The concourse at the Dallas Museum of Art is usually just a corridor connecting one side of the building to the other. Hundreds of thousands of people walk through it every year. And, unless you’re dropping by the Center for Creative Connections to create a piece of art out of pipe cleaners and buttons, the walk is pretty uneventful. But starting Friday until February 5th, visitors will probably want to take their time in museum’s main thoroughfare to check out the recently commissioned mural “Pathway.”
“Pathway” was created by Swiss artist Nicolas Party. The mural, which looks like an underwater dreamscape, is Party’s first solo museum presentation in the United States. Party got his start as a graffiti artist in the 1990s. And he said working at the DMA over the 16-day period that it took to paint “Pathway” was a new experience for him because he wasn’t used to having so many people watching him paint.
“When I was very young and doing graffiti, there were sometimes people around me. But it was very different,” said Party, “But here it was really fun. Because of the colors and the motif, people were really enthusiastic; there weren’t really many people saying, “What the eff is this?” or “I hate this.” The best reactions came from kids.”
Party recalled a time during his painting of “Pathway” when children were running up and down the corridor and pretending that they were swimming.
“It was really cool to have a kid run up and down and yell “I need to come up for air!” said Party.
Party admitted that his work is usually for a very specific audience – folks who love contemporary art. He said hearing children’s excitement was good for him as he worked 10-hour days with only a 45-minute break each day.
“The contemporary audience can be very demanding, which can be a good thing for an artist, but the audience here was very cheerful. It gave me energy” ” said Party.
Party’s work is always very cheerful with a tinge of the surreal. This is not his first mural, but a majority of his work is in oil and pastels, which you can see in the piece that will accompany his installation – “Two Men with Hats.” (see below)
The DMA noted in their press release announcing Party’s mural work that “through the appropriation of certain themes and gestures, broad influences can be identified in Party’s work, with landscapes derived from David Hockney, color palettes borrowed from the Fauves, painted collage referencing Matisse’s cutouts, and figures from the Swiss painter Félix Vallotton” all of which can be spotted in the slide show below:
Gavin Delahunty, the Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA, said he is extremely happy with the work they got out of Party for this mural.
“We gave him the baton and he ran with it as hard as he could and as fast as he could,” said Delahunty, “He’s created an immersive deep, depthy, colorful, fantastical experience at the museum.”
Delahunty used the word “aquatopia” to describe Party’s mural and though it may be a made up word, it perfectly describes the piece which features neon colored bushes and Seuss-like trees that look like coral in front of a deep blue backdrop. Party neither confirmed nor denied that the ocean was an inspiration for the work, but he did say that he wanted it to feel like a promenade. And it does.