Monthly Archives: November 2013

Feature Story: The Good Bad Art Collective — Nasher XChange

[Originally published in FD Luxe magazine]

 

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 patriciamora@mac.com.

Feature Story: Do You Know the Spiceman?

[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