The inaugural Dallas Observer word of the week is "cremaster." Webster's says it's "a thin muscle which serves to draw up the testicle." For half of you reading this, an involuntary reflex of thanks goes out to cremasters everywhere. Also thankfully, the bit of brawn finally gets its just dues with Matthew Barney's five-part film series titled The Cremaster Cycle. Trying to sort out a description of Barney and his work in such limited space is like trying to distill trigonometry in a speed-reading class...except the cinema of Bjork's betrothed actually may be interesting beyond academic credit fulfillment. Then again, maybe not, as the films feature virtually no decipherable dialogue, a skewed chronology, images that make the most outlandish David Lynch offering look like a Girl Scout training video and a thematic reliance on the evocation of sexual identity. Whether that raises your warning flag of pretentiousness or it sounds cool as hell, let's agree that the Dallas Museum of Art hosting a 7 p.m. Saturday conversation with Barney and a screening of Cremaster 3--the epic "backbone" of the series--is a positive coup for Dallas modern art. The DMA's Horchow Auditorium is at 1717 N. Harwood St. Tickets run from $10 to $20. Call 214-922-1826 for reservations. --Matt Hursh
Crack open the checkbook for Arlington's arty party
The American Synonym Society recently honored the Arlington Museum of Art for "best use of a thesaurus" and "most multiple modifiers and superlative synonyms" for a single special-event invitation. Really. The American Dazzling Art Event Society has already awarded the AMA with its "best and most consistent use of a theme" prize for the museum's annual auction/gala/fund-raiser. Really. So this year's ASS honor for "Shine," citing "radiant, beaming, brilliant, new light, illustrious and glimmering" used in one sentence, pales by comparison. It's a dim bulb. Seriously. If you didn't receive your superlatively synonymous invitation to the $100-a-pop February 7 gala, don't worry. You can attend the free exhibition preview from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and see the "shining" works of more than 100 artists--locals, blue-chippers, emergers--and even start bidding in the silent auction. Some of the best paintings, drawings, mixed-media works and sculpture will be sold to benefit the museum at 201 W. Main, Arlington. If you're not buying, you're not trying. Call 817-275-4600. --Annabelle Massey Helber
Rococo. As in, overly elaborate. As in, ornate. Not only is it one of the coolest words ever adopted from French, it's also a pretty nifty school of art, known for its opulence and femininity. One of its most famous adherents is Francois Boucher, whose work is on display at the Kimbell Art Museum from January 18 through April 18 with two exhibits: The Drawings of Francois Boucher (1703-1770) and Boucher's Mythological Paintings. On Saturday at 10:30 a.m., curator Dr. Alastair Laing will offer a free lecture on the man, his myth and his drawings. Call 817-332-8451 or go to www.kimbellart.org. --Sarah Hepola
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Artists learn to stop worrying and love the computer
There is pop-culture irony in the title Altered States, an art exhibition running through February 14 at the University of Texas at Dallas. In the similarly titled novel by Paddy Chayefsky, and in the William Hurt-starring movie that followed, the protagonist is a scientist whose desire to understand our world leads him to become something less than human, something simple and confused. This exhibit, featuring six artists, asks us to re-examine the complex, computerized, pixelated beauty of the simple things we see every day. Kinda the opposite, huh? Or not. The exhibit opens with a reception from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday in the Visual Art Building's Main Gallery. Call 972-883-2787. --Patrick Williams