Capsule Reviews

Our critics survey the local art scene

William Betts: Sliver of Clarity The painter William Betts has reconceived the "hands-on" approach to painting, refining the process of this hoary medium down to a few principles: a couple of pecks at the computer keyboard, a click here and there of the mouse working in Photoshop and a flick of the switch to the CNC [Computer(ized) Numerical(ly) Control(led)] machine. It's really not all that easy but almost. Betts has constructed his own CNC manufacturing machine to print out 1/64th-inch line after 1/64th-inch line. The result is a meticulous, striped painting, the form of which is based on a single pixel taken from a digital photograph. The mechanically elegant means result in taut, balanced and clean paintings. But the question begs: What about the idea behind the technological wizardry? Why does one painting end in a block of black while others follow subtle gradations of green and gray punctuated by bright orange? Is there color theory at work here? Or are the paintings the result of radical automation and the intentional annihilation of the artist as genius-creator? Betts' avoidance of discussing the deeper meaning and contribution of his work proffers a certain position by default. Perhaps technological savvy is brilliant enough as is without conceptual support or theoretical explanation. If so, we find a version of painting that has finally caught up with a world long ago welcomed (Godard's 1965 sci-fi film Alphaville comes to mind here) in the form of Betts' tastefully mindless art. Through September 3 at Holly Johnson Gallery, 1411 Dragon St., 214-369-0169. (Charissa N. Terranova)

New Texas Talent XII If there's one thing to give us hope in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in America's execution capital it is the ever-blooming garden of good young artists. The 12th annual New Texas Talent show has cast the spotlight in their direction and sounded a stage call. A call to arms might have been more potent in the way of rad media, but a standard appeal from the local art world is better than nothing. Juried by art education consultant Nancy Cohen Israel, the show offers an array of paintings, photographs and sculpture. Nope, no video. Boo-hoo. Nevertheless, Pamela Reaves' painterly light-jet print mounted on aluminum, "Too Blue," and Teresa Rafidi's giclée print, "Gaining In," optimize flat space by way of cutting-edge digital technology. Jessica Cook's "The Red Chair," a straight-shot photo of a woman enveloped in a bathroom of toile standing next to her red rose-covered chair comments on toilette-excess and obsession with old-world fineries. The alternation between scraped and smooth striped surfaces in Nancy Brown's painting, "I Recall," fingers the tension-filled fault line separating craft from automation. While these artists may not have the ability to overturn reactionary laws, they can distract us from those that stand and help us to eke out a final faith in that bruised-up, moth-eaten belief system known as humanism. Through August 27 at Craighead-Green Gallery, 1011 Dragon St., 214-855-0779. (C.T.)

Gordon Parks is a wundermensch--an artist of diverse talents and a kaleidoscopic imagination to boot. While recognizable foremost as the fabulator of the character "John Shaft" and the two Shaft movies from the early '70s, the work showing at the DMA is all photography. At the same time, though, there is a symmetry and coherence between the two bodies of work, his black-hero-man movies and his photographs. One might conclude that the photos made in his years working for the Farm Security Administration and Life magazine--everything from poor families in Washington, D.C., and poker-faced Harlem gangsters to Parisian fashion models and Duke Ellington--constituted the field research for the configuration of John Shaft, the persona given plaudits by Isaac Hayes in the award-winning theme song. The dizzying array of subject matter in his photographs reflects the varied experiences of his life as an artist. The photographic narrative in one gallery of a life in the favela for a Brazilian boy, Flavio da Silva, and his family markedly contrasts with the color shot in another of a lithe blond nude reclining languorously on a velvet couch. And then there are those photos hung in the space in between: the images of the Civil Rights Movement, the Nation of Islam in America and relentless racism and poverty in the Deep South. Parks' photojournalism is remarkably good--at times soothing for its impressionistic blur and at others shocking because of its spectacular subject matter. Most exciting of all is that his habit of photo-making would morph into filmmaking, resulting in a series of inventive though kitschy movies. Through September 4 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-922-1200. Reviewed this week. (C.T.)

 
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