How to digest all the art that was displayed last week? Here’s one entryway: collaboration. As I made my way through the many events that spun off of last weekend’s main attractions – the Art Ball, the Dallas Art Fair (probably the best installment to date) – the recurring and underlying theme was that of collaboration. It began last Wednesday, when Gregory Ruppe smashed cymbals and banged drums with Tobias Madison, Emanuel Rossetti, and Stefan Tcherepnin, the artists shipped in from Zurich (and Brooklyn) for the Power Station’s latest opening, in which a shallow pool of water in the building’s second floor, leaked through the seams between the concrete and steel floor — an architectural undoing by way of trashcan swag that all felt very derelicte.
Later on in the week, the Shamrock Studios took on collaboration as a modus operandi for a hallway installed exhibition. Each resident of the studio enclave invited another artist with whom to collaborate, and more often than not the work, which ranged form delicate wall hung sculptures made off toothpicks and string to black prints with pink sequin scales, was generally more exciting than the any of the artists’ usual output. Ruppe surfaced again at 500x, with his collaborative installation with Timothy Harding, The Landscape is Motorized, a dual video projection in a corner that set the ambiguous and painterly – and beautifully entrancing — camera blurs ( created by placing the camera on a record player) in a room set off from the warehouse space and re-floored with silver insulation sheeting.
Then there was the Fallas Dart Air, a saucy mess of an art fair send-off that gave over actual restaurant booths in a Deep Ellum BBQ joint to various collectives and galleries: CentralTrak, Fort Worth Drawing Center, Mai Koetjecacov Editions, Secret Fun, Shamrock Hotel Studios, Oliver Francis, Studio Don’t Fuck This Up, Semigloss, The Public Trust, Dick Higgins. Art projects ranged from shots of moonshine (Dick Higgins) to slightly more traditional work, like Keith Allyn Spencer’s adorable little makeshift painting placemats laid out on the table at the Oliver Francis booth. It was the orchestrated un-seriousness that made it all seem very serious indeed — an irreverent, puckish enthusiasm, a sincerity underscoring the ironic trappings, that made the Fallas Dart Air feel like nascent uttering of an artistic community finally finding its real voice.
Missing from all of these events were individual names. Yes, Ludwig Schwarz curated Fallas Dart Air. Sure, Brent Ozaeta manned The Public Trust booth. But the trend was the willingness – an eagerness even – to make more by way of the sum of parts.
Collaboration doesn’t necessarily mean the finished product reflects the best talents, skills, or vision of the individuals involved. In fact, the exact opposite seems more likely. Compromise, manners, hesitancy: there are so many ways for creative projects to be hampered by teamwork. But over the weekend, and for months, collectives and collaborations have worked in Dallas.
And I thought Texas was a hyper-individualistic society?
Perhaps that’s entirely the point. While the upper echelons of our cultural scene are plugged in to a jet-fueled art internationalism, the rest of the artists and writers live and work in an unseen world. What use is having a brand name when one’s work has no value on the secondary art market? Why worry about establishing a rapport with a local gallery when representation doesn’t necessarily translate into a career as a working artist? Instead, there is an energizing sense of communalism that drives the current scene; artists have discovered they can create their own energy, sustaining and bolstering spirits.
It’s not exactly a new discovery. In fact, the notion of the artist as a romantic hero, singularly locked away in some garret working out genius in isolation is a myth. As the strange death of David Hockney’s studio assistant recently reminded us, even among the most successful brand names, art is almost always a product of some kind of collaborative effort. Perhaps, then, that’s the quietly revolutionary movement that is underway in Dallas: the continual effort to make this explicit by forfeiting a sense of ownership – economic, intellectual – of the end product. The particular brand of collaboration in Dallas of late turns authorship inside-out, but not as part of some conceptual project, but rather as a result of an instinctive — almost naïve — disinterest in ego.
An ego-less art world. Who could imagine such a place?
Some other notes:
– Green Bandana Group’s Darryl Ratcliff penned a second blog (here’s the first one) considering race and Dallas art. The weekend was largely an all-white affair, he writes, continuing a theme that surfaced at last week’s all-white-male mayor’s panel on Dallas culture.
Ratcliff’s thoughts carefully frame the conversation. Integration is about more than inclusion, and in a cultural subset such as visual art, in which the cultural forms are largely dictated by wealth, class, and education, the lack of diversity (not just in Dallas, but also in the art world at large), is indicative of lingering social trends of inequality in precisely those areas: wealth, class, and education. That, of course, is only the beginning of the conversation. Making headway feels like a particularly monumental task, precisely because the roots of the problem dig deep into a multiplicity of explicit – and implicit – social attitudes, as well as a tangle of political, economic, and educational ineptitudes. That said, headway isn’t made if the conversation isn’t kick-started (or if, to be fair to those who have been pounding this pavement for decades, if the conversation isn’t taken up by new leaders in the community like Ratcliff). To be continued. . .
-Finally, I realize I brushed over the Dallas Art Fair. I asked one artist his thoughts on it. “It was an Art Fair,” he said. I asked another: “It was the least depressing yet.” I agreed. In fact, I would even go further. There were moments during the fair when I positively didn’t loathe being there – almost enjoyed it, really. But I think Glasstire’s spanking new editor Bill Davenport really hit the generally tone with this piece, and this graph in particular:
Maybe it’s me, but the novelty has worn off. Rather than being pleased to simply HAVE and art fair, the fifth Dallas event has put on the polish; it has lost its gangly self consciousness, has attracted some great Texas galleries, and a respectable spread of out-of staters, all of who seem to be making an effort. It’s the best Dallas Art Fair I’ve seen. Heck- it’s the best art fair I’ve seen anywhere, or at least the funnest, perhaps because it isn’t too overwhelming, either in size, wealth, pretension, or quality.
I think the point that needs to be reiterated here is the lack of pretension. Dallas Art Fair co-founder Chris Byrne has an iconoclastic streak. When he gets to do what he wants to do, he exhibits forensic manikin heads at the Outsider Art Fair or publishes comic books about magicians. And for three years the “alternative” Art Fair programming launched in collaboration with the Dallas Contemporary, from the Neiman Marcus windows to the Dallas Biennial to this year’s fantastic Seven Art Fair, have offered sideshow antics with meat on the bone. Byrne is not exactly the posh, society-driven art personality we are so used to seeing direct this city’s top tier art activity. In the first few years of the fair, Byrne’s approach to creating a fair “with a twang” had some concerned that that would only mean creating a fair with no real resonance. And the Dallas Art Fair certainly isn’t Frieze or Art Basel. But then, could it ever really be? And even if it could, does Dallas really need that?
Here are this weekend’s openings:
CentralTrak’s NEXT TOPIC on “Art Writing & Art Criticism in Texas” with Fran Colpitt, Dee Mitchell, Peter Simek, and Charissa Terranova. Moderated by Jerome Weeks at CentralTrak — April 18: 7 p.m. 800 Exposition Ave. Dallas, TX 75226.
“A Gift of History” to the Dallas Museum of Art: Art Matters and Quin Mathews Films commemorate 25 years at the Dallas Museum of Art — April 18: 7 p.m. 1717 North Harwood St., Dallas, TX 75201.
Jubilee: A Kettle Retro-Spectacle at Kettle Art — April 17: 7-10 p.m. 2714 Elm St., Dallas, TX 75226.
“On The Wings” by Brenda McKinney, at Gallery 422 at The Workroom – April 18: 5-8 p.m. 422 Singleton Blvd., Dallas, Tx 75212.
“Flowing Steel, Facets of Light” by Cassandra Fink at the Dallas Hilton Anatole’s Jade Pavilion – April 18: 6-8 p.m. 2201 North Stemmons Fwy, Dallas Tx 75207.
“Collage : Now and Then” by Dana Harper, Terrell James, Lawrence Lee, Doug MacWithey, Mary McCleary, Margaret Meehan, John Pomara, Dan Rizzie, Polly Lanning Sparrow, Kevin Todora, Ellen Frances Tuchman, John Wilcox, Danny Williams, Mark Williams, and Eric Zimmerman, at the Barry Whistler Gallery – April 20 : 6-8 p.m. 2909-B Canton Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Under Pressure” at the Art Hotel – April 19: 7-9 p.m. 1112 S. Akard, Dallas, Tx 75215.
“2013 Spring Art Mart” at the Bath House Cultural Center – April 19 : 7-9 p.m. 521 East Lawther, Dallas, Tx 75218.
“Spring Reception” by the Christopher Martin Gallery – April 19: 7-9 p.m. 1533 Dragon Streetm Dallas, Tx 75207.
“Continental Gin Building – Artists Open Studios” at the Continental Gin Building – April 19 : 6-10 p.m. 3309 Elm Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
Loose Cooperation with Kate Steciw, Kevin Todora, Christopher Schreck, Jesse Morgan Barnett, Cassandra Emswiler, Allison Grant, Brandon Kennedy, Stephen Lapthisophon, Brenna Murphy, Artie Vierkant, Jim Nolan, Steph D., Rachel De Joode, and Peter Happel Christian — April 20: 6-10 p.m. 2646 Main St. Dallas, TX 75226.
Temporary Occupants at Eastfield College — April 20: 6-9 p.m. 3737 Motley Dr Mesquite, TX 75150
The Safe Room, Show #1 — Cassandra Emswiler “Canticles of Praise” at The Texas Theater –April 20: 7-11 p.m. 231 W Jefferson Blvd Dallas, TX 75208.
GIF THE F*CK OUT April 20: 7-11 p.m. — 2605B Main St. Dallas, TX 75226.
“Space for all Endings” by Keri Oldham, “Collages: 1968-2012, Portraits: 2013″ by Roger Winter, and “An Allegory of Humor” by Eduardo Portillo, at the Kirk Hopper Fine Art – April 20: 6:30-8:30 p.m. 3008 Commerce Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“ARAN: NEW PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS” by Sam Reveles, at the Talley Dunn Gallery – April 20: 6-8 p.m. 5020 Tracy St., Dallas, Tx 75205.
Jacobine Van Der Meer: Solo Exhibition Opening at The Public Trust — April 20: 6-9 p.m. 2919-C Commerce St., Dallas, TX 75226.
DADA Spring Gallery Walk – April 20 : 2:00 PM – 8:00 PM For all the details on this large event, go here.
“2013 Spring Art Mart” at the Bath House Cultural Center – April 20 : 12 a.m. – 9 p.m. 521 East Lawther, Dallas, Tx 75218.
“Spring Reception” by the Christopher Martin Gallery – April 20: 2-8 p.m. 1533 Dragon Streetm Dallas, Tx 75207.
“ART IN THE YARD” by Eliza – April 20 : 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. 5409 Farquhar, Dallas Tx 75209
“2013 Home Concepts Spring Art Show” by Linda Dillard, Oscar Duran, Randy Gonzales, Sherri Kidner, Tray LaCaze, Terry Mueller, Daniel Padilla, Manuel Padilla, Pamela Rabin, Adam Spigel, and Rachel White-Delgado, at Home Concepts – April 20 : 6-11 p.m. 2900 Main Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Continental Gin Building – Artists Open Studios” at the Continental Gin Building – April 20: 2-8 p.m. 3309 Elm Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Formations” by Sarah Francis, at the Mokah Art Gallery – April 20: 6-10 p.m. 2803 Taylor Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“2013 Spring Juried Show” by Senior Visual Arts students of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, at Norwood Flynn Gallery – April 20 : 6-8 p.m. 3318 Shorecrest, Dallas, Tx 75235
“MidTown Art Walk” at the Gallery At Midtown & Artist Studios – April 20: 6-10 p.m. Valley View Center, 13331 Preston Road, Dallas, Tx 75240
“2013 Spring Art Mart” at the Bath House Cultural Center – April 21: 11-6 p.m. 521 East Lawther, Dallas, Tx 75218.
Image at top: Taking Pictures with Thomas Ruff XXIII by Jesse Morgan Barnet, who will be participating in this weekend’s Loose Cooperation show at the Main Street storefronts. More info here.