Renewed Energy in the Dallas Art Scene

We headed out with three stops in mind, Roberto Munguia’s show at Conduit, the re-opening of the MAC and a show at 500x. Usually, the show hours are 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and we have to go early and annoy people still preparing in order to see everything. But 500x and the MAC would be open later, so we were able to have dinner before a night of chardonnay sipping.

It was an evening of notably engaging art openings in Dallas Saturday, January 12th. Art does seem to come in waves of creativity. There are highs when a lot seems to be going on, and lows when it’s a struggle to keep going. If last night (and to some extent the previous week) are representative, the art scene in Dallas has upped the ante with renewed energy.

Soomin Jung at Conduit

Conduit was our first stop and we had to conjure up some creativity ourselves in order to find a parking spot. Roberto’s new work was in the main gallery and we encountered some paintings by Soomin Jung, which she explained as attempts to question reality. The works show craters from places she has lived throughout the world in black-and-white with colorful stars, skies and geometric water patterns.

Roberto’s work clearly broke from the previous show, with many incorporating collage-assemblage along with grey-toned forms that seemed to be trying to work their way out of abstraction.

The small gallery in Conduit (next to the chardonnay) always has an unexpected surprise awaiting. This time it was prints and small granite sculptures- things that would otherwise be monumental-scaled down for your coffee table- by Hidenori Oi.

On our way out, a suggestion for a detour arose. A gallery called And Now was nearby and having a show. The address came up on google, but there was no signage when we arrived, but we opened the door anyway.

And Now Gallery Dallas

A large, sparsely-filled room with two architectural works was fronting a cozy space filled with people and smaller works. On the way out, a photographer was taking photos of the artists with mobile phones snapping behind her. I heard her tell them they couldn’t take pictures because she was taking one for the paper. There’s no better way to get me to snap a photo.

Now it really was time to go to the MAC. Setting the GPS, the route was taking us over many miles of highways to travel a few miles. Expecting I would miss the exit, I changed the settings to “avoid motorways” (my phone is a European model) and with minimal circling, we arrived in The Cedars. But once again, no parking.

It’s been a few years since the MAC moved from Uptown. The building was long-ago demolished and there’s a new bakery on the site. And the building we found in the Cedars was not the same as planned. This smaller space, a former bar, is adjacent to the vibrant RO2 Gallery. It turns out the MAC was supposed to be a 4,000 square foot part of a 20,000 square foot building, but it was going to take more time to fill the rest.

The MAC is a nonprofit that focuses on installation art that doesn’t easily find buyers. Works by Helen Altman, Alicia Eggert, Letitia Huckaby, Liss LaFleur, and Leslie Martinez included a wall of particularly relevant quotes painted on thin corrugated boxes, not unlike Warhol’s treatment of Brillo. Then there was the jello mold rotating in front of computer-generated fireworks with what I think was the Apple text-reading voice reciting information about Jello.


Next door at RO2 (which seems to have lost ownership of its URL), were large figures cut out of strips of wood allowing the construction method to be revealed. Created by Justin Archer, the work is certainly aggressive. My favorite was probably not the figures, but an umbrella sculpture made with the same technique that hung horizontally on the wall.


Aimee Cardoso painted the details of Renaissance religious art shown in the secondary room. These certainly provided a moment of focus on the fundamentals of drawing and painting in a night of sound, video, print and sculpture.

Our final stop was 500x, which always stays open the latest. With everything going on, the crowd here wasn’t as big, but it probably was my favorite stop.

Places, Names, Dates by Chris Ireland

In the middle of the first room sat a desk, a typewriter and a fan. Behind it was a wall of type-written pages, which may have been made up entirely of unsolved police reports. In the front flashed a projection of quick images, which may have been related to crimes.

Lin was already playing with some folding lawn chairs in the next room, which snapped open or closed when light passed. Beside them was a grill wired for sound and projecting the sound of cicadas.

My favorite exhibit of the evening was in the long hallway upstairs. At the far end, a cello was being mechanically stroked. It was wired to what the artist told me were transistors from speakers spaced out on the wooden floor. They transistors did not provide sound, but carried the vibration throughout the building. I am guessing this one is by Chris Ireland too. (please always feel free to send us corrected info).

Do you play the cello, I asked. “I did in fifth grade. That thing can play it as well as I can now.”

Work by Myra Barraza

The previous weeks openings included an ongoing exhibition of works by Myra Barraza at Liliana Bloch Gallery. “Predicament of the Subject” showcases small-scale portraits. No more than your 5X7 Walgreen photos, each painting features a small wonder of jewelled colors, crushed by a palette knife. Despite the amount of visual excitement per square inch, human conditions evade immediate interpretation. They remind me of Francis Bacon’s figurative work— the directness of the fresh paint contradicts with complexity of emotions. They keep you up close, to look beyond the enjoyment of paint as actions and means.

Work by Stuart Arends

Another show that opened January 5th is Stuart Arends’ exhibition at Holly Johnson Gallery. Stuart’s choice of tracing paper, with ink, watercolor and pencil enables him to make markings as heroic as a large lyrical abstraction work can be. Follow the lines and brush strokes through marvelous gestures, which only to crush and disappear suddenly behind the veiled paper.

That tenderness is further accentuated by his softly-applied paint on the other side of the tracing paper. While I’m not a fan of abstract expressionism in general, I have found great pleasure in this show. The muscularity and ambition are neutralized by the media itself. The outcome, just like the show’s title — Moonlight on the River — is lyrical, fluid, and sentimental.

A friend of mine asked me whether the artist was dead. “Why?” I asked. He said “if not, why they are so expensive?” I laughed and walked away.