Step One to Appreciating Art in Dallas: Showing Up

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"They don't really photograph well," says Lucas Martell, as we walk through Lagoon at Circuit 12 Contemporary, the local artist's first solo exhibition. "It's impossible to get the green the right color when it's being photographed."

The Internet opened up possibilities of experience to us. Today we can see the streets of Hong Kong with a click of the button; we can listen to the soundtrack or flip through the image gallery of a production in the West End or on Broadway. Life across the world is accessible to us without leaving the house and it's an obvious critique of the information age that these same advantages can also encourage a sense of lethargy. The household voyeurs can admire the exhibitionist without stepping foot into the real world. And it seems that in the art world in Dallas, a lot of times people just don't show up.

And so far this summer, the choice to not show up has been a huge mistake, because the photographs of what's happening around Dallas aren't even telling half of the story.

Design District Gallery Day is meant to encourage new visitors to the galleries, removing any fear of intrusion or being out of place. And the art demands presence.

Take Jeremy Couillard's Viscous Valley, which opened at Zhulong Gallery. To see an individual selection undersells the entire exhibition. It's not that the gallery has been transformed into the landscape of a video game, but that Couillard interlaces his sculpture, prints and video art to tantalizing effect. The hypnotic videos send viewers into a world of radiant landscapes and connect viscerally with sculptures that hang on the wall, but to experience the curation of the exhibit, you have to walk through the gallery and notice the pieces arranged in complement.

And Martell is right about his paintings at Circuit 12 Contemporary. For his abstractions of architecture and geometry, he uses layers of paint that add subtle texture and contrast that pull you into the canvas in a very 3-dimensional way. Your proximity to the canvas changes your eye's interaction with the work.

Then there was also the experience at Red Arrow Contemporary, where Industry Print Shop's screen printers were explaining demonstrating their art form and then giving away the outcome. The process was as fun as the boozy popsicles and the free screen prints.

It reminds me of something Rawlins Gilliland said in our interview about his one-man show, in which he tells the stories of his rich, unpredictable life. I asked him if he thought his life was especially unique or lucky, or if he was just looking at common experiences through a writer's eye. And he said the trick to a well-lived life was as simple as showing up.

Because you can look at the photos of the new Les Miserables or even buy a ticket. But if your seat is empty on the night of the show, the only person missing out is you.

Consider this your friendly guilt trip of the week and follow the advice Industry Print Shop inks: "Less Sleep. More Hustle." Sure, you can look at the Instagram photos of gallery openings but you don't own the memories if you didn't show up.

See Lagoon at Circuit 12 Contemporary through August 2. See Stay Up All Nite at Red Arrow Contemporary through August 31. See Viscous Valley at Zhulong Gallery through August 16. See Les Miserables at Dallas Theater Center through August 17.

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