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Kudos To Dallas Biennial Creators; Next Time Let’s Pay More Attention
by Joan Davidow 29 May 2014

KERA contributor Joan Davidow takes a look back at the ambitious, sprawling and sadly overlooked Dallas Biennial.

CTA TBD

db14 MB billboard 24x12

DB 14’s billboard art, by Math Bess, appears at West 10th & Taylor Streets in Fort Worth through May 31.

Intro:  Dallas Biennial 2014, a multi-staged exhibition blanketed Dallas this spring and recently hit Fort Worth.  Follow Joan Davidow as she presents an overview of this highly orchestrated affair….

Two energetic artists, Jesse Morgan Barnett and Michael Mazurek, invented the Dallas Biennial two years ago.  This year, they presented DB 14, a wild concept showing 50 artists in twelve exhibitions during four months in Dallas. The host sites went from the familiar –Goss-Michael Foundation– to wildcards, like offices in a 1980s building on Stemmons Freeway.

This adventurous pair cobbled together quite an endeavor.  They researched artists they like, finding them on-line or from their former UT-Arlington art classes.  They focused on challenging artists they wanted to expose.

Two years ago, they launched DB 12, an intimate showing of mostly videos and small works in Oliver Francis Gallery’s tiny back room near Fair Park.  That biennial was primarily online with video works on their website.

They expanded their concept for this year’s DB14.  In fact, it was on steroids with way too many venues for visitors to manage.  They opened the event showing Scottish artist and California professor Thomas Lawson.  Twenty of his splashy figurative paintings showed at Goss-Michael gallery in early February.  Barnett and Mazurek knew Lawson’s essay that had inspired their art awareness.

Shows at ten other venues followed, opening lickety-split in almost bi-weekly intervals.  The kookiest site, an unassuming office building on Stemmons Freeway, featured area artists positioned in funky places.  Dallas artist Lucia Simek’s piece landed in a closet-sized room.  Acknowledging its odd-placed windows, she humorously covered the walls in floor length drapes.

The “big show” hit the streets in early May in a dilapidated industrial building on Singleton Avenue in West Dallas.  A dozen artists filled a dark, expansive area and small offices with videos, photographs, sound works, project pieces, paintings and sculpture.  One artist who traveled from Switzerland created impactful sculptures of plaster-coated burlap that resembled a human-sized Stonehenge.

Bravo to these two smart, committed artists turned curators, turned directors.  They single-handedly developed a challenging program in Dallas with little funding and big imaginations.  This type of spunky creativity mirrors the spirit required for a metropolis to succeed.  In addition to traditional museums and galleries, today’s vibrant city must support raw spaces for budding talents.  DB14 redefined “places” for art:  one of its last venues was the art magazine Semigloss.

Sadly DB14 garnered little of the public attention it deserved:  no magazine coverage, barely any newsprint, with some respected on-line attention.

You can briefly see the last of it, on a billboard in downtown Fort Worth by a mysterious California artist Math Bass.  It features cartooned German buildings influenced by an Adolf Hitler painting.

I commend this significant underground effort.  Dallas deserves to see experimental, challenging work from its young community and from national and international talent.  These two hard-working, sassy guys did what no other entity in Dallas has done.  When it comes again as DB 16, a bigger audience, press, collectors, and the art-curious must show up.

Joan Davidow is the former director of the Dallas Contemporary. She teaches contemporary art at SMU.

 

 

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  • J Beatty

    Kudos to Joan Davidow for speaking out about an impressive and extensive efforts by brilliant local artists Barnett and Mazurek Their DB14 efforts hold exponential potential for the DFW art world and beyond.

  • J Beatty

    Kudos to Joan Davidow for speaking out about an impressive and extensive efforts by brilliant local artists Barnett and Mazurek Their DB14 efforts hold exponential potential for the DFW art world and beyond.