Alex de Leon The question begs: What to do with art that makes avid if not heavy-handed political statements in an era so eager to wrest itself from the rant, screed and morality inherently connected with political art? Is it the responsibility of art to engender social revolution, much less social consciousness? Do we care? These are the questions instigated by Alex de Leons miniature city of wayward form made from placards the artist has bought from homeless people. In de Leons hands the desperate, hand-written scrawls of the homeless--Will work for food, Homeless veteran, Need help, God bless you--become the writing on the walls of a small town. At the head of the town sits a church, also fashioned from homeless placards, that focuses our attention on the phrase God bless you recurrent throughout the small installation. Enveloping this shanty urbanism, video monitors, three televisions and one video projection show highway scenes taken from the artists studio. The point-of-view looks up from below as if shot from underneath a bridge or highway overpass, the usual haunts of homeless men and women seeking shelter. Has the artist informed us that he is like the homeless? Or is he an opportunist, cadging from cadgers an unfortunate livelihood? This is a small installation that will make you think. Through June 12 at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, 2801 Swiss Ave., 214-821-2522. Reviewed this week.
Concentrations 44: Matthew Buckingham, "A Man of the Crowd" Installed deep within the recesses of the Museums contemporary art galleries, Matthew Buckinghams film work is an exercise in refracted perception. The piece consists of photographs and film in two adjacent rooms. The juxtaposing of somber black-and-white photographs and the pyrotechnics of film installed according to the architecture of video installation makes an otherwise cloying and nostalgic piece interesting. The film installation takes place in a long, rectangular gallery where a loop runs, also in black-and-white, of two men perambulating through Vienna, one in pursuit of the other. Bisecting the space is a two-sided mirror that deflects and refracts the film projection onto the facing wall. Onlookers are intended to become pedestrians on the streets of Vienna as through bodily interaction your shadow becomes part of the piece. Basing the work on Edgar Allan Poes Man in the Crowd, Buckingham renegotiates timeworn and obsolete themes of alienation and urban life in the 20th century. The strength of this piece lies in performance rather than content--in the simplistic to-and-fro between film, human perception and the body roving through space rather than the fetishistic regurgitation of Poes classic. Through June 20 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 214-922-1200. Reviewed April 8.
Decade: Ten Year Anniversary Exhibition The Mulcahy Moderns current exhibition marks 10 years of success in business and the Dallas art world. This gallery has a knack for showing work that is a careful balance of delicacy and perfection. The gallery space functions something like an artwork unto itself, with individual pieces by individual artists coming together to create a united whole. Monica Pierces diaphanous layers of tracing paper on one wall complement Jin-Ya Huangs abstract and luminescent photographs on the other. Yet, all of the pieces in the gallery, except for perhaps One Hit Wonder, a cast-sugar pair of vintage-1985 Nike high-tops, are strong enough to stand on their own. Heres to 10 more years of good art and good business. Through May 7 at Mulcahy Modern, 408 W. Eighth St., 214-948-9595.
Drawing Under the Influence: Lee Baxter Davis & His Protgs Paying homage to Lee Baxter Davis, a drawing professor, printmaker and draftsman retiring after a 30-year career, this exhibition shows the varied profits that one force of artistic influence can bear. Greg Metzs political satires made from charcoal on paper, Georganne Deens colorful computer-generated cartoons, Gary Panters delicate and small black and white surreal urban vignettes, Ric Heitzmans kitschy, 1950s animal doodles, Linda Stokes sad portrait of Kurt Cobain so many years after his suicide: All of this and much more is the end result of Davis teachings. The exhibition stretches somewhat (perhaps not enough) the idea of what drawing might mean. Now, lets see drawing really do some acrobatics--like leaving altogether the picture plane for three-dimensional space. Such a stretch would ratchet up what already seems to be at stake in this work--the fervent need to express and take a stand on political and social issues. Through June 12 at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, 2801 Swiss Ave., 214-821-2522.
Kevin Landers When confronted by mass production and industrialization some 150 years ago, artists hustled to craft, fortifying the artists touch and, in so doing, letting the world know, Yes, we do need artists! The machine would not kill the artist. Born in Boston and working out of New York, the artist Kevin Landers revels in the confrontation between artist and machine, individual handicraft vs. anonymous factory product. Landers makes objects by hand that look as though they were mass-manufactured. In Sneakers, 60 ersatz athletic shoes, replete with handmade soles, eyelets and name-brand logos, adorn one wall of the gallery, transforming hallowed art space into a Foot Locker. In Pigeons and Pizza, a flock of hungry pigeons made from black and silver-gray duct tape hungrily contend for a colorful piece of mock pizza. On, perhaps the most provocative because its the most pedestrian, sits dumbly in the corner--a heater atop two plastic milk crates that the artist has fabricated by hand from Plexiglas, aluminum and contact paper that looks like wood paneling. The show also includes large color photographic prints of found objects in city spots around the world. The perverse sense of the real in these photos makes for a provocative counterpoint to the unreal of the handmade mass objects. Its faux real all over again. Through May 8 at Angstrom Gallery, 3609 Parry Ave., 214-823-6456.
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Malerie Marder Malerie Marder probes the psychological dimensions of the human body. In Marders photos and video, the body becomes the surface on which the secret wishes, dreams and emotional sentiment of the mind at paranoid play are registered. A 12-minute video loop, At Rest, shows naked bodies soaking in water, lounging on beds and, most bizarre of all, pulsating at irregular intervals as if reliant on machines for breathing. Compositional like painting yet equally as perverse as the video, Marders large-scale color photographic prints invoke taboo social arrangements. In an untitled photo, eerie suggestive gazes between her naked mother leaning on the sink and boyfriend in the shower set a mood of embarrassment and arousal combined. Diane Marder shows Marders mother standing naked and alone in a barren kitchen of a suburban house. Victor Marder depicts the artists naked father sitting in front of a fireplace, noble as though ruminating yet defenseless because he is in the buff. The psychological ambivalence of this work will make you double-take, questioning and re-questioning your own position as viewer or voyeur. Amazing work. Through May 9 at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1MAC. Reviewed April 22.
Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions In process lies the artists sleight of hand. This is the subtle and beautifully wrought message of the Medardo Rosso exhibition now showing in the basement gallery of the Nasher Sculpture Center. The Italian sculptor Rosso (1858-1928) worked in wax, though not like other artists of his day. Whereas wax had been used on the way to making form--as part of rendering the final form in bronze--for Rosso wax became the casting material itself. Instead of treating wax as a form-maker like clay, the material became form-holder like bronze, and, in turn, Rossos final products often took hold in the milky firm bodies of waxen form. In order to bring home the singularity of Rossos combined use of wax and expressive form, pieces such as Large Laughing Woman are shown in three forms, rendered in bronze, plaster and wax for comparison. While the emotional and sketchily modeled forms bring to mind the work of his French contemporary, the sculptor Rodin, Rossos work stands alone because of his inventive use of materials. Beyond that, and more powerful yet, Rosso brings home the emotive power that specific materials bring to form. Through June 20 at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., 214-242-5100.
Repetitive Moment by Paul Booker and Intuitive Technological Experience by Gary Parkins You, too, can acquire a fantasy kingdom in miniature. Coupled together but materially and formally distinct, the work of Texan Paul Booker and Montanan Gary Parkins makes for an urban archaeology of the crystalline and rocky. Made from plastic and pins, Bookers architectural sculptures sit on the wall casting shadow as if they were the lonely futuristic ruins of a dust-swept extra-planetary landscape. In a tectonic of plastic and aluminum, Booker performs tiny engineering feats. In Cantilever: Stacked Frames, the artist extends his dainty but strong materials out some 10 inches from the wall into the space of the gallery. Parkins sculpture is similarly small but more elemental, or, shall I say, mineral. Working with magnet as a raw material for sculpting, Parkins makes small, craggy forms, most of which are intended to be manipulated by human hands. Attracted by electromagnetic pulsion, the pieces come in small, irregularly shaped components that can be put together and taken apart. The pieces come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the fingery and coral reef-like to the bulbous and sugar sack-shaped. An exception to this is Parkins small tray of whirling, glittery disco dust, Thought Barrier, which, with its mesmerizing spin of sparkly sand, lures one into the gallery space. The preciosity of this work packs a powerful punch. Through May 9 in the New Works Space at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1MAC.
Turner and Venice If you love the city in idea and form, then this exhibition of work by the 19th-century painter J.M.W. Turner is a must. Turners scintillating views of Venice do more than tickle the eye. These urban vistas transport you back in time to an earlier chapter in the history of abstraction within painting. With a total of 33 oil paintings and some 128 works on paper, its a vast showing of one old masters obsession with the miracles of a city built on water. The careful splash and daub of his brushstroke can be mind-boggling, but Turners watercolors might very well steal the show. Through May 30 at the Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Metro 817-654-1034. Reviewed April 1.