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.
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!