Rees in pieces
I knew there was a reason that I kept an archive of old Dallas Observer articles, and Christina Rees' last one on the Exposition Park galleries must have been that reason ["Critics' choice," Framed, May 20]. I know that this is my second letter to you on this subject, and I know that my wife and some of the other gallery owners have written you as well, but I felt so strongly about this issue that I felt obligated to write this second time.
Something I might have failed to mention in my previous letter is Christina's incompetence. By her own admission in her column that ran in the December 31 issue, she is "a relative rookie" at covering the visual arts, and is "still getting my feet wet, or rather, by this time my knees." That was only a few months ago, and now she tries to write about art as though she has been covering art for countless years. I know that she is trying to put her student years behind her, but perhaps when she asked her question: "What is it with the new kid? Why can't he tell the difference between the good and the bad?" she was merely referring to her own admitted lack of knowledge.
Also, she started her ranting with a comparison of the Dallas art scene with that of other major cities in the world, and yet scarcely a few months ago she said, "So let's put the 'how do we compare to other cities' art scenes?' thing to rest." Which is it, Christina?
In that December 31 article, you were a lot closer to what is really going on in Dallas--things like, "rather than ugly competition, you find encouragement" (except from you) and "rather than complacency, you find a collective rage against the machine." That is what we in Expo Park are doing. If you have a grudge against one gallery in the midst, then I guess you have a grudge against us all, as you have so shown. Please know that "these bastard stepchildren know how to both stick together and stick it to a city that tries to ignore them." You can also add to that: We know how to put art out there that people want to see, buy, and display in their homes. I guess over the last few months you have let yourself get "so tangled in local political red tape and in-club shmoozing that [you]can't see the big picture for the haze."
We also know that you said, "I won't pretend that I'm intimate with...the local artistic community. For various reasons, from political to personal, I skip plenty; the handful of galleries I didn't set foot in this year is a heavy one." The question here is, how can you do your job, without having seen what you are reviewing?! Young lady, I suggest that you polish off your "shiny, suspect shoes" and get out there to some galleries if you ever hope to salvage what is left of your integrity, not to mention your credibility.
I would like to thank Christina Rees for taking her valuable time to come down to Exposition Park and take a very quick look at some of the galleries on May 14--a trip she obviously would rather not have made. She also devoted three-fourths of her column to Exposition Park, how wonderful. It's a shame she felt the need to destroy.
Whatever her background or experience, Ms. Rees has missed one very important point: No matter how good or bad the work may be, the artist frequently must and should be required to justify or defend it. No artist, however, should ever be forced to defend his or her right to make and show it. Even such an important person as a critic should support that right. Yes, these young people are the "new kids," they make mistakes, and maybe they need to be more discriminating, but they work hard and they learn from their mistakes and experience. They need to be allowed to grow. Why didn't she give them a critique instead of a hatchet job?
Personally, I feel sorry for Ms. Rees if she is so narrow or so elitist that she thinks Dallas only has room for art venues that meet her approval. Hey! Even those millions of bluebonnet paintings have a right to be shown. Please thank Ms. Rees for telling people about Exposition Park, because we all know that a bad review is better than no review. People will come down to check us out.
Richard L. Bean Sr.
Former owner of 823 Gallery
In response to Christina Rees' theories, I would like to offer the following opposing points. For starters, it's not uncommon for Ms. Rees to speak with authority on subjects she clearly knows nothing about. In general, our real enemy is the loquacious, spineless system that made her as condescending as she is. It is quite common today to hear people express themselves as follows: "This theme has been struck before." When I was little, my father would sometimes pick me up, put me on his knee, and say, "This serves as a reminder that there is no excuse for uncouth prophets of extremism." It is hard to decide what is stronger in Ms. Rees: her incredible stupidity as far as any real knowledge or ability is concerned, or the contemptuous insolence of her behavior.
Some critics have called her licentious. A handful insist she's crude. Ms. Rees' confreres, on the other hand, consider her to be one of the great minds of this century. Anyone willing to study and ponder my position on most current matters will decisively find that her philippics have an unsavory historical track record. In conclusion, let me just say that uncompromising underachievers like Ms. Christina Rees are all alike.
I am angry. Angry that events have transpired that lead me to write this statement. Let's start with my claim that the writings, claims, and propositions that Ms. Christina Rees is trying to tattoo on our minds are not educational but obtrusive. Writing this letter stems from a desperation to be heard--if not by a court of law, then by a court of public opinion. The first thing I want to bring up is that Ms. Christina Rees' promise of equality is a false one. She claims that you and I are inferior to unconscionable evil-doers. This is a very appalling and unconstructive view and, moreover, is wrong in many ways. Her op-ed pieces sound so noble, but in fact, her cronies are united through pharisaism, militarism, and antagonism. Is she out of her mind? That being the case, we can infer that Ms. Rees has never been accused of objectivity. Her conclusions don't accomplish anything useful, because they don't deal with the real issue.
She says that sleazy cliques are inherently good, sensitive, creative, and inoffensive. The inference is that tribalism and separatism are identical concepts. I'm happy to report that I can't follow that logic. I fear that, over time, her witticisms will be seen as uncontested fact, because many people are afraid to take action. Why do we put up with her? My peers insist that Ms. Rees can pervert any established ideology.
While this is unmistakably true, I think we must add that Ms. Rees often flirts with post-structuralism. So far, this letter has merely identified the days in which with that kind of thinking, by balancing the theoretical untruth and nonsense of her manuscripts with the reality of this phenomenon, we can see that no matter what terms are used, our conception of mercantalism still remains a good deal less clear than we would wish. Now, let me shift gears and start telling you about how we have to start talking with one another honestly, in honest language. She says she's not disgraceful, but she's unhesitatingly insidious, and that's essentially the same thing.
Actually, when Ms. Rees is gone, all that will be left from her legacy of hate is the hate itself. Ms. Rees' fixation on hooliganism is nothing more than camouflage for a lack of original ideas. The thing I'm the most frightened about is that this is betrayal of the many by the few. For proof of this ongoing tragedy, one has only to realize that her efforts to pit race against race and religion against religion have touched the lives of every person in this city.
Ms. Rees spews nothing but lame retorts and innuendoes. If we let her fight with spiritual weapons that are as homophobic as they are neurotic, all we'll have to look forward to in the future is a public realm devoid of culture and a narrow and routinized professional life untouched by the highest creations of civilization. Currently, Ms. Rees lacks the clout to shout direct personal insults and invitations to exchange fisticuffs. At one point, I actually believed that she would stop being so naive. Silly me.
Ms. Rees' quips disgust and infuriate me. And if that seems like a modest claim, I disagree. It's the most radical claim of all. Something recently occurred to me that might occur to Ms. Rees, as well, if she would just turn down the volume of her voice for a moment: Her jeremiads provide a vivid example of how she has never been able to assimilate and accept the humane ideals, civilized aims, and social aspirations of her peers. Added to this is something else: The cliches of her views are well known to us all. If we intend to defend art, we had best learn to recognize its primary enemy and not be afraid to stand up and call her by name. That name is Christina Rees.
Editor's note: For Christina Rees' response to her fans, and her review of a "death mask" she received in the mail, turn to page 62.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Wesah no like Jar Jar
Robert Wilonsky's right on the money, honey ["Star bores," May 20]. Phantom Menace is not just a prequel of Star Wars; it's a prequel of George Lucas' talent. If only he'd left the directing to someone else and handled the graphics...whoops, too late now. One thing the review didn't mention but that really annoyed me was the choppy editing. No sooner was a scene introduced than it would cut abruptly to another, regardless of the action. No scene ever felt "completed." Kind of like the entire film, actually.
Finally, someone with (excuse me) the balls to tell the truth about that worthless, overhyped, insipid piece of shit movie! Are people so obsessed with Star Wars that they actually convince themselves this movie has even one redeeming quality? Do not misunderstand. I love the original trilogy. I do. Nevertheless, I am not going to justify this film because of that. With the exception of the special effects, this is a lazy movie. Toy Story was much more ambitious and lifelike. And Jar Jar, or whatever the dude's name is, is the most embarrassing thing about it.