We wonder if whoever is using billboards along Interstate 30 to point out that graffiti is "Temporary Art" and asking taggers to use their talents wisely has ever heard of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The protégé of Andy Warhol began his art career as a New York City tagger using the handle SAMO. Of course, if every kid with a backpack full of spray paint and a clever nom de plume could accrue millions by age 30, then there'd be no need for those billboards. They'd all be art stars, and we'd be sick of their oh-so-street pretensions soon enough. Basquiat himself was the walking embodiment of contradiction. He hated art collectors but loved their money. One exception was Dallas' May family. Basquiat stayed with them here and in Europe, leaving paintings with the family for their hospitality. Many of those from the private collection are on display for the first time at Southern Methodist University's Pollock Gallery, 3140 Dyer St. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The exhibit is open through March 29 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 214-768-4439.
There's meaning to the phrase "Renaissance man" beyond the guys in tights and poofy shorts hanging out at the faire with their wenches. There is the multifaceted guy who's skilled in several arts, but definitely not a jack of all trades, master of none. A prime example is Roxy Gordon, the late Dallas resident with more hyphens in his title than Dallas has strip clubs. He was a poet, a musician, a journalist, a novelist, a storyteller, a visual artist, a friend to the Cosmic Cowboys (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings), an Indian activist, a member of the counterculture, a wannabe teen-age Communist. And on what would have been his birthday, his friends and family will gather to honor all his aspects, including three CDs he produced, his art and his many forms of writing. Participating are his wife, Judy Gordon, Robert Trammel of WordSpace, Karen X of Paperbacks Plus, J.R. Compton, The Ackermans and half a dozen others. The performance starts at 7 p.m. at Paperbacks Plus, 6115 La Vista Drive. Admission is free. Call 214-827-4860.
Sometimes we like to pretend that the Oscars are actually a physical competition. Salma Hayek would smackdown with Renée Zellweger. Eminem would be ambushed by the animated Wild Thornberrys for best music. The hobbits from Lord of the Rings will crash My Big Fat Greek Wedding. With Pavlov's Dogs' Oscar-themed improv show, any of those things might happen. Or not. The audience members won't know until they get there. The special two-night show will include movie games, script readings, creating an improvised movie live in the theater and performing movie-based sketches such as "live from the red carpet" reports with interviews with either real or fake celebrities. (Who can really tell the difference these days besides the plastic surgeons?) The Oscar theme show is 11:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane in the Mockingbird Central Plaza. Call 214-821-1860.In the '90s, Tony Award-worthy musicals were almost like a death knell for their gay composers. Jonathan Larson didn't live to see Rent succeed, and, days after winning two statues for Falsettos, William Finn was diagnosed with a brain tumor. But Finn lived, and the experience inspired another hit. Called A New Brain, the musical is semi-autobiographical, following a composer's journey from discovery to brain surgery to recovery. The lead (named Gordon Schwinn and played by Donald Fowler in the Uptown Players' version opening this week) works at a children's show, writing ditties for a human-sized singing frog. The play is a combination of real-time scenes, flashbacks and hallucinations during a post-op coma. A New Brainopens March 7 and runs through March 30 at the Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway. This week's showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 to $22. Call 214-219-2718.The Paris-Dallas Project could be a social experiment, trading merlot for Lone Stars and berets for cowboy hats, but it's more a cultural exchange program. Theatre Three premieres the English rendition of Fabrice Rozié's Transatlantic Liaison, a hit Paris play about the 20-year affair between French aristocratic feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir and working-class Chicago novelist Nelson Algren, who wrote Man With a Golden Arm. It's like Henry and June minus the bisexuality. It previews at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and opens Monday, also at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $25 for the sneak peeks and $20 to $35 for the regular run, which continues through April 12. Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. Call 214-871-3300.White Iowa kid Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke proved that European-descended jazz players could be just as amazing and influential as their African-American counterparts. Unfortunately, he also proved they can be just as self-destructive. Beiderbecke, who played cornet for Jean Goldkette's Band and The Paul Whiteman Orchestra, is known as the only white guy to achieve the stature of Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis. And, in his short 20-odd years (half of which was spent onstage), he honed a style that was so sparse and clean that he was kidded for being greedy with his notes. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, Texas Woman's University's Alexandria's Ragtime Band presents a tribute concert featuring professor Ron Fink, who organized the event and will play drums, and Jeffrey Barnes, one of the multi-instrumentalists from Denton's Brave Combo. The concert starts at 8 p.m. in the Margo Jones Performance Hall at Oakland and Sawyer streets in Denton. Admission is free. Call 940-898-2500.We used to daydream about auditioning for Juilliard by "performing" John Cage's 4'33". And, by performing, we mean sitting on the piano bench silent and still for exactly four minutes and 33 seconds as the piece required. Too bad by the time we discovered Cage's experimental work it was textbook material, not subversive and avant-garde. But Dallas has its own forum for modern experimental music in Elevator Bath. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, several ensembles will perform, including Chris Cutler (from Henry Cow and Art Bears), sheffield/rippie (with turntables and electronics) and TheAnchorByMonitor. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $10. The Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, 2801 Swiss Ave. Call 214-821-2522.