Capsule Reviews

Our critics survey the local art scene

Bodies Past and Present: The Figurative Tradition in the Nasher Collection In this succinct array of sculptural pieces now showing in the two main galleries on the street level of the Nasher Sculpture Center, one is not so much challenged by the figure of the human body but carefully taught by it. Offering a lesson on modern art in the 20th century, this tidy exhibition packs an intellectual punch. In two rooms, from Matisse's "Decorative Figure" (1908) to Oldenburg's "Typewriter Eraser" (1976), we are told a story of intellectual displacement, the exciting unfolding of humanism's transposition in the last 100 years. Through the not so lugubrious game of abstraction and contortion, we are shown how modernism immediately brought with it a dismantling of man as front and center in the universe. This is brought home with the forthright prominence in the front gallery of the vaguely bulbous and modernist amazon figure by Gaston Lachaise, "Elevation (Standing Woman)." While bisected by two rooms, one filled with pre-World War II forms and the other post-World War II forms, the show offers a continuous yet largely nonlinear tale of the fall of traditional humanism in the academy. Ongoing at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., 214-242-5100. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Texas Vision: The Barrett Collection, the Art of Texas and Switzerland Why is it that regional art, from Texas to inner Pennsylvania, upstate New York to the hills of Tennessee, looks the same--all of it showing naturalistic panoramas of tumbling hills, arabesque trees and tumbledown, homey architecture? Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that "regionalism" in the arts is more about an idyllic rural idea of the past than an area's true region, both physical and mediatized, in the present. Without intending to, Texas Vision circuitously forces just such a question. Located in the upstairs galleries at the Meadows Museum, one will find the vast and rather motley collection of Richard and Nona Barrett. In the gallery to the right at the top of the stairs is their collection of early 20th-century Swiss modernists, including the colorful figural work by Ferdinand Hodler, Félix Vallotton, Ernest Bieler and Cunio Amiet. Across the hall is more figural work, both painting and sculpture, but made by Texas artists working from the early part of the 20th century to the present. It is a wildly disparate array of work by Texans, from paintings and works on paper by the Dallas School (Charles T. Bowling, Otis Dozier and Jerry Bywaters) to the willful kitsch of Helen Altman's "Custom Deluxe" and pensive assemblage of Vernon Fisher's "Model Citizen." The simultaneously broad and simple theme of the show--"Texas Vision"--serves only to emphasize the overwhelming if not confusing heterogeneity of the collection. This could have been avoided by a more insightful and conceptual framework. A focus on the "figure," "objecthood," or "landscape," for example, would have not only brought the Swiss pieces into closer play with the Texan, but also done greater justice to all works of art on display. Through January 30 at the Meadows Museum of Fine Art, 5900 Bishop Blvd. at Southern Methodist University, 214-768-2727. Reviewed December 23. (C.T.)

 
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