Capsule Reviews

David Smith: Drawing and Sculpting This old master is made new again by way of creative juxtaposition. In placing Smith's delicate sketches and paintings next to the hurly-burly of his sculpture, the Nasher transforms the sculptor into a figure deeper in cognition and more complicated in process and approach to the medium. Set off a backdrop of "sprays," paint-splattered enamel-sprayed works on paper, the sheeny, carefully scrubbed stainless steel works of the Cubi series unfold as part of a broader continuum of intellectual and material mediation. Beginning in the basement and continuing in the first of the street-level galleries, the show chronicles Smith's sculptural development from 1940-1965 as it occurred equally through painting and works on paper. A 28-minute film showing downstairs, David Smith: American Sculptor, 1906-1965, further fortifies what is already an elegantly elucidating show. Through July 17 at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., 214-242-5155. Reviewed this week. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Bedtime Stories and Other Night Terrors Tom Sale, Texas' Liberace of the art world, has graced the city with a parade of wonderment. Sale transforms cast-off books and suitcases into scenes of bizarre allure. Their obsolescence only encourages his imagination. Carving and installing miniature landscapes of biblical tales gone awry, Sale makes sculptural assemblages from detritus. Through a little oval frame on the front of a brown leather carrying case one sees an ant sitting before a mirror. Titled "Mant," the small box tells a tale of evolutionary genealogy. In our reflection we see our insect cousin, the ant. "The Tapeworm Weaver" shows a strung-out, glassy-eyed grandmother sucking up twirls and tangles of black wiry rope. The works bear a certain patina of time and use that comes from the almost worn-out material of the boxes and books. Yet there's no nostalgia here. Through sleight-of-hand placement of colorful plastic tchotchkes--cows, dinosaurs, dogs, little girls, missiles, etc. --old useless stuff comes to life. Sale doesn't so much make the old new again but makes the creepy within the aged sing valiantly in a flat key. Through May 8 at Gray Matters Gallery, 113 N. Haskell Ave., 214-824-7108. Reviewed April 14. (C.T.)

Dan Flavin: A Retrospective Known as a Minimalist artist and a purveyor of its aesthetic of economy and industry, Dan Flavin shows himself to be something different in this retrospective. He is a master of drawing, though not in the conventional sense of the term. Instead of delineating lines on paper to make the illusion of three-dimensional space, Flavin places fluorescent lines of light in rooms and on walls to create effects of an altogether new type of space--ambient space. His is a kind of drawing that hovers somewhere between sculpture, architecture and the geometry of converging and diverging lines. In the 1960s, Flavin began constructing sculpture from bright white and lightly color-tinted fluorescent bulbs placed strategically in various patterns based on repetition. "Monument' 1 for V. Tatlin" (1964) pays homage to the Constructivist artist Vladimir Tatlin's rotating architecture model-cum-sculpture, "Monument to the Third International" (1919). Flavin flattens Tatlin's monument by rendering it as a sculpture of seven white fluorescent lights placed vertically on the wall in a form that mimics the shape of Tatlin's three-dimensional monument-object. The show follows Flavin's production chronologically, from the Tatlin series on the wall to color-light pieces in space. In works such as "untitled (in honor of Harold Joachim) 3" (1977) and "untitled (to Piet Mondrian)" (1985), red, yellow and green lights stand in corners and lean along walls creating form that is concrete in itself but softly lingering in its quality of light. These pieces create an effect that is at once expansive and ephemeral--glowing light-space that seems tangibly there but alternately swelling and receding. That Flavin's fluorescent-bulb sculpture elicits a new form of drawing is brought home by seeing them in proximity to several works on paper hung midway through the exhibition. "The Diagonal of May 25, 1963" shows one diagonal line inscribed lightly on a two-dimensional plane, and "The First Week of March '64" shows four vertical lines, two white and two yellow, popping forth from dark flatness. Both are small clean-line drawings of colored pencil on black paper. While they are concept drawings, diagrammatic cartoons from the era of Minimalism, they nevertheless recast Flavin as an inventor of space-form drawing. From one linearity to another, Flavin used the long, lean fluorescent light bulb to make sculpture that scores space as though graphite on vellum. Through June 5 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth, 817-738-9215. (C.T.)

William Eggleston: The Los Alamos Project We live in a Technicolor world of cherry-red hot dog stands, pearly gray back-combed beehive hairdos and zapping-blue skies, or so William Eggleston's photographs tell us. The banal yet brash photographs of this Mississippi-born photographer capture a world that seemed to be turning slower than the rest of the country. You would never know that these shots of Mississippi, Memphis and Arkansas were made during 1964-1974, one of the most politically raucous decades in recent history. Perhaps by default, that's Eggleston's point--to show how, despite the gains in technology, regardless of bounding infrastructure and the consumer abundance found in an aerosol can of hairspray, the agricultural South will forever be mired in backwardness. Through close-crop snapshot color photography, Eggleston relays this topsy-turvy world in prettily absurd pictures. Named according to where they were taken, these 88 photos offer a cartography of the kitschy modern outback. "Memphis," a shot of several bug-eyed girly dolls glued to the hood of a boat-like blue Cadillac, makes for a glossy confection of proverbial Southern goth. "Arkansas" offers a lyrical landscape of the sun setting over an asphalt oasis--the parking lot of the "Southgate Shopping Center." After originating in Cologne, Germany, and making a stop at the San Francisco MOMA, Eggleston's Los Alamos Project makes its last stop here in Dallas at the DMA. Catch it while you can. Through May 15 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-922-1200. (C.T.)