Ann Stautberg and Richard Serra — Barry Whistler Gallery

[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]

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Barry Whistler has paired two highly diverse artists to good effect. Ann Stautberg’s moonlit photographs ping nicely against the hard edges of Richard Serra’s etchings. Her handling of chiaroscuro is intriguing because it intimates mystery and portent. Barely discernible trees and buildings are dreamily outlined by the moon or mysterious orbs – and if you’ve ever experienced the magic of car taillights on curved roads, this is an exhibition for you. Like the depicted telephone wires in her photographs (hand-painted with oils), distance is spanned. “9-23-11, PM” makes you traverse space and do a bit of work to fill in gaps. You’ll likely find yourself wondering about destinations or narratives invoked by her images. Her scenes are entered in media res and, in her capable hands, even dreary asphalt is transfigured and made dreamy.

Meanwhile, Richard Serra has seven etchings on view that show us a different kind of (internal) landscape. They’re forceful and large — and decidedly unnerving since they’re a mashup of NASCAR tracks and Zen head-boilers. “Path and Edges #13,” created in 2007, has a decidedly Japanese ambiance. The edges are mottled and vaguely leafy, but the interior arc invokes all the fragility of a steel-belted radial tire. It’s a collision of delicacy and a power play for your consciousness.

Serra’s etchings magically convey the same heft as his huge sculptures done in metal. They’re smudged and beautiful and moving — literally. They create genuine velocity. However, unlike Stautberg’s art, Serra’s work roars with musculature and feels like a series of strolls in a brightly lit space — even if it’s the interior of your own noggin.

The entire show is beautifully curated and Barry Whistler has given Dallas something to brag about. It’s a class act and a compendium of impressive work.

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