Capsule Reviews

Con.TEXT.ual More winning than the linguistic theme of Oh6's latest one-nighter on April 16 was the group's ability to create an event. The artists seemed to be working at odds rather than as a group this time. Yet it wasn't so much that the individual works hanging on the burnished brick walls of the Casket Factory on Lamar Street were unsuccessful. Rather, the show generally suffered from a lack of congruency. Perhaps more than anything, this lack of cohesion pointed to the exhaustion of the long-ago-popular semiotic parable in the arts. Nevertheless, Polly Perez shone forth with her kitsch-ified Donald Judd boxes. With her olive-decked fluorescent-lit aluminum boxes titled "galaxy 4-1," Perez transformed Judd's stoic and sober intention into a light-hearted functional ornament. Aleem Mohamed's black-and-white photographs of bleak urban settings mimicked in somber fashion the downtown environment in which they were shown. With his miniature billboard, "THEMOREYOUBUYTHEMOREYOUBUY," Tim Stokes cleverly transformed signage into architecture, reminding us not only that we are what we buy but that we are a society inhabiting the frenetic space of obsessive-compulsive shopping. Oh6 maintained its verve as a limitless and unpredictable culture machine. The live rock performance by The New in the Casket Factory made for a raucous scene in keeping with Andy Warhol's Factory. For more information, see www.oh6.org. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Crafting Traditions: The Architecture of Mark Lemmon This show attempts to demonstrate how Texas architect Mark Lemmon "civilized" local culture by taming, if not domesticating, the wild brambles of vernacular architecture. It marks the inauguration of a series of exhibitions hosted by the Meadows Museum on architecture in Dallas in the 20th century. Lemmon was trained at the oldest architecture school in the country, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and subsequently had a very successful practice in the city with fellow Dallas architect Roscoe De Witt. The exhibition focuses on 11 major projects by Lemmon, ranging from schools in and around Dallas (Woodrow Wilson High School, Boude Storey Junior High School and Alex W. Spence Junior High School) to several buildings on the campus of SMU. What the exhibition lacks in architectural models it makes up for in ample drawings. While most of the buildings offer a mix of traditional and modern construction (masonry load-bearing walls coupled with modest steel infrastructure), they almost all share a certain illustrious facadism. As a "historicist" architect, Lemmon graced his buildings with the stylistic cladding of cultures dead and long gone, the Romanesque of the Holy Roman Empire, the Jacobean of early-17th-century England and the Georgian of 18th-century England, a style named for its three King Georges. The question remains, though: What exactly does it mean to "civilize" local architecture culture? In this instance, history, or at least historicist facades based on European history, brings with it civilization. Because this exhibition legitimates that Dallas is a bona fide city by way of its architecture, it is indeed a boon to public life. Yet, in the same vein it is an unfortunate shame that another idea, such as Lemmon's creation of public space in Dallas through the same projects, was not the driving conceptual force behind the show. Nevertheless, as the first of several shows on Dallas architecture to come (concentrating on Howard Meier, George Dahl and O'Neil Ford), Crafting Traditions marks a promising beginning to an ongoing discussion of architecture in the heartland of sprawling urbanism. Through May 1 at the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, 5900 Bishop Blvd., 214-768-3785. (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.)

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.)