Against the wall
If you believe the urban legend, then Amon Carter started it: a bitter rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth that goes back for generations. Carter is the Fort Worth tycoon who supposedly packed a lunch before traveling to Dallas, just to make sure he wouldn't have to spend a nickel in support of Cowtown's ugly stepsister. But really, Dallas attorney Robert E. Cowart started it, by writing in 1875 in the Dallas Herald that Fort Worth was so dull that a panther could sleep, undisturbed, on a downtown street.
Just when you think all the old geezers who began the feud have finally died out, along come art dealers from Dallas and Fort Worth to perpetuate the rivalry. So what if it's common practice for Fort Worthers to dine and shop in Dallas and for Dallasites to travel west to the museums -- the two art scenes can't even agree on what to call the opening-night gala of their 1999 season. In Dallas, it's "Gallery Walk," and in Fort Worth it's "Gallery Night." Historically, conflicts have also arisen over whether it should be one night or two and about who the hell started the whole idea in the first place. It's yet another example of how two cities that can be so close haven't really come so far.
Truth is, the arts communities in Dallas and Fort Worth do work together, perhaps better than any other segment of commerce the cities share, and that's why it's a shame to make such a showdown of the visual-art season's biggest night of the year. It's quite common for Dallas-based artists to show in the best Fort Worth galleries and vice versa. It's de rigueur for artists in both cities to know one another, brainstorm, and, in general, affect a genial "we're in this together" attitude.
Gallery owners know another converse corollary: Dallas art sells better in Fort Worth, and Fort Worth art sells better in Dallas. Still, the cities' art dealers -- who used to coordinate better, with Dallas holding its fall season-opener on the first Friday night after Labor Day and Fort Worth taking the first Saturday -- aren't communicating when it comes to their special day. They did agree this year, however, to delay the event for a week out of respect to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
Just who started Gallery Walk or Night or whatever is as complicated as the rivalry between the two cities.
"Fort Worth started the whole gallery night thing, about the same time as Houston did," says Pam Campbell, co-owner of Fort Worth's William Campbell Contemporary Art Gallery. She and her husband, Bill, take credit for getting Fort Worth galleries to launch the first art party in 1978, and she remembers Dallas copying, er, starting its version sometime in the 1980s.
According to Dallas art legend, in mid-1985, a handful of Dallas art dealers banded together to form a collective voice to battle against the complacency of a corporate population that would rather watch the Cowboys from the end zone on any given Sunday than attend a gallery opening any day of the week. Dubbing themselves the Dallas Art Dealers Association, these original 12 galleries were determined to get the word and art out to the culture-starved masses.
Frank Moss of the now-defunct Nimbus Gallery headed up the action, chairperson Edith Baker (see "The grande dame of Dallas art") made an enthusiastic call to arms, and as all the DADA participants were rah-ther sophisticated, they drew up a stringent list of guidelines for membership (i.e., art spaces selling poster art and frame kits need not apply). DADA's most prominent weapon was its annual gallery tour (falling on Mother's Day in its inaugural year 1985). DADA promoted the hell out of the event and let the great unwashed descend on the various artsy districts for one glorious day of schmoozing and perusing. Surely from all the tumult, DADA types figured, new art fans would be born.
With Gallery Walk as a pivotal calendar date, dealers morphed their traditional role and stepped down from pretentious heights to wine and dine the newcomers, explain the art and the artists' motives, and make everyone feel at home. Wow, thought middle managers at J.C. Penney and EDS, Dallas does have an arts scene, and it's pretty damn good.
With this, DADA thrived. For the first time in Dallas' history, the visual-arts scene had a traceable profile; art hounds knew whom to look to for upper-echelon, cutting-edge contemporary art; and rookies knew they could enjoy an eye-opening day each time Gallery Walk rolled around. By its second year, DADA moved its walking-tour concept into an early fall slot -- something about the public's readiness after a brutal summer to take on an upcoming art season in the promise of cooler weather. In the meantime, DADA opened its doors to nonprofit groups (such as Dallas Visual Art Center and the Meadows Foundation), raised money for the Dallas Museum of Art to buy current regional artwork, and generally cultivated a sense of community among their formerly competitive selves. By the late '80s, there were 20-odd official members.
Then came the bust. Nationwide, financial conservatism gave way to a near-devastating crash of the gallery culture. From New York to Los Angeles, people stopped buying art, and dealers suffered. Dallas was no exception. As the '80s drew to a close and the early '90s seeped in, galleries folded -- DWGallery, Nimbus, Beverly Gordan -- and DADA's ranks dwindled. The fall Gallery Walk continued not so much in its original fighting spirit but rather as a deflated token gesture.
It would be 1995 before the remaining members of DADA would rouse themselves from this swamp of defeat and rally their own. By then, the economy was well into an upswing -- it was time to start acting like it. Patricia Meadows, founder of the Dallas Visual Art Center, took the helm, members redoubled their efforts, new dealers were drafted, and DADA experienced a renaissance. Fall Gallery Walk took on not only the symbolic significance of this rebirth; it seemed injected with a celebratory ease that has managed to swell these past four years.
Of the original 12 members, only a few remain -- just as with any art industry, players both thrive and die with the times. Veterans of DADA, including AfterImage, Edith Baker, and Valley House, carry the cachet of landed gentry by now; the ongoing success of members such as Barry Whistler, Conduit, and Craighead-Green keep things stable; and new kids occasionally join up. DADA, with an all-time high of 31 members, has relaxed its parameters for membership -- no reason to kill off the cause in the name of snobbery -- though the quality of venues remains unflinchingly elevated. New president Benito Huerta (CRCA Gallery at UT Arlington) and administrative assistant Cidnee Patrick (Edith Baker Gallery) have inherited a powerful, multifaceted organization.
Of course, old rivalries die hard. Opening first or at least tied for first has been more important than affording arts patrons the leisure of seeing everything over the course of a weekend. "It was great when theirs was Friday and ours was Saturday," says Pam Campbell, who is also a member of the Fort Worth Art Dealers Association, "because that way we could go to theirs." Campbell says that as recently as last year, DADA's Meadows led the charge to return to alternating nights, but couldn't get her fellow members to adopt the strategy. "We should get together," Campbell says.
This year's Gallery Walk (or Night) is officially a one-day event on September 18, though open artist receptions often take place the night before, making it more or less a gallery "weekend." To confuse things even more, most exhibits have extended runs well beyond the one-day event.
Wherever you end up, whether it's Dallas, Fort Worth, or Arlington, for that matter, the ambitious often choose the afternoon for one city and after-dark for the other. All 31 DADA venues open their doors on September 18, and open their arms to any and all who care to glimpse the thriving Dallas arts scene surging throughout the city. Non-DADA members, some truly impressive art venues in their own right, join DADA's cause on this day -- whether invited or not. Fort Worth's fall gallery season debuts with a different flavor than Dallas'. For one thing, there are fewer commercial galleries in Fort Worth, so the museums and university galleries get on board, and so do several retail-oriented arts spaces, including frame shops and some restaurants. The Fort Worth Art Dealers Association is more egalitarian than its counterpart, going so far as to list non-gallery and non-member venues on its "Gallery Night" brochure. Cowtown takes the same tack as Dallas, though, in an explosion of big group shows, so that nearly every local artist has some place to be seen.
Both DADA and FWADA have maps with a quasi-complete list of participating art venues available at any member gallery. On that, at least, they can both agree. Amon Carter, for whom one of Fort Worth's art museums is named, may be turning over in his grave at even this modest level of harmony. He'd probably enjoy Gallery Night in Fort Worth, but if he were forced to attend Gallery Walk in Dallas, he'd probably pack his own wine and cheese.
Gallery Walk Venues
Not surprisingly, it's the established venues -- the ones that keep contemporary art surfaced and breathing all year long -- that grab the bigger crowds during Fall Gallery Walk. Summer is merely a wind-up for these dealers, and as the cooling autumn descends on brain-baked Dallas, such high-profile, visitor-seducing spaces bring out star players to greet the restless masses. It's not just the most intense window of an art-dealer's fiscal year, but the most aesthetically ripe. Tried-and-true veterans of a gallery's stable enjoy the exposure of this timely spotlight, as do the dealers' most charismatic one-night stands and newcomers. The variety is impressive: Notice this year's pronounced leaning toward sculpture and photography. (What -- is painting dead? Again?) Installation is finally making itself at home. And -- go figure -- thematic concerns with space, time, and progress invade this season just before the new millennium.
The following is a summary of the sharpest work out this round, presented by the Dallas Art Dealers Association, Fort Worth venues, and alternative spaces. We've given you a key to help you prioritize the shows -- but hit any one of these spaces in these different areas, and you won't go too wrong.
Run: a must-see, bullet-proof show
Walk: quality exhibition; well worth a visit
Saunter: commendable stuff; drop in if you've got the time
Director: Edith Baker
2404 Cedar Springs at Maple
With her usual flair, Edith Baker makes Fall Gallery Walk a pointed destination for anyone who calls himself a "Dallas art supporter," and it's no surprise that this weekend opens with a one-two local-boy combo, Tom Pribyl and Norman Kary. Pribyl continues his morphed, fishbowl take on living spaces (he calls them "interior landscapes") with Tom Pribyl's Bachelor Pad: Stylish Interiors for Modern Man. These glossy, liquid-curve oil paintings threaten to spill off the canvas in droll invasion of normal perspective. And Norman Kary: Deductive Reckoning continues the artist's canny way with mixed media -- he combines disassociated objects to create unexpected meaning, primarily by evoking a relationship between organic and synthetic materials.
Director: Theresa Jones
For a brief moment the MAC drops its worthwhile focus on contemporary work to do something surprisingly old-school cool. In Context: Painting in Dallas 1889-1945 enlists DMA curator Eleanor Jones Harvey (the brain behind last year's fabulous DMA exhibit The Painted Sketch) to track down the very cream of Dallas painting circa 1889 through 1945. In all, 29 artists' works surfaced, including, of course, some by the long-fabled, ever-argued "Dallas Nine." The variety is stunning, the talent often breathtaking. And you thought Texas landscape painters only knew how to do bluebonnets.
Director: Cynthia Mulcahy
Cynthia Mulcahy shows a lot of local artists, but she has a tendency to parlay her Gulf Coast connections into solid shows featuring Houston and Galveston artists, many of whom she represents in North Texas. Mulcahy debuts Houston sculptor Page Kempner and Louisiana sculptor Neil Harshfield for Dallas gallerygoers and rounds out the opening with Longview's crocheting conceptualist, Celia Eberle (her sculpture proves as ephemerally creepy as her 2-D work); Houston's hilarious cake decorator Lisa Ludwig; and Houston mixed-media naturalist Gary Retherford. These sculptors use traditional media, like cast bronze and steel, or mixed media, including silica, slumped glass, and garden tools, to craft compelling 3-D objects.
Director: to be named
In the wake of longtime director Talley Dunn's departure, who can guess the fate of the most lucrative venue in town? Meanwhile, the show must go on, and GP has kept its chin up with this group show, Beyond the Lens, consisting of video and photography works. Seven Texas artists pit new techniques against traditional ones -- everything from the ultra-trendy iris printing method (images scanned into computer and then printed out in high resolution) to old-school gelatin silver prints. Or rather, gelatin silver prints via young malcontents who manage to digitally alter them outside the darkroom. This space would shut down before doing anything less than stellar, so it should be interesting.
Director: Kendall Baack
2404 Cedar Springs
C-G comes off its charming newcomer group show with -- what else? -- a one-person veteran show. Marla Ziegler: New Works proves that local artists don't have to keep an in-place winning formula to appease their following. Fans of Ziegler's graceful glazed-clay sculptures will be thrilled with her more organic, personal direction. Very fluid, very satisfying, definitely crowd-pleasing. Bye, bye, geometry. Welcome to poetry class.
Photographs Do Not Bend
Directors: Burt and Missy Finger
George Krause: A Retrospective will show not only the diverse photos of this Museum of Modern Art-listed veteran artist, but some of his sculpture as well (a first for this cutting-edge photographic venue). Krause has been teaching at the University of Houston and is now retiring to do full-time studio work in the Texas Hill Country.
Director: Ben Breard
The Quadrangle #115, 2828 Routh
Noted landscape photographer Terry Falke, based in Mansfield, brings us his Observations in an Occupied Wilderness II, the third exhibition of his works in this long-respected space dedicated to cyclops. He doses his Western landscapes with human activity, ostensibly striving for irony and melancholy observation of "progress." Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Decide for yourself.
Stone X Stone
Directors: Patricia and James Stone
This strong, earnest new gallery broke from the starting gate just over a year ago and has been gaining ground ever since. Every show it has staged has been worth checking out. Up for Gallery Walk: Martin L. Bernstein: Kawargi, a show of mixed media on canvas, paper, and sculpture.
Turner & Runyon
Co-directors: Kenneth Turner, John Runyon, Kristen Painter
Both whined at and applauded for franchising New York's Mary Boone Gallery artists in its Deep Ellum space, T&R diverts from the Dallas gallery pack's penchant for group shows on Gallery Night and returns to its solo-show, big-bang theory, with new works by hometown favorite Tom Orr, who hasn't gone solo in Dallas since 1994 at SMU. For "H2O," Orr's unique vision, illusionistic skill, and use of industrial materials are as fresh as ever.
Dallas Visual Art Center
Director: Katherine Wagner
How many of us can't wait to see this big show of Austinite Melissa Miller's paintings? OK, just the art hounds -- but trust us. This is the show. Not only does it mark the opening of DVAC's long-awaited new building, but the epic, wrenching, and dense animalscapes of Miller's imagination possess any room they invade. Think modern-day Delacroix with a Garden of Eden fixation and a narcotic sense of movement and light. This is the kind of show that restores your faith in the sheer power of painting. And hey, the beloved Annette Lawrence has built a site-specific installation for the new space's garden.
Barry Whistler Gallery
Director: Barry Whistler
The always wise Barry Whistler hosts Dallas artist Lorraine Tady in a follow-up to last year's promise. The wait pays off: Her high-density, large-scale abstract paintings, drawings, and sculptures employ aggressive textures and painted scraps of wood, which in their odd way meld to create incredibly serene shapes. If you like obvious reference in your artwork, this show may not be your thing. But if you respond to visceral implication, give it a shot. She's an artist's artist.
Director: Nancy Whitenack
3200 Main, Suite 25
Fort Worth-based Kirk Hayes graces us with his New Paintings; it's his first solo exhibition at Conduit as the sophisticated gallery revamps its lineup. Hayes takes the potentially coy trompe l'oeil technique (his 2-D works look like 3-D layerings of hard paper and cardboard on wood) and puts a rather obscene, disconcerting spin on his subject matter. High-tech skill plus low humor equals pretty damn interesting. In the Conduit Annex: This mighty-mite art space hosts a site-specific installation, Annabel Daou: a million years. Daou is a Connecticut-based artist often shown in London, making this non-Texas art rather unique to Gallery Walk. Oh, yeah -- she used to live around here.
Directors: Kevin and Cheryl Vogel
6616 Spring Valley
The Vogels have occupied this idyllic North Dallas location for 45 years now, and the gallery's lush grounds feel like an oasis in the middle of a soulless cityscape. The artwork is worth the trek, and this show is no exception: David H. Gibson: Selected New Work is a stunning exhibition of the Dallas artist's black-and-white gelatin silver print photos of Southwestern landscapes (with a bit o' Western Europe thrown in). This artist rejects newfangled techniques for real-deal pictorial traditions, a la Ansel Adams. Some of the works are hugely panoramic, and some are smaller -- but all are epic in scope and pristine in their lack of human interruption.
University of Texas at Dallas
Director: Richard Brettell
UTD, Main Gallery at Campbell Road and University Parkway, Richardson
The Good/Bad Art Collective, a herd of conceptual artists based in Denton, have broken with their "one-night-only event" manifesto and installed a show with a one-month run at this progressive university gallery. Titled Sweet Movie, it illustrates Good/Bad's fundamental penchant for exploring concepts in several dimensions at once: video, objects, interactive elements. In this case, the group plunges into the idea of consumption and expulsion as queasily represented by a dinner party and its messy aftermath. The key word here is expulsion. And it's only coming at you from 11 video monitors. You may wanna call the gallery before you head that way, just to make sure Dean Kratz hasn't pulled the plug on this show.
The Alternatives (non-DADA members only)
Director: David Quadrini
3609 Parry Ave.
This 3-year-old space, which continues to sear a path through Dallas complacency and expectation, has expanded. Thus Quadrini can launch both a group show (in the large gallery) and a solo exhibition (in the small gallery) at once -- three times the work for him, three times the fun for us. He doesn't hesitate to show worthy regional artists, although this opening showcases four from the slightly nether region of Las Vegas. The group show, titled God Don't Make No Junk, consists of works by the Rev. Ethan Acres, Jim Shaw, and Jeffrey Vallence. Acres tweaks the Southern religious tradition with sculptures and photographic veneers that are as earnest as they are irony-laden -- better humor through faith. The solo exhibition -- Victoria Reynolds: Sins of the Flesh -- is a startling set of now infamous marbled-meat paintings. In the abstraction of close-ups, Reynolds manages to capture the (ahem) beauty of these slabs of raw sirloin.
Board president: Tony Schraufnagel
The 21st birthday of Dallas' leading alternative co-op is marked by Barely Legal, a group show of the works by the 11 current board members: Steve Cruz, Brad Cushman, Dorothy Duvall, Keitha Lawrence, Rosemary Meza, Jo-Ann Mulroy, Mary Nicolett, Steven Price, Derrick Saunders, Tony Schraufnagel (see "Melding through welding"), and James Wade. Given these artists' very different methods, the key word here is "variety." Upstairs at 500X is the complementary exhibit 21 & Up, an eight-artist show with ties to the art school at the University of North Texas. Artists are Paul Booker, Chris Hart, Mary Hood, Tudor Mitroi, Jennifer Pepper, Johnny Robertson, Luke Sides, and Marshall Thompson. Look for Robertson's amazingly dense and gorgeous canvases, and anything out of Thompson's bizarre-genius brain.
Director: Vance Wingate
113 N. Haskell
Since the late '80s, GM has showcased the region's first generation of really difficult conceptual art, many of the artists rooted in UNT's experimentation -- though many of these talents have expanded and uprooted since then. Any Gray Matters opening evokes the glory days of Dallas' first kiss with New Wave, punk, irreverence, and ultra-dry wit. Its stable of artists is, well, pretty stable: Tom and Dotty Sale, Johnny Walker, Dolan Smith, Celia Eberle -- they each get an exhibition every few years. Gallery Walk opens a two-man show by Oak Cliffians Brian Scott and Brian Jones, titled Chuck & George. Through paintings, drawings, and prints set against rococo backgrounds, these artists revamp traditional art history to relate the mythology of their lives. Think salon, 1999.
Directors: Steven Cochran, Dina Light
Untitled seems to have a lucky monopoly on a talented core of New York-based Cal Arts graduates, and this time Dante Brebner's work titled Threshold is purely a one-man endeavor filling the venue's clean, modest space. Brebner creates architectural conundrums -- detailed, highly perfected structures as small and complex as they are epic and surreal. Peer through windows, up staircases, and beyond doorways into a very droll and charming world, spiked with its own creepy undercurrent.
William Campbell Contemporary Art
Directors: William and Pam Campbell
Among the Fort Worth commercial galleries, William Campbell Contemporary Art always trots out a respectable show, and this year features the expected cattle call with 25 of the gallery's represented artists upstairs, including Christopher Brown, Tre Arenz, Jake Gilson, J. T. Grant, Billy Hassell, Dianne Cannon, Richard Thompson, Bob "Daddy-o" Wade, Judy Youngblood, Otis Jones, Julie Lazarus, and Scotty Parsons. But downstairs, Mom and Pop Campbell host a solo show by Houston artist Ibsen Espada, whose work blends surrealism with abstract expressionism and is eerily aligned with Joan Miró.
Texas Christian University
Director: Ronald Watson
West Cantey at University
TCU's annual Art in the Metroplex exhibition is jurored this year by Clint Willour, executive director and curator for the Galveston Arts Center. Presenting 58 works by 51 artists, this show screams "anything goes," but the concept is simple: Get a representative sample, in the moment, of what area artists are up to. For a one-stop slice of the metroplex, with nearly every burb and berg represented, you can't beat Willour's multidisciplinary and mixed-media conglomerate.
Modern Art Museum's Annex Gallery
Curator: Michael Auping
410 Houston St.
Director: Rick Stewart
The Modern's annex is opening an innovative show of selected works from the main Modern's permanent collection on a simple theme: blue. Selected by chief curator Auping, who says, "After a Texas summer, blue means cool," Blue is a small but diverse group of modern art standouts like Joseph Cornell's "Untitled Medici Boy 1953," Christopher Bucklow's "Guest," and Robert Motherwell's "Summer Open With Mediterranean Blue, 1974." The Amon Carter Museum unveils its downtown annex for Gallery Night in order to keep some community presence during its two-year closure for an expansion project. Carter Downtown will show the expected Remingtons and Russells, plus Winslow Homer's "Crossing the Pasture," Grant Wood's "Parson Weems' Fable," Stuart Davis' "Self-Portrait," and Georgia O'Keeffe's "Dark Mesa and Pink Sky."
Director: John Hartley
Fourteen local artists, plus two former locals who moved away to pursue art on the East and West coasts, mix it up in Gallery 414's free-for-all format with paintings, sculpture, photography, video, and any other media you can name. The work reflects how different each artist's sensibilities can be and how the level of an artist's experience affects his or her vision. The logistics alone make Terri Cummings' ambitious "Long Distance -- An Attempt to Connect Space and Time" intriguing. Cummings simulates a telephone -- two cans connected by 12 miles of string -- with one can at Gallery 414 and the other at Handley-Hicks Gallery. She hangs family photos along the string, and will maintain these for the monthlong exhibit. Susan Carnahan, apparently frightened by Bozo as a small child, keeps going with the clown thing she began a few years back in still photography.
Arlington Museum of Art
Director: Joan Davidow
201 W. Main, Arlington
Every art museum should have a director like Joan Davidow, and every museum director should have governing board members like the AMA's, who appear just to stand back and watch Davidow's fireworks. Davidow got Dallas artist Tracy Hicks to curate Between Image & Object, allowing Hicks to continue what she calls "heady conversations" with other artists. The result is a wall-hung and floor-sitting dialogue of opposing viewpoints. The imagists work from a fixed perspective, while the object-makers create infinite viewing variety. Imagists, Hicks says, allow the viewer to see only what the artist presents, while object-viewers can interact and move around the piece for multiple views. Objects by Hicks, Lisa Ehrich, Brian Fridge, Erik Gecas, David McManaway, Chris Powell, and Cam Shoepp collide with images by Julie Broberg, David Gibson, Paul Greenberg, Terrell James, Terri Thornton, Jim Muhlemann, Kathy Muhlemann, and Tom Sime.
For a complete list of Gallery Walk/Night events, see the Observer's Gallery listings.
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