Ready to dig a little deeper into art in 2020? Here are some excellent places to start
Abstraction through a female lens, a German artist’s multi-layered world, African-American conceptualism and longing for bygone days on the open road are what’s new on view.—Kendall Morgan
“Women on Top,” by various artists at Barry Whistler Gallery. Through February 22.
When it comes to abstraction, ladies often get the short end of the stick, even if the likes of Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint were mastering the form decades before Kandinsky.
So, it’s nice to see this typically macho visual language given a further feminist twist by the artists in “Women on Top.” An offshoot of sorts of the San Antonio Museum of Art’s “Texas Women: A New History of Abstract Art,” the exhibit at Barry Whistler highlights the work of Linnea Glatt, Terrell James, and Lorraine Tady, among others.
Says gallerist Whistler, “Once we realized the museum was doing this exhibition, we thought we’d bookend it. Every time something like this happens, you still get somebody saying, ‘Why do you have to say it’s WOMEN abstract artists, can’t it be Texas abstraction?’ But are we on equal playing ground (with female artists) enough to say that? I don’t think we are. We’re making up some ground here.”
Embracing a passionate palette that encompasses a yin/yang way of looking at the world, these talented Texan ladies offer non-objective work that deserves to be viewed in a subjective way.
“En Route” by Michael Uttaro at Ex Ovo Projects. Through February 22.
In recent years, we’ve lost a lot of impactful and offbeat art spaces. So, when a new gallery joins the local fray, everyone should be rooting for their success.
Having taken over the former Erin Cluley space in Trinity Groves in 2019, gallerist Allison Klion of Ex Ovo Projects has proved herself worthy of attention with outlier shows like last summer’s art tee extravaganza and a show on Dallas myths and landscapes. Ex Ovo (loosely translated “from the egg” in Latin) continues to keep things edgy with pattern-based work from New York-based painter Michael Uttaro.
Rooted in the decorative arts movement, the rigid and repetitive patterns Uttaro traffics are a little harder to unpack than typical abstract works, which (let’s face it) are sometimes chosen simply because they match a collector’s sofa.
Klion brings a varied viewpoint to the city from her time spent in Brooklyn and Arizona, where she headed up an artist collective. Lauded for her contributions to the local critical conversation, she hopes that Ex Ovo will continue to fill a void with additional programming including performances, experimental dinners, a speaking series—even art-based travel.
“I want to develop an audience that wants to be surprised and to support artists through traditional forms of patronage, but also in other ways,” she explains. “Most of all, I want to continue to grow an audience that wants to learn—to find correspondences between art and other disciplines, to learn about what art and artists can do in the world, or change the way that they see it.”
“Back to the Future,” by various artists at Ro2 Art. Through March 14.
If Klion is beginning her artistic journey in Dallas, Ro2 Art co-founder Jordan Roth is far beyond the beta version of the gallery he founded ten years ago with his mom, Susan Roth Romans. This month, Ro2 is coming full circle with a return to its former digs at 110 North Akard Street in the base of the historic Kirby building.
Ro2 indulges in a little bit of nostalgia with “Back to the Future,” featuring the work of 20 of the first talents they represented. And the new 1200-square-foot space gives them more room for their large stable of artists, plus a permanent spot for their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink summer show “Chaos.”
Because Ro2’s Ervay Street outpost and Magnolia Theatre residency are still in the mix, the various offshoots have totally different vibes—urban for Akard, homey in the Cedars. Bringing things back downtown has also inspired Roth to plan on publishing a series of books, including a look at the gallery’s first decade.
“Things Done Changed,” by David Jeremiah at The Public Trust. Through March 7.
With inspirations as far-ranging as Dragon Ball Z, the film Hellraiser, and Mario Kart, Dallas conceptual artist David Jeremiah asks the viewer to think hard about their stance on police brutality, racial violence, and the prison industrial complex. Curated by Dallas-based Renaissance guy Darryl Ratcliff, and titled after a Notorious B.I.G. song, “Things Done Changed” is perfectly timed to coincide with Black History Month.
Ratcliff first became aware of Jeremiah when the artist dropped black envelopes on the doorstep of a series of local galleries, his subtle way of breaking into a system that doesn’t hold much space for African-American talent. The paintings, sculptures, and videos in “Things Done Changed” are his way of showing the people he grew up with that there is another path open besides basketball or selling drugs— the path of fine art.
“I Love Micah” references the 2016 police shooting by Micah Xavier Johnson, and a mobile entitled “Kalder” of Klu Klux Klan hoods mashes up Alexander Calder and Philip Guston.
Jeremiah’s inspirations can be intense, but they’re also funny—paintings are emblazoned with “fuck you” as a tongue-in-cheek reference to a typical art collector’s annoyance at the sides of canvases remaining unpainted.
“I wanted to curate it in a way that’s playful because it is playful,” says Ratcliff. “The mobile is painted baby boy blue and baby girl pink with the same paint you’d use in a nursery. There’s always that dichotomy between the subject matter, particularly with the pieces that were inspired by the slain police officers. People wrestle with, ‘This is a beautiful painting, but my god the subject is so intense.’”
“Things Done Changed” is just the first step in Ratcliff’s mission to expand black representation in commercial galleries across Dallas—he’s also mounting a group show of African-American artists this summer at Talley Dunn and a to-be-announced solo show in the fall at Cydonia.
“Vanishing Point” by Max Kuhn at Webb Gallery, Waxahachie. Through April 26.
Max Kuhn’s peripatetic lifestyle informs his source material of truck stops, hobos, and bygone Americana. As he travels across the U.S., he looks for cardboard and old hardware from thrift stores for his paintings, and dumpster dives for building materials from Habitat for Humanity construction sites for three-dimensional works.
“There’s something about the water stains and the subtle markings—you can tell it’s been handled for years,” Kuhn says. “(I like) something that’s had some life before I got a hold of it. It adds a certain vitality.”
Having begun his career assisting his muralist father, Kuhn initially tried to avoid becoming an artist, earning his living by tattooing instead. But once he discovered folk and outsider art, he found his niche. A typical Kuhn work will mashup eras, with a figure dressed in ’20s garb portrayed next to a 7-11 sign with the detail of a matchbook from a bar that closed in the ’40s. For him, this time travel is the best way to express his feelings “about an era of history that just feels better to me.”
“Part of it is a discontentment with the world; the disappearance of things that are more organic and handmade,” he explains. “I feel a discontentment about the corporate takeover of America. In a way, I depict the hobo thing because I relate to the impulse (to escape).”
“Playing La Polpidula” by Peter Wächtler at The Power Station. Through March 27.
With an emphasis on the literary, the work of Berlin-based artist Peter Wächtler invokes a dream state in the viewer. In his current show, his sculptures and drawings—including a baroque terra-cotta castle and series of heads reminiscent of the singing busts at Disney’s Haunted Mansion—have a fairy-tale feel that fits just right into the cold industrial spaces of The Power Station.
The must-see centerpiece—the artist’s “Untitled” video from 2103— is crafted of hundreds of cells of hand-drawn animation. In it, an exhausted rat voiced by the artist faces day after dreary day, concluding his terrible life with a rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River.”
The Station’s artistic director, Rob Teeters, says that Wächtler’s work isn’t meant to tell a continuous story, unless it’s one of someone who has mastered their craft in every form they choose to express it. Unlike many artist-as-factory methodologies, Wächtler makes everything himself.
“A good starting point with Peter is understanding there’s no continuous through-line,” says Teeters. “There’s a disparate quality in the narrative that’s never fully realized in his exhibitions, which is what I find really interesting about the work. It raises more questions than it provides answers.”
Teeters suggests the viewer take their time examining each piece, watching “Untitled” twice until it really sinks in. With this in mind, “Playing La Polpidula” is a nice antidote to anyone’s over-plugged existence.
“In the world we live in, we’re constantly bombarded with images at a very rapid pace (and Wächtler’s work) slows down perception, which I think in a way is very refreshing. It’s sort of fantastic or playful, and not a lot of people are making art like that right now.”