Let us clay

I don't know that the title Fireworks really fits the art show to which it refers. Clay works, huh? Real explosive stuff. I guess if you leave it in the kiln long enough...

In case you haven't noticed, an international "celebration" of clay and ceramic works has run through this whole region throughout the early '98 season--in galleries and museums from west of Fort Worth to east of Dallas--giving this normally docile art form some overzealous attention. But the Dallas Visual Art Center has put together a damn fine sculpture show, of all Texas artists, no less. Fireworks: On and Off the Wall may be an overreaching title, but some of the featured artists have a way of making even clay seem edgy and cool.

Case in point: James Tisdale. If anything, get to DVAC just to see his two pieces. "Pomp and Circumstance," a weird figure hanging in mid-air off some pulley-gallows rig, has the look of a forlorn character caught forever in a bleak fairy-tale hell. Pieced together with adrift eyes and dangling, wood-textured limbs, the puppet-meets-human piece sheds as much light on Tisdale's creepy imagination as it does on his perfect craftsmanship. And his "There Will Always Be," a rotund, naked, gray-skinned seated woman carved through with blood-red calligraphy, comes off like Peter Greenaway in sculpture form. Think The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and The Pillow Book summed up in one unsettling figure. Disturbing, though less surreal, fare continues in the work of Carol Anne Cook. "Allan" is a sculpture of an old man struggling to get up from his too-comfy chair, his pink pajamas pulled tight by the overlapping white briefs that hold him captive in his seat. A patient in a mental home? Whoever Allan is, the piece is as funny as it is sad and unsettling. And Claudia Reese's "Corazon," a life-sized spiral-horned creature with mustard-yellow skin and a regal bearing, combines ethnic aesthetics with a wholly personal one. Look into his eyes and figure out whether he's a god or devil.

Maybe the title of the show should be Clay Can be Pretty Cool.

Through May 1 at the Dallas Visual Arts Center, 2917 Swiss Avenue. (214)821-2522.

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