Three Shots in the Dark: Openings— March 9, 2019

A few years ago, most of the art galleries in Dallas were on Dragon Street and many coordinated their monthly openings. You could park once and, even though the design district lacks sidewalks, stroll between them.

That has all changed. Today you need something resembling the hub and spoke approach of airlines to move efficiently between the art shows. Except there is no such thing as a straight line when trying to navigate the streets of Dallas.

Last night we took this to an extreme. We started at PDNB (Photos Do Not Bend) gallery in the Design District where a 50-year retrospective for Keith Carter was being held. Many of the works from his 1988 book From Uncertain To Blue had been shown here previously. Tonight many copies of Carter’s weighty retrospective book were being signed and heading to the bookshelves of the city.

Carter’s later works have moved beyond the Robert Frank-style documentary of Uncertain and into magical realism. The more recent images move from the 1950s-style crisp black-and-white into those with a more orotone and dreamy quality.

From Under Pressure, Print Survey of Benito Huerta at Kirk Hopper Gallery

Our second stop was at Kirk Hopper Gallery in Deep Ellum where Benito Huerta was showing print work going back into the mid-1970s coinciding with the Southern Graphics Council (SGC) International Conference. Huerta continues to explore and rework ideas into new forms, playing on historical events, politics and iconic imagery. Four images, all titled Shadows (2013) appear to cover other prints with a black monotype creating a complex texture that takes on a new layer of artistic meaning beyond the messages of many of these works.

When I heard The MAC was having an opening at their new Cedars location, my initial reaction was “do we have to go way over there?” Unfortunately for my Saturday evening travel schedule, the shows have been well worth the trip.

Work by Al Farrow at the MAC

In the main room, sculptures by Brooklyn-born San Francisco artist Al Farrow recreate iconic and religious architecture with guns, gun parts, bullets, lead shot and other tools of death that reveal ingrained violence in our religious and public culture and demonstrate that our religion and beloved institutions are used for ill purposes.

It was late, and most of the crowd was in the front room (that’s where the wine is) and the California artists responsible for a tryptic of prints were conversing. Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet’s American Procession displays a linear depiction of American historical figures on the conservative and progressive sides. Were the wall long enough to hang as intended, the procession from each side would march towards the center where a collapsing triumphal arch presents the decay of Hollywood on the left and banks on the right.

The figures included in the processions are meant to be thought-provoking and include Jane Addams, Robert Moses, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand, Mel Gibson and others. Unless I missed it, I did note Robert E. Lee was not among them. The works may suggest however well or ill-intentioned, the two sides of our American Democracy are not coming together for a productive end.

The wood block panels from which the works were printed hang on the opposite wall. Lin noticed they were not cut in reverse and asked print-maker Peter Ligon who happened to be standing nearby. “I don’t know. That’s a good question,” he said, pointing to someone else in the room. “That’s the guy you want to ask.”

Paul Mullowney of Mulloway Printing Studios in San Francisco had introduced himself to Ligon earlier. “Oh, you are famous,” was Ligon’s reply. Mulloway explained to us that these woodblocks were created though an off-set method using large rollers, similar to method (once or still, I’m not sure) used to print newspapers. The woodblock is inked, then a roller is used to transfer the image to the print on rice paper. The gold background is later painted by hand.

For a moment I was jealous of the interesting openings the West Coast must have. Representational and narrative art is apparently pervasive there. But silly me, I am seeing this show here in Dallas. Plus the art in each opening tonight provided their own commentary on our strange and evolving world.

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