Arthur Peña's Newest Project Will Introduce Visiting Artists to 'His' Dallas
Jay Stuckey's childlike, cartoonish drawings, paintings and collages often depict the uncomfortable realities of human existence.
courtesy the artist
For one night only on a Saturday evening at the end of April, a private residential arts incubator at an undisclosed location in Dallas will host work by Los Angeles artist Jay Stuckey, counterbalanced with a performance by Denton punk band Thin Skin.
Taking its name from the immediacy and fleeting nature of the exhibition, One Night Only is the newest project from Arthur Peña, artist and visiting lecturer at SMU. Peña has made this event private, accessible by RSVP.
A native Dallasite, Peña has a long history in the city with feet planted in both the art and music worlds. A painter himself, he’d curated years’ worth of underground art and music shows with his incubators Ware:Wolf:Haus and, more recently, Vice Palace.
April 29 will be the first event in Peña’s ONO series (his third project in Dallas), and he hopes do to more in the future, featuring artists from Chicago and New York. Many of his past events happened for one night, but ONO is different in that it’s focusing on bringing in visual artists who aren’t native to North Texas and pairing them with local music acts.
“I’m calling it a cultural exchange,” says Peña. “I wanted to get back into working with visual artists, and I’m still interested in bridging the art and music scenes. ... It’s about talking to an artist who’s not from here, which we all love because it’s nice to hear about other places. I really wanted to start this project off with Jay Stuckey. He’s a great friend and I love his work. He has the kind of personality that people can interact with.”
They met in 2012 when Stuckey was a visiting artist at Brown University and Peña was studying just down the street at the Rhode Island School of Design. The two artists crossed paths again in 2013 at the Dallas Art Fair. Stuckey was showing work with his gallery from Los Angeles, Anat Ebgi.
Stuckey just closed a solo show at Ebgi’s gallery last week. His childlike cartoonish drawings, paintings and collages often depict the uncomfortable realities of human existence and delve into the farthest reaches of his psyche since many of the scenes depict what he sees in his dreams.
“I said, ‘I know that work. It’s Jay Stuckey’s work,’” Peña remembers. “Anat, the gallerist who’s amazing, tracked him down. He happened to be in town and we reconnected.”
Peña says he took Stuckey all over Dallas that weekend – to his former studio, Deadbolt; the place where he grew up in West Dallas; and to a party at another arts incubator, That That.
“Jay was like, ‘This is a really great experience. You saved my life,’” Peña relates. That set the wheels in motion for this project. “What I love about people coming to town… I get to show them Dallas in a different way. They don’t have to just do the fancy dinners and go to the amazing institutions and private collections – those are all really amazing things that are here, but Dallas is so much more than that.”
So, now, instead of promoting Dallas art and music from within in his typical bottom-up grassroots way like with Vice Palace and Ware:Wolf:Haus, Peña is promoting from the outside in.
“Jay Stuckey [will] go back to Los Angeles, and [say], ‘Goddamn, Dallas is fucking badass. It’s an amazing town, they have great curators, they have great collectors, the people are amazing, the music is great,’” Peña muses. “I’m going to take him to Lee Harvey’s to get a burger, and take him to Deep Ellum to get a drink and drive him through Oak Cliff and show him the parts that I grew up in as well as the parts that are being gentrified. I get to be an ambassador to these people I care about who are also making amazing artwork.”
Peña has long been an ambassador between the art and music scenes in Dallas, which at times can be strangely separate. He curates events conscientiously, always putting much thought into the interplay between visual art and music, and among the music itself with his love of cross-genre lineups. He chose the punk band Thin Skin because it speaks to Stuckey’s practice and aesthetic.
“Jay Stuckey is an old school punk from Washington, D.C. He grew up in the hardcore D.C. punk scene in the '80s and '90s. I know he’d love a punk band,” says Peña. “For future One Night Only happenings, the music isn’t just ‘Who’s hot right now?’ It’s about whatever artist I’m working with, ‘What are you listening to in the studio right now? What kind of energy do you want with your work? Let me tailor the music aspect to your practice.’ They work off each other. The music component is in conversation with the show overall.”
The timing for ONO couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s happening on the third-year anniversary of Vice Palace beginning. Although Vice Palace officially called it quits last fall after Peña’s $5,000 city grant ran out, he revived the project with a $2,000 faculty grant from SMU. The institutional money is paying for two more recording sessions for the associated music label Vice Palace Tapes.
One of the public recording sessions is happening the night before ONO, so Peña will be quite busy the last weekend in April in his ambassadorial role, and Stuckey will see a sampling of the best of the DIY music scene.
On April 28, Kallohonka, Lord Byron and Felt & Fur will be recorded at Aqua Lab Sound Recordings, and the following weekend, on May 6, Jake Schrock, Francine Thirteen and Bathhouse will be recorded at Aqua Lab. The six acts will be spread across three tapes funded by SMU. When added to the tapes funded by the City of Dallas, there will be a total of 10 tapes featuring 20 Dallas artists under the Vice Palace label.
This time around, the tapes are going to be a less fussy, more stripped-down version of the psychedelic pocket artwork Vice Palace originally produced with the first seven tapes. They will be manufactured in Dallas and feature black lettering on a white background.
It sounds like Peña has a lot going on, but he has always had his hands in multiple projects simultaneously. At the root of each is a love of Dallas and his desire to share that in an inclusive way.
“Dallas loves showing up and being there. That’s a really powerful thing. … I wanted to tap into that power of sharing work with the knowledge that this is one night only,” Peña says. “You should come out to communicate with people, and to talk. What’s important always, but now especially: It’s an inclusive endeavor during divisive times. It’s about bringing people in, bringing people together and getting all this energy out.”
To RSVP to One Night Only, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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