There's a reason we humans have pharynxes, larynxes and great, flopping, flexible, thrusting tongues. We speak. Ditto for our amazing opposable thumbs that fly furiously over a keyboard or grip a pencil with the greatest of ease. We write. With due deference to body language, we've evolved into word-dependent communicators, and that makes it really tough for visual artists. Early in our quest for art appreciation, we were completely turned off by the label-happy art writers--people who peppered their diatribes with art-twaddle ostensibly to help us understand the work of artists. You've read it--neo-realism, hyper-realism, post-modernism, neo-expressionism, abstract expressionism, Dada-ism--and unless you're particularly studious and/or pompous, it don't mean a thang. The artists we've known seem to want to talk about their art, but they're somehow stymied by the limitations of language. Hey, they're "visual" communicators, so we believe they've somehow disengaged the spoken-word parts of their brains to express themselves visually. They smear paint, bend steel, shape paper, dab countless dots of color, and then they expect you to do all the talking. Artists hope for a multisensory response to their work, we believe. Looking at art is emotional, visceral, spine-tingling, perplexing...well, you get the picture.
So all this comes to mind as the Dallas Art Dealers Association gets set for its annual Fall Gallery Walk on Saturday. The DADA hoo-ha is a semiannual open house of all member galleries. This year, some 27 venues in and around Dallas will be open from noon to at least 8 p.m. The art lineup is staggering, with an interesting mix of solo and group shows, midcareer and new artists, paintings, sculpture, found objects and at least one bona fide freak show. Several of the art spaces are hosting artist receptions from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to kick off monthlong exhibitions and introduce the art-makers to what may be a new crop of art-buyers.
If you've had the all-day and into-the-night art-viewing experience before, you know where to go, what to say, what not to say, how to behave. First-timers, though, and DADA hopes there will be plenty of you, may feel intimidated. Don't worry. It's easy to fit in and quietly slink around the white walls of any of the DADA galleries. Heck, that's what the artists do. It's easy, also, to mutter, stammer and "Hmmmm" (particularly impressive if you rub your chin at the same time) while contemplating a piece of art. Should you get backed into a corner and find you must say something to someone at the Gallery Walk, here are the no-nos. Never say, aloud, "I could do that," or, "My 5-year-old could do that." Here, too, is what you could say, in a very astute, smart, capsulized way. Start with a "Hmmmm," then say, "I think this work is..."
Self-absorbed: Christopher Martin's art at Christopher Martin's Gallery, with hors d'oeuvres probably prepared by Christopher Martin.
Drop-dead unconscious: Susan Kae Grant's photographic dream images at Conduit Gallery.
Puzzlingly complex: self-taught Texas artist Chelo González Amezcua at SMU's Pollock Gallery.
Big as hell: Louisa McElwain's Southwest landscape paintings at Karen Mitchell Frank Gallery.
Hard as a rock: Chris Powell's sculpture at Pillsbury & Peters.
Shamelessly self-promotional: a group show by gallery artists at Florence Art Gallery.