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Dallas Art Fair: 12 1/2 Random Things


by Manuel Mendoza 6 Feb 2009

Second Amendment, 2008, by John Hartley I spent two hours at the Dallas Art Fair today, and I have to say I found it impressive in its breadth and overall quality. But rather than trying to review it or summing it up, I’m inspired by the Facebook meme to make a list: 1. Don’t try […]

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Second Amendment, 2008, by John Hartley

I spent two hours at the Dallas Art Fair today, and I have to say I found it impressive in its breadth and overall quality. But rather than trying to review it or summing it up, I’m inspired by the Facebook meme to make a list:

1. Don’t try to walk in on the street-level second floor; it’s not an entrance. Go down through the garden, west of Stephen Pyles on Ross Avenue, and enter on the first floor. Upstairs is a maze. Let us know if you figure out a walking plan for it.

2. The first gallery to the left, Thomas Segal of Baltimore, is a good start. A pair of Rauschenberg collage-prints hang outside the gallery space, Banner (1969) and Earth Day (1970), establishing a high bar for the art to come. Rauschenberg has a way of capturing the chaos and decay of modern life that seems as relevant as ever. Inside Segal are some eye-popping Wolf Kahn oil paintings of mysterious Day-Glo landscapes.

3. Several other name-brands are represented but not always in a group. For instance, a handful of pieces by photo-realist Chuck Close are spread around different galleries. Be sure to check out his Kate Moss at Deborah Colton of Houston.

4. Spotted at the fair: Nancy Whitenack of Conduit Gallery, Barry Whistler of Whistler Gallery and Dallas Arts District executive director Veletta Lill, a former Dallas councilwoman.

5. Fort Worth’s Artspace 111 is representing one of the most interesting artists in the show: John Hartley. Hartley collects old toy figurines and then depicts them in oil paintings. Humor bonus: His painting of one cowboy shooting another is called Second Amendment.

6. There was good foot traffic, especially for a Friday afternoon. Are people buying? We’ll see.

7. Favorite quote from a gallery owner when asked how it was going. “People are reacting,” he deadpanned.

7. Texas native John Alexander, who gave one of the best art talks I’ve ever heard about a decade ago at the MAC, has a 2008 painting at the fair. His macho Neo-Expressionism recedes in this piece, giving way to a gentler muse: fish and flora beneath the sea (Swimming in the Shadows).

8. Wow moment: A trio of watercolors by the late outsider artist Henry Darger, subject of the documentary In the Realms of the Unreal. His landlord, who found the work along with a 15,000-page accompanying novel after Darger’s death, is the beneficiary. The big one is going for $225,000.

9. Most of the gallery owners seemed pretty laid back. I only witnessed one high-pressure-sales moment. Still, they have to be nervous in this economy and should be lauded for making the trip.

10. There’s a lot of playful work, including Donald Moffett‘s Asterisk and Cobalt, which looks like a plastic shag rug but is made with just oil paint.

11. An unlabeled piece at Lora Reynolds of Austin set the low-brow bar, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The artist basically carved the words of a penis joke into wood. Alrighty then.

12. Funny, or maybe not, you be the judge: a pair of sculptures by Pop artist Mel Ramos inspired by Victoria’s Secret models, including a topless Gisele Bundchen. The tension between fine craftsmanship and the subject matter was interesting.

12 1/2. Definitely funny, disturbing and political: Dietrich Wegner‘s Photoshopped picture of his baby son tattooed in corporate logos (Cumulous Brand, Sebastian in the Park, 2008). He also made a silicone sculpture version that gallery owner Carrie Secrist invited us to touch. This art fair is interactive!

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  • A matter of taste!