April 13, 2017

Slow Art at Dallas Contemporary

The latest exhibit at the Dallas Contemporary, according to contributing arts writer Lauren Smart

Small details reign supreme in the new exhibitions at the Dallas Contemporary, one of the city’s largest art spaces. Debuting on the busy weekend of the Dallas Art Fair, exhibiting artists Pia CamilKeer Tanchak, and Ambreen Butt have created installations that reward the curious viewer.

Pia Camil’s Bara, Bara, Bara offers the most interactive experience, with a construction of multi-colored tees strung from the rafters. The shirts she’s used are covered in logos or graphics that lose individual significance in the overall array. Visitors pop their heads through the neck of the shirt, disembodying heads, giving the appearance that for a moment the people in your sightline are just faces suspended in a sky of vivid color. Here, the human faces become a key element of the visual language Camil uses to explore the concept of urban ruin—formless in the interconnected chaos of the apparel.

Each of the artists takes a different approach in material and aesthetic. In the smallest space, Dallas-based artist Tanchak’s site-specific Soft Orbit takes the viewer on a journey through both art history and the history of the building that houses the Contemporary. The walls of the gallery are covered in aluminum recognizing the building’s history as a metal fabrication factory, but also creating the illusion of entering some kind of vessel—an X-Ray Machine?—to explore the essentiality of painting. By hanging the paintings at various heights, the exhibit encourages the viewers to crouch down to engage with each piece.

Close viewing is rewarded in Ambreen Butt’s What is Left Me, a compelling collection of works that evolves in the viewer’s proximity. Drawing toward the large cast-resin works that resemble sacred geometries, the intricate patterns reveal smaller elements in the shape of fingers, thumbs, or keys and locks. In the smaller collage works, she uses shredded dollar bills and texts, examples of which include the prosecution transcripts from a trial on terrorism. The works, which often took the artist years to complete, bubble over with meaning on a second or third glance.

As slow food takes over the culinary arts, work like that on display at the Contemporary will start a slow art movement. These exhibits stand in defiance to the continued prevalence of the frenetic, colorful, often meaningless “zombie abstraction.”—Lauren Smart