Capsule Reviews

Alex de Leon The question begs: What to do with art that makes avid if not heavy-handed political statements in an era so eager to wrest itself from the rant, screed and morality inherently connected with political art? Is it the responsibility of art to engender social revolution, much less social consciousness? Do we care? These are the questions instigated by Alex de Leons miniature city of wayward form made from placards the artist has bought from homeless people. In de Leons hands the desperate, hand-written scrawls of the homeless--Will work for food, Homeless veteran, Need help, God bless you--become the writing on the walls of a small town. At the head of the town sits a church, also fashioned from homeless placards, that focuses our attention on the phrase God bless you recurrent throughout the small installation. Enveloping this shanty urbanism, video monitors, three televisions and one video projection show highway scenes taken from the artists studio. The point-of-view looks up from below as if shot from underneath a bridge or highway overpass, the usual haunts of homeless men and women seeking shelter. Has the artist informed us that he is like the homeless? Or is he an opportunist, cadging from cadgers an unfortunate livelihood? This is a small installation that will make you think. Through June 12 at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, 2801 Swiss Ave., 214-821-2522. Reviewed this week.

Concentrations 44: Matthew Buckingham, "A Man of the Crowd" Installed deep within the recesses of the Museums contemporary art galleries, Matthew Buckinghams film work is an exercise in refracted perception. The piece consists of photographs and film in two adjacent rooms. The juxtaposing of somber black-and-white photographs and the pyrotechnics of film installed according to the architecture of video installation makes an otherwise cloying and nostalgic piece interesting. The film installation takes place in a long, rectangular gallery where a loop runs, also in black-and-white, of two men perambulating through Vienna, one in pursuit of the other. Bisecting the space is a two-sided mirror that deflects and refracts the film projection onto the facing wall. Onlookers are intended to become pedestrians on the streets of Vienna as through bodily interaction your shadow becomes part of the piece. Basing the work on Edgar Allan Poes Man in the Crowd, Buckingham renegotiates timeworn and obsolete themes of alienation and urban life in the 20th century. The strength of this piece lies in performance rather than content--in the simplistic to-and-fro between film, human perception and the body roving through space rather than the fetishistic regurgitation of Poes classic. Through June 20 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 214-922-1200. Reviewed April 8.

Decade: Ten Year Anniversary Exhibition The Mulcahy Moderns current exhibition marks 10 years of success in business and the Dallas art world. This gallery has a knack for showing work that is a careful balance of delicacy and perfection. The gallery space functions something like an artwork unto itself, with individual pieces by individual artists coming together to create a united whole. Monica Pierces diaphanous layers of tracing paper on one wall complement Jin-Ya Huangs abstract and luminescent photographs on the other. Yet, all of the pieces in the gallery, except for perhaps One Hit Wonder, a cast-sugar pair of vintage-1985 Nike high-tops, are strong enough to stand on their own. Heres to 10 more years of good art and good business. Through May 7 at Mulcahy Modern, 408 W. Eighth St., 214-948-9595.

Drawing Under the Influence: Lee Baxter Davis & His Protgs Paying homage to Lee Baxter Davis, a drawing professor, printmaker and draftsman retiring after a 30-year career, this exhibition shows the varied profits that one force of artistic influence can bear. Greg Metzs political satires made from charcoal on paper, Georganne Deens colorful computer-generated cartoons, Gary Panters delicate and small black and white surreal urban vignettes, Ric Heitzmans kitschy, 1950s animal doodles, Linda Stokes sad portrait of Kurt Cobain so many years after his suicide: All of this and much more is the end result of Davis teachings. The exhibition stretches somewhat (perhaps not enough) the idea of what drawing might mean. Now, lets see drawing really do some acrobatics--like leaving altogether the picture plane for three-dimensional space. Such a stretch would ratchet up what already seems to be at stake in this work--the fervent need to express and take a stand on political and social issues. Through June 12 at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, 2801 Swiss Ave., 214-821-2522.

Kevin Landers When confronted by mass production and industrialization some 150 years ago, artists hustled to craft, fortifying the artists touch and, in so doing, letting the world know, Yes, we do need artists! The machine would not kill the artist. Born in Boston and working out of New York, the artist Kevin Landers revels in the confrontation between artist and machine, individual handicraft vs. anonymous factory product. Landers makes objects by hand that look as though they were mass-manufactured. In Sneakers, 60 ersatz athletic shoes, replete with handmade soles, eyelets and name-brand logos, adorn one wall of the gallery, transforming hallowed art space into a Foot Locker. In Pigeons and Pizza, a flock of hungry pigeons made from black and silver-gray duct tape hungrily contend for a colorful piece of mock pizza. On, perhaps the most provocative because its the most pedestrian, sits dumbly in the corner--a heater atop two plastic milk crates that the artist has fabricated by hand from Plexiglas, aluminum and contact paper that looks like wood paneling. The show also includes large color photographic prints of found objects in city spots around the world. The perverse sense of the real in these photos makes for a provocative counterpoint to the unreal of the handmade mass objects. Its faux real all over again. Through May 8 at Angstrom Gallery, 3609 Parry Ave., 214-823-6456.

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