This is a story I ran across online and I think it’s something that city planners should heed.
It seems to be a marvelous solution for creating a thoroughly enjoyable city.
Marty Walker’s recent exhibit assembles an array of talent and diverse media that handily shows us some new terrain. However, I suspect two pieces are especially worthy of your time and attention. One is “Four Corners” by Anna Krachey – a luridly brilliant abstract photograph of magenta and cerulean that is shot through with an India-ink blue. It’s an inkjet print on archival paper that, interestingly, displays a faux matte that, literally, makes one do a double take. It’s reminiscent of vivid summers and cocktails and makes one glad to be above ground and imbibing luscious colors.
Secondly, Tom Orr’s “Flow” is definitely one to watch. Literally. This sculptural piece constructed of aluminum rods and wood evokes [e]motion and, if you stand to one side, it will elicit memories of vacation-y isles and watery landscapes. But it’s all pared back. “Strategies” is an apt name since it’s all rather cerebral stuff. This is art not “of” things but “about” them. It’s Fantasy Land for thinking people — and it’s worth expending some effort. However, I suggest you unpack it somewhere to the left of your sternum, in the region near your heart. That being said, if you’re into still life images of mums, pass this one by.
It’s bright. It’s fun. And, yes, it’s terrific art.
Mary Walker’s Gallery has a newly found intimacy I find engaging. Her current exhibit, works by Brooklyn resident Eric Sall, is small but impressive and reminds us yet again that nicely executed art possesses the glorious capacity to make us new if we simply grant it ingress.
Not only is the gallery pleasant — Mr. Sall is something of a novelty. He is as brightly engaging as his work and he’s happy to tell you about his “process of thinking” as well as the manner in which he approaches his oil-on-canvas paintings. Mr. Sall greets you squarely and exhibits the clear glance of an extremely gifted, well-adjusted child. He speaks enthusiastically about the focal point of his life — painting — and describes it in lyric detail as a process of accretion. He begins with photography and drawings — and a rather long period of rumination. Things merge and coalesce and what subsequently unfurls in an intricate linear progression with some delightful results. Ultimately, we’re greeted with spirited confetti such as Abstract 1, 2009 — pink and blue stripes festooned with a looping and strident black.
This marvelous work is reminiscent of tents on beaches in the South of France or summer parasols under which one imbibes drinks with wide lime wedges. Au fond, this is art that is thoroughly enjoyable. Yet one need not feel guilty feeling more pleasure than angst while looking at (gasp) art. It’s okay to not have your serotonin level drop like stones in a burlap sack and leave a gallery without feeling awash in anomie. I suspect Sall manages to make the same synapses fire that are ignited by, say, Miro. That’s no small feat and I laud him for it.
Just in time for the Nasher Sculpture Center’s big birthday, the notorious Good/Bad Art Collective is working together again — after a rather long hiatus. You’ve been warned.
by PATRICIA MORA
photograph by ALLISON V. SMITH
The Nasher Sculpture Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Dallas turf by — metaphorically, at least — tearing down walls. Known for its stellar collection of classically modern art, the Nasher is electing to step out of any and all comfort zones. What makes this especially splendid: It’s asking that we follow suit. The Nasher Xchange, conceived by Nasher director Jeremy Strick, will bring 10 artworks to various places in the city. Thus, the very locations sometimes deemed as unassailable downtown meccas are suddenly accessible.
“The Nasher began as a profoundly meaningful gift to the city and we’re building on that legacy with these 10 works,” says Strick. “This show represents an important step toward making art available and inclusionary.” Culturally speaking, this is a feat of curatorial virtuosity that should make all of us feel it’s an extremely lucky day in the ’hood. The Nasher initiative marks the first citywide museum-organized public sculpture exhibition in the U.S.
The Nasher has picked the Denton-based Good/Bad Art Collective to create a work. Background for the uninitiated: The Good/Bad, as it is affectionately known, is a stunningly ADD-ish group of artists that creates wildly innovative art mashups. They push the boundaries of what art is and how it operates on both the individual and communal psyche. The Nasher initiative — and this work in particular — promises to be fun, a tad mind-blowing and a stellar gift to anyone game for a mental romp. Past projects by Good/Bad include an exhibition for which visitors were encouraged to bring their own cats from home and a “nothing’s happening” event for which there were no press releases, fliers or posters. (It was noted that it was not known “if anyone attended this nothing.”) Their work has been described as “sassy” — an understatement — and they acted as a veritable lodestar for the arts community from 1993 through 2001 before going on hiatus for more than a decade.
Well, they’re back. For the past six months, the group has been hatching plans on the 14th floor of Bryan Tower in a space provided by Spire Realty. Here’s how it will unfold: On Oct. 19, Good/Bad will begin filming a quirky infomercial to be aired during the least-desirable time slots to a nearly nonexistent audience. The public is invited to be part of the filming and, thus, part of artwork that, quite literally, will occupy airwaves. Then items from the infomercial, dubbed “debris” by the artists, will be on view in the Good/Bad art space, where the public will interact with it. For now, all Good/Bad will say — unveiling more would, of course, spoil the punch — is that the work is about “memory and re-remembering.” For now, however, the only thing seen on the horizon is a frothy confection of anticipation.
The Nasher XChange is an elegantly strident move by Mr. Strick. It’s also great fun. Ditto that frothy anticipation. Are you ready for your infomercial close-up? Oct. 19. Bryan Tower. Fourteenth floor. Be there or be square.
PATRICIA MORA is a Dallas writer and a Fellow of the Writer’s Guild for the Warhol Foundation/Capital Campaign Fund. She has provided art commentaries for The Dallas Morning News, the National Endowment for the Humanities, A+C: Arts + Culture Magazine and the International Association of Art Critics. She can be reached via email@example.com.
[Originally published in FD Luxe]
by PATRICIA MORA
photographs by NAN COULTER
Dallas’ food intelligentsia — and a cast of civilian regulars — keeps coming to Tom Spicer’s garden and produce store for their greens and gossip. Trust us: It’s not just because of the kale
When it comes to getting a foodie fix with a heavy dose of Algonquin Hotel–style table talk, Spiceman’s FM 1410 continues to be the place. It is ground zero for chefs — both professional and serious enthusiasts — as well as civilian folk who simply want to savor the taste of microgreens in their salads or sushi. In the parlance of Mr. Tom Spicer, proprietor, all manner of edible gems are dubbed “nutraceuticals” — but just as important as the dense vitamin lode of his crops, many of which are grown in the vast garden behind his shop on North Fitzhugh Avenue in Dallas, is the conversation that bubbles up in his crazily assembled store. It’s an amalgam of hippie decor, an old-fashioned freezer case and moody Delacroix harem.
If that’s not enough, Spicer’s eccentric clients are formidable storytellers. The whole concoction is a gumbo of sorts, which is appropriate since Spicer’s roots are firmly fixed in New Orleans. It’s a virtuosic mingling of food and conviviality that proves a good dose of the Big Easy is a wonderful addition to a city known for platinum stunners in sky-high Christian Louboutins. Here, Dallas has Soul with a capital S and droves of attractive folks willingly seduced by a literal garden of earthy delights.
Red-veined sorrel (rumex sanguineus) in the organic garden
A trip to Spiceman’s FM 1410 is likely to involve merriment invoked by store personnel inciting shoppers to “Taste this!” Regular clients show up with wines and comestibles as offerings to the gods of table and bacchanalia. Bosque blue cheese from Veldhuizen Family Farm, two hours southwest in Dublin, was one big hit, not to mention Spicer’s own chicken-and-sausage gumbo or fiery peppers pickled in brine and paired with Manchego cheese. Out back, there is a porch, where stellar dinners are hosted for people celebrating anniversaries and birthdays — or merely another day on what, partly thanks to Spiceman’s FM 1410, seems to be an increasingly pleasant planet. For such occasions, Spicer is known to break out his self-devised bass instrument and play jazz tunes that would be the envy of music legend Charlie Haden.
Matsutake mushrooms at Spiceman’s FM 1410
It is true that Spicer grows and imports the best greens, vegetables and mushrooms you can find anywhere — black garlic, anyone? — and supplies them to some of Dallas’ best restaurants, but it is all offered in an ambience of good-natured fun. Sometimes out there in the world, an uppity attitude is mistaken for finesse. Spicer is, indeed, highly urbane and knows the ins and outs of gourmet goodies better than anyone — but he also manages to keep culinary exotica refreshingly accessible. This becomes more understandable once you realize that his great-grandfather provided fruits, vegetables and flowers to the Vanderbilt family at their sprawling “cottage” in Newport, Rhode Island. Also, his sister, Susan, is the celebrated chef-owner of Bayona in New Orleans.
Spicer himself is an accomplished musician who was getting his formal education at Berklee College of Music in Boston — until they discovered they had little to teach him. He subsequently embarked on a madcap tour of France with a group for whom he played bass. While on the continent, he discovered a deep and abiding love for cuisine, and an ongoing saga ensued. If you think of Spicer as a wild man with a heart as big as his backyard garden, you’re on the right track. About that garden? It is the ancillary soul of the place. It is carefully manicured to yield a harvest of exotic greens, including red Russian kale, Malabar spinach, maâche lettuce, cabernet sauvignon grapes and edible flowers. Spicer’s elegant jumble is as terrific a “find” as you’ll discover in Dallas. If upscale shopping at trendy haunts is a frothy dessert, then experiencing Spicer’s market is a hearty entrée. Paradise found, indeed.
Proprietor Tom Spicer with “red dreads” — red garnet amaranth — at his Spiceman’s FM 1410
Originally published in Patron magazine. Photography by Maxine Helfman
If you conjure a notion of what a cinematographer’s agent who hails from Los Angeles looks like, chances are you might imagine someone remarkably similar to Christen Wilson. She’s slight, blonde, immaculately pulled together, and has eyes so deeply blue that they call to mind Mediterranean waters. During our conversation in her home—which could easily duel with A-list Manhattan galleries for dibs on art cachet—she exudes an infectious enthusiasm for contemporary art. While she’s the mother of three and wife of fellow art collector and entrepreneur Derek Wilson, she makes plenty of time to devote herself to an array of philanthropic endeavors on an international scale. She also moves from topics regarding art in Zurich, London, Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles to architects, galleries, and museums in the Dallas area with remarkable ease. Thus, she’s an extraordinary combination of world traveler/art aficionado and beguiling conversationalist.
She’s looking forward to her new role in the upcoming TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art charity event and she’s bringing with her an impressive amountof experience working for laudable causes. Wilson currently serves on the International Council for the Tate Modern in London as well as the North American Acquisitions Committee for the Tate. In May 2013, she was named Co-Chair for the Tate Artists Dinner in New York and is a member of The Vogue 100 list. As if that’s not enough, she is also Chairman for the Nasher Sculpture Center Program Advisory Committee. Thus, amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) and the arts are currently resting in competent—not to mention meticulously manicured—hands.
Wilson is nothing if not an indefatigable fundraiser. Says she: “This anniversary event for TWO X TWO makes it particularly exciting. It’s a chance to set higher goals and raise millions more dollars for these very special causes.” In case you think there is an error in denoting multiple millions of dollars for amfAR and the DMA arts cause, rest assured that she didn’t misspeak. The Dallas effort has led the nation in fundraising for this particular venue for years. In fact, the only rivals that top the city in North Texas are places like, well, Cannes, the glitzy venue for the internationally renowned film festival. Apparently, when the celebrities opt to show off their cash they’re the only folks who manage to fill coffers more plentifully than Texans. That being said, the event in Dallas has already garnered contributions in excess of $40 million since its inception 14 years ago. Now it’s gaining momentum with yearly donations topping a staggering $5 million mark. No doubt the upcoming 15th anniversary promises even more jawdropping contributions for what is perhaps the single most glamorous charity hosted in a city known for its high-stakes penchant for giving to causes worthy of serious funding.
Sponsors for the event include a host of showy brands. However, it should be noted that the chichi logos and enterprises are met with equally impressive VIP guests. Past events have been attended by a variety of luminaries including Sharon Stone, Sigourney Weaver, Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli, Dita Von Teese, and Patti LaBelle.
The roster of artists who have been honored at the event is just as distinguished. Among other heavyweights, they include Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Julian Schnabel, April Gornik, Joel Shapiro, Cecily Brown, Christopher Wool, and Peter Doig. Wilson notes that Howard Rachofsky named LucTuymans as the recipient of the 2013 amfAR Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions for the Fight Against AIDS. The artist, based in Belgium, is one of the most prominent contemporary painters. His work is a staple in leading public and private collections throughout the world and, since the ‘70s, Tuyman’s signature muted canvases have been described as “stripped down to minimal signifiers (that) often involve a secondary, introspective narrative.” He draws upon a confluence of Flemish Old Master paintings and contemporary mass media and uses pre-existing imagery that he subsequently morphs into his own brand of deeply unsettling work. Tuyman will be joined by a number of other artists including Nathan Carter, Kathryn Andrews, and Alexander Kroll, as well as others yet to be announced.
Wilson is clearly enthusiastic about the artwork that’s going to be on hand for the event. She unequivocally states, “My favorite part of TWO x TWO is the art auction. It is world-class, and the work that the artists give for the auction is solid. I have never seen another charity art auction that compares to it!” This is a statement that carries unusual heft, since she’s witnessed plenty of other events at a broad array of venues. In fact, Wilson takes her cues from the best of the best when it comes to art advisors. Namely, Beatrix Ruf, director and curator of the Kunsthalle Zürich and Mark Godfrey, curator for the Tate Modern, are two people for whom she “has great respect.”
They’ve exerted considerable influence over her own formidable collection and continue to assist her when it comes to adorning her walls with what can only be described as a thoroughly delectable collection of stellar art. She admires Godfrey’s dedication with regard to “learning about an artist” and subsequently notes that she likes to do the same. “We seem to like a lot of the same artists and love to share information. It makes it fun and engaging!” Meanwhile, she states that she admires Ruf “as a curator and a woman. She’s a genius at spotting talent and her ‘eye’ in the art world intrigues me. Beatrix is unique and someone to learn from, which I do by simply watching her and listening. She’s thoroughly honest about what she likes — and what she doesn’t.”
In fact, when it comes to choosing pieces for her own collection, Wilson is likely to turn to a varied and impressive roster of high-octane talent that runs the gamut in terms of subject matter, media, and stylistic quirks. Her list of favorites reads like a who’s who of contemporary art. Among them are Phyllida Barlow, Adam McEwan, Alex Israel, Eddie Peake, Matthew Brannon, Valentin Carron, Rebecca Warren, Rachel Harrison, Helen Marten, Kathryn Andrews, Wade Guyton, Aaron Curry, Christopher Wool, and Nate Lowman. While the list may be somewhat long, all I can say is: You should see her home. The artwork is periodically ferried out so that a fresh cache of work can be ushered in.
With regard to galleries in Dallas, Wilson is optimistic. “I believe there will be more Dallas galleries opening as a younger population of collectors grow,” she says. And she’s very clear on what is sometimes deemed a touchy question: Why do serious collectors go abroad for work instead of buying from local galleries? Her response is both direct and completely logical. “When you collect something, you will go anywhere to find it. We recently bought something from a Tokyo gallery that represents a Los Angeles artist that we collect. Similarly, we recently purchased a favorite New York artist from a Paris gallery. My point is: artists choose their gallery…and, to me, the location of the gallery isn’t important. What I focus on is the work I’m getting.”
I would be remiss if I failed to mention thatshe has a graphite work by Adam McEwan in her dining area. Fittingly, it’s a water fountain, a deeply smudged metaphor for life-affirming waters that offers a marvelous counterpoise to a sparkling aqua pool a few yards away. Her home is a crazily gorgeous blend of art and design in an ambiance of welcoming graciousness. In fact, if you get a full tour, you’ll even experience a remarkably complex fragrance. As it turns out, it emanates from an oil secured from her favorite Parisian home away from home, Hôtel Costes—which, fittingly, shares space in the same arrondissement as the Louvre.
Put candidly, it’s likely that this year’s TWO x TWO event will blow past former high-water marks for cash. Wilson notes that she has unflagging admiration for Cindy and Howard Rachofsky and that it was “a great honor to be asked to chair TWO x TWO.” Well, no doubt. But I think they’ve latched their (bejeweled) wagon to a star this year in the form of a petite blonde. I can’t imagine a better cause for funding—or a better reason to celebrate a city that, if Wilson is any indication, is becoming more and more interesting. She’s raising the bar for funding while simultaneously ratcheting up the amiability factor. Wilson is exactly what Dallas needs. She’s utterly sophisticated without being stuffy. Zurich will just have to wait for her return while we bask in the unalloyed pleasure of her remarkable—and very gracious—company.
[Originally published in Patron magazine.]
“Nuit Blanche,” which for the non-Francophiles among us, translates as “White Night,” started as an annual art event in Paris that draws approximately one million visitors. It subsequently migrated to Toronto and then — in 2010 — to Dallas. This year will mark its third incarnation in the city’s sprawling arts district and it promises to be a veritable heart stopper wherein Immersion Art meets Über Technology. Dubbed “Aurora” by Dallas artists Shane Pennington and Joshua King, it’s a ferociously adventurous series of works that embody a fascinating genre of art; namely, it operates via projecting images on architectural facades.
Thus, buildings become canvases and viewers, to an unusual degree, become an integral part of the artistic process. In fact, some of this year’s work promises to be so stunning that participants will explore a collective “pause” that’s guaranteed to evoke awe that underscores both our individuality and communal connections. Sound confusing? It’s not; in fact, it’s embodied art like you’ve never seen it before — so fear not. The works are accompanied by performance pieces and sound installations; however, the more showy works are trendy, techno versions of Proustian magic lanterns. The idea is to gather crowds for a shared nighttime art experience that literally leaves them breathless and a wee-bit disoriented. One participant dubs the latter a “Soul Drug” — an innocuous and (non-pharmaceutical) momentary sense of sublime disorientation for which, if we’re honest, even the most timid among us yearn. An apt analogy might be an utterly fabulous mental and emotional rollercoaster.
Art on walls, of course, is as ancient as frescoes or, for that matter, cave paintings. However, the added dimension of luminosity makes both Nuit Blanche and Aurora especially fascinating iterations of contemporary art. Shane Pennington deserves kudos for spotting the potential for this brand of new work while in Toronto and subsequently teaming up with Joshua King to bring it to Dallas in 2010. It’s been continually evolving and 2013 is going to make a huge impact — and Dallas, like Paris, will momentarily become a “city of light.”
* * *
Pennington occupies what can only be described as a Santa Fe-style compound in the Cedars near downtown; he’s built an array of loft-style metal buildings arranged around a pebble drive punctuated by a metal water fountain. It’s arty. Inside the main building, which functions as his living quarters and studio, he’s likely to have incense burning and music playing while he works — although, in the interest of full disclosure, he has a knack for making work look like play. Pennington is affable, talented and visionary. He describes “Aurora” as “exploratory art that opens things up in two ways. It expands the connection between each of us as well as between the community and individuals. Says he: “The first event was put on for 250 dollars and we did it at Old City Park. Josh and I put it together and we used the buildings there, including the old potting shed. We had a good turnout of about 1,500 people and then we met with Veletta Lill who helped us move it into the Arts District. This was a huge move.”
The first year’s endeavor was modest but it still featured art that was avant-garde and fascinating. Lill was then functioning as Executive Director of the Downtown Arts District and succinctly sums things up by saying, “Who doesn’t love light?” Indeed. She adds, “Giving Aurora a large scale for exhibition gave it gravitas.” She is on target. The first year the show went live in its downtown venue, it had 15,000 attendees. While that’s a long way from the million-mark enjoyed by Parisians, Dallas artists are just getting started and the effort is gaining both ground and funding. And Lill is right; projecting images on to the Wyly Theatre, for instance, is a mammoth endeavor, and in the right hands, will be freighted with huge emotional intensity.
As co-conspirator in creating the drama that will ensue at this year’s event, Joshua King is moving from his typical role as artist to maneuvering logistics for the event. King looks to be in his thirties and sports a narrow bird that reaches to the middle of his chest. His primary accessory is a black laptop emblazoned with stickers and he comes across as a contemporary version of a laid-back sixties kind of guy. Most Aurora artists work for zero compensation; however, that doesn’t mean that don’t labor mightily. In fact, when we met, King was racing to pack some art and ship it to a gallery. He grins, “I work three jobs and one of them is Aurora.” King may not fit the stereotype of an entrepreneur but he’s been caught in a powerful confluence of art and a maze of labyrinthine details. However, if I were to dub King a “businessman” I’m quite sure he would long to have me euthanized. He’s the gritty and loveable master of “dude speak” that keeps Dallas real. In his own way, he’s also a mover and a shaker.
There’s yet another player on the Aurora stage that deserves attention, Leo Kuelbs. He created a curatorial tour de force for Dom Pérignon, “Divine Coalescence,” that promises to be a foreshadowing of what folks are likely to see gracing the walls of the Wyly. As a work, it left people weeping. It can only be assumed that’s precisely the effect spectacular beauty flaring at night has on onlookers. Kuelbs is a veteran of public video installations that have utilized the Manhattan Bridge and the historical Bärensaal Berlin. The latter was used in the making of the aforementioned event for the famed champagne house. He and his business partner, Farkas Fülöp, created a lush spectacle that is a current version of the Sistine Chapel — only better. It’s evocative and gorgeous without subjecting anyone to tales of Vatican intrigue. In fact, Kuelbes easily segues into conversations about current physics and Buddhist teachings. He’s Renaissance man with a remarkable sense of aesthetics — and Dallas residents will soon be the beneficiary of his talent and his work “as a VJ — like a DJ, only with images.”
Kuelbs is highly articulate and speaks stridently about 2012 being — literally — the end of an era. “Now people are working together and there’s a new communal fabric. Look, this event is great. The mayor, everyone, is on board. Dallas is the right place and this is the right time. There’s such a feeling of community.” He adds, “This is all completely authentic. The concept and the process is the same.”
No one is more enthusiastic about Aurora Dallas than Catherine Cuellar, the new Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District. She notes, “For decades, the illuminated ball atop Reunion Tower has been the icon of Dallas’ skyline. Then the dazzling brilliance of the Omni Hotel put the rest of the buildings downtown on notice. Now… Aurora can give not only audiences but creative professionals a great experience the Dallas Arts District.” Ms. Cuellar makes it sound as if the best is yet to come. She’s no doubt right.
Here are the dates and times you won’t want to miss: October 18. The Arts District. Nine in the evening until two in the morning.
Who could possibly say no?