Opening for Vernon Fisher and Erick Swenson at Talley Dunn Gallery

This weekend has been quite a whirlwind. I had suggested driving to Houston for the Still Life show at the Museum of Fine Arts, but that would have meant missing an opening at Talley Dunn for Vernon Fisher and Erick Swenson. It wouldn’t have been a good day to be in Houston anyway, or it would have been a very good day. On the way to Valley House Gallery earlier (to revisit the Miles Cleveland Goodwin show), we heard about the massive crowds forming for the Women’s March on Washington, and just about everywhere else.

Since our last visit, Talley Dunn Gallery has been diminished by two large buildings on either side. It’s almost so you can’t recognize the street any longer. That’s the Dallas we live in, always changing.

We entered into the Vernon Fisher exhibit. This was an opening not to miss, and one where the paintings seemed to speak to the times. With titles like Sea of Uncertainly, Dark Passage and Perilous Life, the work generally combined black and white painted images with colorful fragments, often pixilated images from pop culture. Also present are periodic table elements combined to make words. My favorite is probably American Landscape.

There is no question about the technical virtuosity in Vernon’s work. Every inch of an image is painted, be it a Trompe L’oeil element table, or a vintage photo blown-up or just doodling/graffiti popped in the front. Painstaking the process may be, they look effortless and natural. It is a myth how Vernon can organize incongruent objects with exactness and fine control, yet the outcome looks frivolous and carefree. They only become serious if you look into layers of messages, and then you begin to wonder: how such a representational image, with all facets of our times and culture, refuses to be totally deciphered?

In the other room were four works by Erick Swenson, a student of Vernon Fisher at UT Denton. We first noticed the work of Swenson at the Dallas Art Fair a few years back. The beer stein with snails, all crafted from resin and painted, was not unlike the one at that show. But the star of the show here was the sculpture of a life-sized decaying deer, also made of resin and painted. Swenson told us the sculpture took about a year to make and is one piece. There are some inaccuracies, he pointed out. The deer is without remnants of hair, and it doesn’t have the smell a decaying deer would.

If there’s hope for a tumultuous age, such as the one we’re living in, it’s that the angst will enter the art and influence it for the better. But some art already has a lot to say and says it well. I think we heard from some of the best last night.



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