Crying Shame

Statistics don't lie. Fewer than one thousand of the millions who call Dallas home trudged along the broken sidewalks of Fairmont Street or sidestepped the gutter slime in Deep Ellum last year for the annual Dallas Art Dealers Association Artwalk. Don't blame the piss-poor turnout on the quality of art on view for the fall season opener of the city's visual arts venues. Don't blame the hard-working DADA members, or even the nonmember factions that gamely participate even when they're not particularly wanted. And don't blame the weather, the economy, the threat of nuclear war, or late-summer sunspots. Put the blame squarely where it belongs: on the shoulders of the Dallasites who wholeheartedly embrace an intense form of apathy when it comes to the city's artists, art galleries, and even its museums. Hey, it's a see-and-be-seen scene out there in Cosmopolis, and let's face it, the art crowd for the most part couldn't care less about social climbing. Money, they like. But if elitism exists among the art set, it's more about edginess and enthusiasm than wretched excess; more visionary than monetary.

Speaking of money, the support in which DADA members are interested--particularly for the Artwalk--doesn't necessarily extend to your checkbook. For one night only, the gallerists who serve as willing hosts even to the most clueless art neophytes will be happy just to see your simpering face, offer you a beverage, and even mop up after you...if only you'll just make an appearance. They've made it easy by staying open at least until 8 p.m., and they're not even holding a grudge from last year. "We were pleased with last year's success," says DADA administrative assistant Cidnee Patrick, Artwalk coordinator for the second year in a row, and consummate Pollyanna. "We're hoping the quality of the work will speak for itself again." Patrick says DADA's baby is being held on September 16 this year because more people liked the mid-month timing. "The members were unanimous in choosing this date," she says. "It's not quite as hot a little later in the season, Labor Day isn't in the way, and school has gotten started for everyone by now." See, Dallas. They're always thinking of you. Too bad it's not a two-way street.

Taunting aside, there is some damned fine art debuting on the mean streets of Dallas this season, starting this Saturday. The 31 DADA-member galleries are showing both old friends--Dan Rizzie, Brian Bosworth, Annette Lawrence, Robert Jessup--and new finds--James Michael Starr, Allan Graham, Van LeBus--to what should be grateful audiences after an art-starved summer. Dallas galleries aren't lacking for luster or confidence as solid solo shows seem to have overtaken the more common group shows. New member galleries Stone by Stone on Routh Street and Dunn and Brown Contemporary on Tracy Street are showing singles--James Michael Starr and Annette Lawrence, respectively. Lawrence's show, Indigo Sun, opened September 7. Starr's quirky assemblage series, called Prayer Boxes, will open during the Artwalk with the artist in attendance.

In Deep Ellum, still mourning the death of respected Turner & Runyon Gallery on Elm Street, Barry Whistler, in his eponymous gallery, and Nancy Whitenack of Conduit Gallery, are presenting strong showings. Conduit recaptures the best of Robert Jessup, a UNT professor with a big local following and tantalizing paintings that aren't as naïve as they seem. In the small Annex gallery, Whitenack introduces folk art by Van LeBus, a self-taught found-object sculptor and jewelry maker from Abilene. In cooperation with Graham's Santa Fe gallerist Kelly Contemporary, Whistler is showcasing poet and painter Allan Graham, with examples of his "UFO" series that combine handwritten text and 1950s UFO images over thick, gray fields of paint.

While you're in the neighborhood, visit Exposition Park at 500X for its annual salute to up-and-comers in the "Members Show," open until 9 p.m. for Saturday's festivities. Don't miss Aaron Baker at Angstrom Gallery and, by all means, see what the troublemakers at Sock Monkey, Gallery O, and Eddie Ruiz's Expo 825 are doing along the Exposition strip.

In two big galleries for a concurrent show is local boy Dan Rizzie. Doing his best to put Dallas on the map art-wise, Rizzie paints on wood and canvas, draws on paper, and creates collages in various media with an effect reminiscent of British botanical studies. A retrospective of 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s works, under the direction of curator Murray Smither, headlines at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary--always a fun spot on the Artwalk trail, with Rizzie in attendance--while the posh and sedate Pillsbury Peters Fine Art celebrates Rizzie's latest works with Rhythms of Nature, the first major exhibition of new work by the artist in Dallas in 10 years.

Near the Crescent, Edith Baker Gallery is showing recent work by urbanscape painter Brian Bosworth, newly signed on at the gallery, and the photorealistic stylings of Roger Winter. Almost next door at Craighead-Green are paintings by Canadian Francine Simonin and fabricated steel and cast bronze sculpture by Jeff Wilson of Arizona. In its new digs on Swiss Avenue, the Dallas Visual Art Center is mounting Patterns, a big show by local favorite Pamela Nelson, who will receive DVAC's prestigious "Legend" award this year.

Even if you have to back into an art gallery this Saturday, for pete's sake, don't back out. You wouldn't want even one of DADA's wide-open doors to smack you in the ass.