Mixmaster art critic Betsy Lewis picks her favorite works of the year:
"Aragh," Morehshin Allahyari and Richie Budd, from "Monstrous Coupling" at UT-Dallas
Allahyari's and Budd's "Aragh," from UT Dallas' high-spirited exhibition "Monstrous Coupling," mixed political commentary with simplicity of execution and a complex concept. Three mundane objects -- one containing the body sweat of a worker at a Persian Gulf offshore oil rig, one containing the body sweat of a worker at an undisclosed Shell oil rig near Weatherford, and one containing motor oil -- were enclosed in clear plastic boxes on three plain pedestals.
Because the display was contained and elevated, they were being displayed treated as relics, addressing the threat of reliance that involves all of us, especially we energy-proud Texans.
"Kink," Ernesto Neto, from Cuddle on the Tightrope" at the Nasher Sculpture Center
With its crocheted spider-web wall and squishy-spine footpath, it took a few minutes to realize "Kink" was really just a giant vagina for the masses. (The artist is Brazilian. I rest my case.) "Kink" was made specifically for its exhibition space inside the Nasher, and was the only piece in the exhibition Cuddle on the Tightrope. Watching two little boys gleefully, mindlessly disappear down the long, pink vertical folds was like watching two gleeful, mindless little sperm on a race with destiny. If every vagina was this much fun, it could turn me off the dudes.
"Demon Inside," Kevin Parmer, social media
Given the amount of time most of us spend online, it shouldn't be surprising that a handful of local artists are using social media to sell their work directly to social media followers. Parmer has been posting his work on Facebook for a few years now, and it has been a pleasure to watch the evolution of his sexy, tight, in-your-face collage series.
Using vintage magazines as the meat for careful, painstaking incisions, Parmer packs a single frame with images that, as in "Demon Inside," start out vaguely familiar then, in an instant, turn jarring . If you simply must view his work in a traditional setting, a comparable piece based on Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is on display now in the Dallas Museum of Art's staff show.
Also great but I don't have a photo: "Diamondback Wire" and "Diamondback Wire Neg" by Bob Wade with Rachel Wade; "War Dance" by Robert Barsamian, on view at Conduit Gallery through January 5th.
BEST GALLERY SHOWS
Michael A. Morris: It's Just Meant to Be at Oliver Francis Gallery
Among the hardest-working players of the year was Michael A. Morris, and this exhibition last February was my introduction to his work. Morris and OFG's Kevin Ruben Jacobs packed the gallery with video firepower, leaving just enough space to mix in consumer media fixtures from recent history and Morris' beautiful, engrossing stills. Add experiments with film stock and a let's-bash-organized-religion charm, and you've got my favorite show of 2012.