valley View Shopping Center. The gallery doesn’t mount rotating exhibits, preferring instead to hang a full sampling of nationally known Western artists including oils by Frank McCarthy, bronzes by his son, Kevin, and works by Don Stivers, Tom Lovell, Ray Swanson and David Blossom. One of the gallery salespersons, Laura Arduini, will custom-design and execute frames in her home. 5440 Harvest Hill Road. 386-9194. Monday-Friday 8:30-4. Don McCulley, owner.

Ni-Wo-Di-Hi. According to an Indian saying that hangs at the door, Ni-Wo-Di-Hi is “the place where there are many kinds of paint.” Devoted exclusively to works of or by American Indians, the original Ni-Wo-Di-Hi is in Austin; the Dallas branch opened three years ago. In addition to the varied and sometimes breathtaking works by Indians, several Anglo artists who do in-depth studies of contemporary Indian life are represented. Handmade frames are available through the Austin gallery. In November, Ni-Wo-Di-Hi will spotlight Navajo rugs. 2526 Cedar Springs. 651-7656. Tuesday-Saturday noon-5:30. Ted Pearsall, owner; Audrey Beilharz, director.



19th-20th CENTURY



Valley House. This gallery in North Dallas is like no other in town. Besides being tucked away in an extraordinary sylvan setting, the gallery boasts the area’s only association with the prestigious Art Dealer’s Association of America, an impressive assemblage of world-famous works and a series of printed catalogs that have become valued resources for art scholars. Owner Donald Vogel, himself a prolific painter and the area’s premier appraiser, calls Valley House the “most uncommercial commercial gallery in town, dealing in art with a capital ’A.’ ” Five acres of sculpture gardens, a tree-lined lake, painting studio, framing workshop and the gallery building make up the Valley House complex. The Vogels’ collection is heavy on impressionism, with beautiful drawings, prints and paintings by such names as Monet, Vuillard, Degas and Bonnard. Valley House also shows the works of nationally known Texans -artists like primitive painter “Aunt” Clara Williamson and Valton Tyler. Valley House presents two to three large-scale shows a year. Through November 22, see “Realism Through Abstraction.” 6616 Spring Valley. 239-2441. Monday-Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-3 and by appointment. Donald Vogel and Kevin Vogel, owners.

Phillips Gallery. The Phillips Gallery is devoted to living artists whose styles are rooted in impressionism, post-impressionism and primitive or naive art. French, Italian and American artists provide the gallery with a rich exhibit of color-washed paintings, mostly in oils, plus prints by those artists involved in lithography. Upstairs is a series of living room-like spaces replete with an 8-foot ceiling, fireplace mantles, sofas and antique hall tables so that prospective buyers can simulate the environment in which the painting will be hung. 2517 Fairmount. 748-7888. Monday-Saturday 10-5. Raymond Phillips, owner.

Florence Art Gallery. This gallery is a potpourri of those art styles that strike the fancy of its director, EstelleShwiff. Whimsically expressive bronzes by Harry Marin-sky reside with the fluid figures of Esther Wertheimer. Vivid impressionist visions are paired with old master-style oils. The gallery, which has a loose association with its Italian namesake, was formed five years ago to appeal to the affluent Dallas-ite who previously might have looked elsewhere to buy art. Private collectors can choose from among many well-known French, English and American names. City/corporate clients can see mock-ups of public works or can commission their own. 2500 Cedar Springs. 748-6463. Monday-Friday 10-4. Estelle Shwiff, director. Southwest Gallery Inc. In July, the Southwest Art Center moved across Preston Forest Shopping Center, shedding its image as an art supermarket in the process. The handsome new space across from Joske’s features an impressive array of paintings, drawings and sculpture from 19th-century European and 20th-century American artists. The first-rate framing facility was retained, but art supplies and low-end merchandise are gone. This fall another change occurred: The Southwest Gallery II graphics operation moved to its new location. Graphic artists range from local favorite Tony Bass to contemporary giants Miro, Chagall and Dali. 737 Preston Forest Shopping Center. 696-0182. Tuesday-Saturday 9-6. Gene Carmack, owner.



GRAPHICS/PHOTOGRAPHY



Circle Gallery. Part of a national chain that publishes graphic works of more than 150 artists, Circle opened a decade ago in the Statler Hilton Hotel. Success in the Dallas area was immediate, and today the gallery is firmly entrenched in far North Dallas’ celebrated shopping spot, Preston-wood. Circle’s collection includes multiple limited-edition graphics by such artists as Agam and Soulages, Jamie Wyeth, Peter Max, Peter Hurd and fashion illustrator Erté. Prices range from $20 for a poster up to $30,000 for an original by a well-established name. 5301 Belt Line. 233-9458. Monday-Saturday 10-9.

Afterimage. The oldest gallery in Dallas devoted exclusively to fine photography, Afterimage has a broad assortment of photographs ranging from the straightforward to the avant-garde. Some local photographers are represented, but the majority of images are by nationally known photographers such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The gallery reports selling “mostly landscapes,” but also carries less traditional works such as manipulated negatives and collages. In November, Italian photographer Mario Giacomelli’s surreal multiple images will be on view. And look for an excellent assortment of photography books and posters. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 748-2521. Monday-Saturday 10-5:30. Ben Breard, owner.

Allen Street Photography. A nonprofit cooperative, Allen Street has recently deserted its namesake in the Quadrangle area to join the influx to Deep Ellum. Allen Street was organized six years ago as a forum for local photographers. But the move to Canton Street has put the cooperative in need of renovation funds, and for the first time, Allen Street is offering a portfolio of members’ work for sale. One print each from 10 photographers is included in the limited-edition package, offered in a handmade box for $1,000. See it at the November show featuring photographs from “The Book of Days” calendar. 2913 Canton. 742-5207. Tuesday-Saturday 11-5, Sunday 1-5. Philip Lamb, president.



PRE-COLUMBIAN



Michele Herling. Seventeen years ago, Michele Herling was managing the art shows at NorthPark. One of the first fields she was asked to tackle was the huge treasury of pre-Columbian art. She became entranced by the beauty of the ancient objects and began to collect and later to deal. Today the Herling gallery, situated as of November 1 in a Deep Ellum warehouse, carries every kind of pre-Columbian, African and Oceanic art – from mummy wrappers to tribal sculpture to clay artifacts dating back to 1000 B.C. Pre-Columbian and other ethnic arts can be tricky -it takes a studied eye to assess authenticity. Says Herling, “Ninety percent of the things people bring are fakes.” 3200 Main Street. 748-2924. Tuesday-Saturday noon-5:30. Michele Herling, owner.

Shango. John Buxton got involved in primitive art after an African tour as a U.S. Navy admiral’s aide. His gallery, Shango, contains an assortment of pieces ranging from $10 African combs to $50,000 ancestral Congo figures. Buxton is looking to expand his private dealings, which are mostly with museums and their patrons, and may give up his public gallery. He says, “You can’t sit in Dallas and expect the choice pieces to be offered to you.” 2606 Fairmount. 744-4891. Tuesday-Saturday noon-6. John Buxton, owner.