May 23, 2018


Five exhibitions heating up the gallery scene

A collective of Texan folk talent, spring tributes to Mother Nature, and a rockstar painter’s oeuvre—just a few of the engaging Dallas shows currently on view. 

“OptiMystic” by Brandon Boyd at Samuel Lynne Galleries through June 2.
Scott Fitzgerald once said, “there are no second acts in American lives,” but in the case of rock star/painter Brandon Boyd, he happens to be incorrect. Boyd—better known as the lead singer of the stadium band Incubus—has built a steady side career as a fine artist. A doodler since childhood, he says didn’t fully embrace the canvas seriously until he was on a hiatus from touring in the early 2000s “Some of my memories are of drawing,” he recalls. “I didn’t speak as much, I was more of a quiet child, so I learned to express myself visually, and then as a teenager sonically.”

In his current show on view at Samuel Lynne Galleries, Boyd is exhibiting a blend of paintings featuring portraiture of people he feels compelled to capture alongside abstract watercolors governed by chance spills on paper. The latter were created while he’s on the road (Incubus is currently touring), as his watercolor paper is easily stashed in a drawer or suitcase.

The mix makes sense to Boyd, as he says, “When I go in the abstract direction on big canvases they’re big bursts. With figurative things, it’s like I’m having a conversation with somebody. It’s the same way I feel a massive compulsion to sing something or write down a phrase.”

Not the first musician to pick up a paintbrush (everyone from Joni Mitchell to Ronnie Wood has taken a turn at the easel), Boyd nonetheless seems to explore his work with a seriousness other rock star painters don’t possess.

“I truly love to paint, and it’s the same thing with music,” he says. “I’m not surprised when (other musicians) have multiple creative outlets. It’s like hugging a cloud, it’s going to come out in lots of different ways.” 

“Home to Roost” by Helen Altman at Talley Dunn Gallery through June 9.
The attempt to preserve the natural world in the face of habitat destruction is the thematic base of Helen Altman’s engaging mixed media works at Talley Dunn. The Fort Worth-based artist explores materiality by creating everything from a site-specific installation of wire owls and hummingbirds to her “torch drawings” made by burning saturated paper with fire.

Perhaps most successful (or at least fun to view) are her kinetic pieces utilizing vintage record players. Birdlike wood shapes, branches, and netting merrily sway over midcentury child’s phonographs, giving a whimsical twist to Altman’s commentary on rapid deforestation. Viewers who love the work can take a deeper dive into the artist’s mind at the Tyler Museum of Art’s exhibition highlighting Altman’s work from 1992 through the present.

“Further Seasons” by various artists at The Reading Room through June 9.
Mother Nature is also the focus of curator Lucia Simek’s current show in Exposition Park. Simek, who also serves as the manager of communications and international programs at the Nasher Sculpture Center, drew on the idea of exploring the fecundity and ferociousness of the subject when Reading Room gallerist Karen Weiner approached her to create a show about flowers.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that, but I thought of my friend who had worked as a chef. He was foraging for different plants to eat and chose a certain flower that wasn’t edible that made him really sick. I thought it was interesting to explore the idea that something deathly can masquerade as something beautiful.”

Bringing together everything from an old Oddfellows banner painted with a beehive to a vibrant needlepoint passed down to the artist Cassandra Emswiler Burd by her mother, Simek explores the cycles of nature, life, and death through uncommon objects.

“It’s as complicated as strolling in the garden,” laughs Simek of the work. “It’s so beautiful, but your eyes are running, and you have this allergy to the flowers. (The show is inspired) by these funny cancellations that happen in the natural world.”

“Soft Seduction,” by Lidia Vitkovskaya and Denis Mikhaylov at Bivins Gallery through June 15.
With the philosophy (borrowed from Pablo Picasso) that “it is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction,” Russian artists Lidia Vitkovskaya and Denis Mikhaylov bring their thought-provoking works to Dallas for the first time.

Veterans of the London, Florence, and Venice Biennales, the couple blend modern and traditional iconography in entirely different ways—Vitkovskaya though digital pieces that juxtapose a soldier and a hippie, or a refugee with a Monroe-esque starlet; her husband through canvases mash up old masterpieces in settings like the Moscow subway system.

Describing their work as “a conversation between different ideas and different ways of life,” the duo’s mix of light and dark subject matter is bound to spark debate in a politically charged climate.

Says Bivins Gallery’s co-owner Karen Bivins, “They’re really citizens of the world and their minds are very open. It’s going to be very interesting to see how people respond. But to us, art is a conversation, and everyone’s going to have opinions, whether they like it visually or not.”

“Lone Stars: a celebration of Texas in art,” by various artists at Webb Gallery through August 26.
Just over a 30-minute drive from The Joule, Waxahachie is a sleepy enclave full of shabby chic antique stores, Victorian architecture, and plenty of small-town charm. And the Webb Gallery has helped make made the town a road trip destination for Dallas art fans.

Specializing in self-taught artists, owners Julie and Bruce Webb are obsessive collectors and curators who expose the work of many outlier talents to a new audience. This month, they’re spotlighting some of the best in Texan self-taught art in the show “Lone Stars.”

Co-curated with Houston-based Jay Wehnert, the author of the book Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars, the show features 18 different aesthetics culled from all over the state, many who haven’t been seen outside of our state except in a museum collection.

Bruce Webb says the disparate styles—from Robert Adale Davis’ obsessively embroidered panels to Chelo González Amezcua’s intricate pen-and-ink portraits—have a visionary quality in common.

“It’s someone who is painting the world around them that others can’t see. We feel the show is important because so much of great Texan self-taught art is collected in New York or Chicago. This is a celebration of Texan culture.” —Kendall Morgan