Conduit Gallery Takes on Politics: 'An Artist's Task Is to Visualize to the World What Is Going On'

Robert Barsamian, "American Circus"EXPAND
Robert Barsamian, "American Circus"
Courtesy Conduit Gallery

When Nancy Whitenack moved Conduit Gallery from its original location in Deep Ellum to the Design District in 2002, the showrooms were mainly for those in the trade and few were open to the public. But she says her gallery played an important role in the district's transition into a public destination for any casual art enthusiast to enjoy. And in the contemporary art gallery's 33-year residence in Dallas, Whitenack said she has never shied away from exhibits that explore and comment on the effects of modern politics.

"I believe that part of a contemporary artist's task is to visualize to the world what is going on, what is corrupt, what is wonderful and what can be changed," Whitenack says. And the three exhibits currently displayed at Conduit Gallery fit perfectly into her idea of what a contemporary artist's agenda should be.

Robert Barsamian, "Jefferson's Removal Act"
Robert Barsamian, "Jefferson's Removal Act"
Courtesy Conduit Gallery

Dallas-based artist Robert Barsamian, a first generation Armenian-American, has on exhibit at Conduit Gallery a variety of mixed media works titled Bizarro.

The collection is a catalog of what he says has defined American history, and reflects major historic events with their contemporary counterparts. One piece draws on moments such as Native American on the Trail of Tears, related to the current government's executive order to advance construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Maria Molteni, "Win/Win (Lose/Lose)"
Maria Molteni, "Win/Win (Lose/Lose)"
Courtesy Conduit Gallery

In 2010, multidisciplinary artist Maria Molteni founded the New Craft Artists in Action, an international artist collective based in Boston. They work together to highlight the skills, materials and histories of many disciplines including athletics, labor and feminism.

Their installation, Sidelines: Soft Power in the Margins, currently on display in the gallery, crafts together beautifully the sportsmanship and physicality of athletics with hand-knit, crochet and macramé basketball nets hanging from empty hoops.

According to the gallery's press release, this is to demonstrate ephemeral, resourceful solutions that might inspire members of the community to insert their own visions.

"Molteni's work takes on a social activist response to what she sees in neighborhoods around the world," Whitenack says. "She knits nets for empty basketball hoops, and in the process, encourages community involvement."

The People Could Fly is an exhibit by Atlanta-based artist Fahamu Pecou. The large-scale drawings, along with an installation titled Flight School, are a means to inspire imaginations, dreams and hopes within the black male community — one which, according to the artist's description, is conflated with despair and hardships.

The installation is composed of speakers playing a multi-channel sound collage created by the artist, and criss-crossing wires stretched along the gallery ceiling with shoes thrown over. According to Pecou's description, it's an allegory for overcoming and escaping limitations, both assumed and implied.

"His comments are pointed, but with a message of possibilities or a reminder of history," Whitenack says.

All three exhibits are on display at Conduit Gallery, 1626 Hi Line Drive, through March 25. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free.


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