Lots Happening on the Dallas Gallery Scene

Art season marked its start this weekend with new exhibitions at every gallery – or so it seemed given the number of shows – in the Dallas Design District.

Here is a sampling of artists’ work I’d recommend, starting with Holly Johnson Gallery (1411 Dragon Street).

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Holly opened the season with Electric Labyrinth: New Paintings by Tommy Fitzpatrick.

After years of being asked if I knew the artist with the same last name, I finally met him. He told me, with Gaelic pride, that our name was the only “Fitz” surname of Irish origin. All others are of Norman origin, such as Fitzgerald and Fitzsimmons.

We also talked about his work (see images below).

Black Rhombus | Mock-up | Diagonal Grid
17” x 13” | acrylic on canvas
Artist: Tommy Fitzpatrick (b. 1969)
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

“Grid Form” (2012)
25-1/2” x 19-1/2” | acrylic on canvas
Artist: Tommy Fitzpatrick (b. 1969)
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

The body of work in Electric Labyrinth was inspired by a trip to Tokyo where Fitzpatrick saw Prada Store, a glamorous seven-story glass structure built in the heart of Aoyama (Tokyo’s luxury retail district).  Designed by Herzog and de Meuron, the architects’ early blueprints, models and the actual building under construction provided a framework for many of the paintings in this show. According to the artist, “I wanted to continue my investigation into the language of architecture and the flatness of paint.”

A Grand Opening: Cris Worley opened her new space on 1415 Slocum Street. (Note: Walk to the end of the side alley to find the gallery entrance.)

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

You’ll enter a room full of the colorful, large paintings by Houston-based artist Howard Sherman in his show, List of Demands.

Howard was there, smiling and engaged with the crowd.

Back when he was a student, Howard drew cartoons for his college newspaper. He became a syndicated cartoonist, and then segued into the fine art world. He said he was thankful he found fine arts because he had grown tired of daily grind with cartooning deadlines.

His painting’s iconography, playful forms and marks are meant to be fun and humorous.

“If you don’t have a sense of humor about your work or life you are “up a creek without a paddle.” The soul of a cartoonist is still seen in each of his paintings and the smile that is usually on his face when I see him in a gallery crowd.

“Press Rewind on Fuck” (2012)
70” x 60” | acrylic and marker on canvas
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Paul Manes (b. 1948) grew up in Beaumont Texas. In 1983, he moved to New York City where he lives today and has a studio. His landscapes, like the one below, are heavily influenced by the swamp images from his Gulf Coast childhood.  With In the Heat of the Night (see image below), I saw mastery in his brush strokes, heavy application of paint and use of high contrast color values.  Manes’ work has been collected by major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, as well as Yoko Ono (very cool).

“In the Heat of the Night” (2008)
78” x 108” | oil on canvas
Artist: Paul Manes
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Inside Conduit Gallery (1626 Hi Line Drive), there are multiple well-curated shows, which is quite typical of Owner/ Director Nancy Whitenack and Assistant Director Danette Dufilho’s visual talents.

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

In the front gallery, you’ll be greeted by Mimi Kato‘s One Ordinary Day of an Ordinary Town (see image below). Her digital compositions are influenced by traditional Japanese art formats and her contemporary suburban childhood.  In an interview she said, “I play the role of each character, sew the costumes, create props and direct the narratives.” Theatrical performances, especially Japanese comedy theater Kyogen and the contemporary Butoh style, influence the poses and gestures of her characters.

Kato is an alumna of the prestigious Artist in Residence Program at The MacDowell Colony.

“One Ordinary Day of an Ordinary Town” (2010)
Archival Pigment Print | 7’ x 32’
Artist: Mimi Kato
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

And, in next gallery room are photographs by Texas Women’s University professor and artist, Susan Kae Grant.

Susan Kae Grant in her studio
(photo: James Bland | D Magazine)

Each piece in the exhibition titled, Theatrical Realms of the Whimsical & Tragic will make you stop, want to absorb all the details and ask, “What is happening?”

The work is a continuation of her shadow-based photographic series, Night Journey. For that show (which was also incredibly good), Grant used her interest in sleep research She actually had herself wired to study her brain activity in REM states. Dreams, fairy tales, myths and shadows are the subject matter for the sets and props she designs, stages and photographs.

Detail from “Theatrical Realms of the Whimsical & Tragic”
Artist: Susan Kae Grant
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Barry Whistler Gallery (2909 Canton Street) displays two rooms of Tom Orr’s large and smaller sculptures.

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Tom Orr (b. 1950), Dallas native with a BFA in Sculpture from Rhodes Island School of Design, works frequently in collaboration with his wife Frances Bagley to create art. Many are accessible to the public, e.g. DART Station, One Arts Plaza Lobby, DFW Airport, Belo Corporation building entrance and a Dallas Opera commission. For this show titled, Delicious Poison, the work continues his experiments with crimping, cutting and layering materials which cause the eye to move from ghost-like cast shadows to hard surfaces to vibrating color lights to shimmering “moire” wavy surfaces.

In 2011, Tom received the prestigious Pollack-Krasner Grant.

detail from “The Moon’s Invention”
Mixed Media | 52” x 35” x 23”
Artist: Tim Orr
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Galleri Urbane Dallas (2277 Monitor St.). The young and talented artist is Jessica Drenk. Her show is Aggregated: Ordinary Objects, Unusual Sculpture (see her work below).

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

detail from “Cerebral Mapping 2” (2012)
Cut books and wax | 122″ x 40″
Artist: Jessica Drenk
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

I first discovered Drenk when her work was exhibited at this year’s Dallas Art Fair where a friend purchased one of her “pencil “pieces – see image below – from the owners of Galleri Urbane. Drenk glues graphite pencils (the ordinary No. 2 yellow) together. With an electric sander, she shaves the shape which exposes streaks of grey on the outer skin and leaves the guts schoolyard yellow.

from “Implement Series”
Mixed media | 9.75” x 20” x 11”
Artist: Jessica Drenk
Private Dallas collection
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

For those who did gallery walk on Saturday night, who would you recommend – your favorite artist, gallery or piece of art?

On a totally unrelated note, congratulations to Serena. She won the US Open in three sets – 2-6, 6-2, 5-7.  It was a fantastic match all the way to the very last minute. Be back next Sunday with more on art.

Enjoy your week,


Place as a Source of Inspiration

Last year, I wrapped up our conversation with a blog about books and documentary films that inspire me. A big thanks to everyone who sent me their favorites – keep them coming. I look forward to reading your picks, and paying it forward in a future blog.

To ring in 2012, I’ll begin with places that spark my creativity. Over the holidays, I had a chance to visit the Clyfford Still Museum which recently opened in Denver, the city that was awarded this American artist’s estate. Clyfford Still’s life story and how Denver became the site for 95% of his artistic output are fascinating.

Artist: Clyfford Still | oil on canvas | 357 x 600 | “PH – 972” (1940) | photo: Meg Fitzpatrick

His final will stipulated that his body of work – all 2,400 pieces – had to be housed in one place and only in an America city. Still did not want his work lost in a museum’s vast, encyclopedic collection or owned on foreign soil. The 50-years of work, from his early figurative pieces to his later large-scale abstract paintings, landed in Denver after a distant relative (a Denver resident) suggested to Still’s widow that she consider Denver as the “American city.” She did, and the rest is history.

Still’s story is even more interesting. At a highpoint in his career, he got sick of the public scrutiny of his work and decided to leave New York – where he was one of the central figures along with the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clement Greenberg – and move to a quiet farm in Maryland. He intentionally placed himself on the periphery, where he was content to produce work for himself – 835 paintings are now in Denver’s museum. Most have never been seen by the public because once Still finished a painting, he rolled it onto a tube for storage in his barn. When the curators began taking inventory, they sometimes found 11 paintings on one tube!

In his own words, Still said that “behind all my paintings is the figure.” The current show is clearly curated for you see that every composition uses a vertical line format from his earlier figurative work (1930’s – 1940’s) to his later abstractions of standing bodies (1940’s until his death in 1980).

The architect Brad Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works designed this museum. Their body of work is another source of inspiration for me. I first became aware of their work when they won a Dallas competition to renovate and expand Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas’ Arts Magnet School for talented kids. I met Brad at a book signing, and he talked about the Denver commission, his excitement about the museum project and the Winter 2011 opening. Both the Still Museum and Booker T. buildings are thoughtfully designed to honor the occupants, their work and stories without distractions.

Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado | Architect: Allied Works/ Brad Cloepfil | Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick

I stumbled across another artist who is inspired by Still’s paintings and colors. Note her iPad and paint program.

Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado | Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick

Happy 2012: Wishing you a year of creativity (whatever your field) and visiting inspiring places.

Worth A Trip While It Lasts – Art Sponsored by TEDxSMU

Artist: Shane Pennington. Commissioned by TEDxSMU and Dallas Artist District. Materials: Belgium ice | stone selected to commemorate a boyhood friend. (Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas-based artist Shane Pennington is the guy who brought the Dallas Arts District AURORA this fall. He is once again exercising his creative talents. Shane has installed a new site-specific show, “Transcendence.” This commission is a Japanese Rock garden waiting to happen as a single stone frozen in an ice block – in the shape of a body or cube – will eventually fall into place on the Zen-like raked granite once the ice has melted.

Artist: Shane Pennington. Commissioned by TEDxSMU and Dallas Artist District. Materials: Belgium ice | stone hand-selected to represent the heart. Made in Belgium, the source of purest block ice, this creation took 6 months to form. (Photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

It is well worth a visit – across from the Wyly Theater at the intersection of Leonard and Flora.