Consider the Copycat

They're not all bad, as 500X's crop of new artists makes abundantly clear

To their credit, a few Expo artists have managed to forge unproven territory with daring and mixed results. Nancy Mladenoff is on to something as she stencils dark enamel paint images of plants and insects onto tacky polyester upholstery fabric (schizoid home-ec art, really); Brenda Shook paints her affectionate "Dad on Swing" with a novel kind of chunky, honest perspective; and Catherine Chauvin hits on the truly hypnotic with her starry-sky print, "Life in the Time of Meteors." After all, big-city art hubs like New York and London don't have the monopoly on originality.

Actually, I'm back for a holiday visit since moving to London nearly a year ago, and after several saturated art seasons there, I was curious to return to the local art scene. I hate it when people go away from their home ground and come back straining under the quasi-emotional weight of their own profundity and sophistication, as in: "I've seen things you wouldn't understand."

Dallas isn't exactly a backwater, but more often than not, the high-stakes art openings I attend in London yield some truly startling and inventive work: Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Gillian Wearing--it's difficult to trace their conceptual lines back to any one artist or era. Perhaps that's why they're getting richer and more famous by the minute. Expo artists, take note.

Nancy Mladenoff is one of the few Expo 2001 artists to explore new territory with Insects & Fungi 3.
Nancy Mladenoff is one of the few Expo 2001 artists to explore new territory with Insects & Fungi 3.

However, my own impending sense of pretentious discovery in London was squelched early on, when I laid eyes on an installation by London's own grande dame of thoughtful-cum-significant sculpture, Rachel Whiteread. Her luminous resin casts of the negative spaces underneath chairs, titled "One Hundred Spaces," is one that helped catapult her to fame in the mid-'90s, and though it glows and hums with massive import, it also smells of recycling. I can't speak for the rest of London, but for me it recalls a not-as-famous concrete cast of the space underneath a chair, circa 1966, titled "A Cast of the Space Under My Chair." By none other than Bruce Nauman.

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