Since they're winding up the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2000 Biennial on June 4, here's one BLINK's worth of gauging the local fallout. This Biennial was the first to use six regional curators, you'll recall, who scoured the countryside in an attempt to expose New York City's art elite and art tourists to a broader base of talent. In fact, many were annoyed that artists from Texas were recognized in proportionally great numbers by a famous museum located in the contemporary visual-arts hub of the known universe. But since it began, feedback has been favorable overall for the artists who live in Texas (as opposed to the ridiculous concept of the "Texas artist"). The "local" curator who served as this region's talent scout was Michael Auping, chief curator of the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, who jokingly says of the Biennial hubbub that "the best thing about the Whitney is that it's over." But if anyone gets his or her name on the map because of the Texas presence in NYC, it will be Talley Dunn.
Making out bandit-like with the Whitney hoo-hah is Dallas' Dunn Brown Contemporary, the new gallery space started by Dunn and Lisa Hirschler Brown. Dunn Brown represents five of the nine Texas talents who grace the Whitney show--Vernon Fisher, Brian Fridge, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Joseph Havel, and Nic Nicosia. Dunn says the recognition will benefit her gallery in the same way it benefits the artists. "It raises awareness regarding what we're doing as a gallery and what the artists are doing," she says. "In general, we've made the point that strong work is being made outside New York. I hope it's not an isolated experience and that curators outside of Texas and art critics might be more encouraged to consider important things going on elsewhere."
James Drake of El Paso is another of the Texas-based artists whose work debuted in the Whitney. Drake will be featured in a solo show at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary beginning June 10. Pamela Auchincloss Project Space and Arts Management Services in NYC is curating the Dallas show, and project coordinator Jeremy Adams says the buzz in the big city for Drake's work has been impressive. "The response has been quite huge," Adams says from the Chelsea exhibition space. "We've honestly not heard of any prejudice about Texas artists." Adams says the response to Drake's art and the lack of Texas put-downs was surprising to the artist. "James himself is smiling at the response," Adams says. "He told me he'd been making this work for 15 or 20 years, and now everyone wants to know him."
Annabelle Massey Helber
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