by PATRICIA MORA
portraits by NAN COULTER
DAVID QUADRINI resembles an Indian sadhu and has a mind that darts between topics with the speed of a Formula One car. He walks into Ascension, the hip coffee bar in the Dallas Design District, and it becomes infinitely more hip the moment he passes through the door. I’m not sure how it begins, but his initial remarks involve his experience preparing macrobiotic food for the legendary composer and artist John Cage. It went wackier from there.
I had been warned — but nothing prepared me for the force that is David Quadrini. A Dallas native and an artist who describes his own work as “looking like a bruise,” Quadrini created the wildly successful Angstrom Gallery, which attracted glitterati from both coasts to an improbable location on Parry Avenue. In 2004, he moved on to establish himself in Venice, California, where he lives now and where he recently put up a show, for which he asked important artists, including Jeff Elrod and Mark Flood, to create actual bumper stickers. Says Quadrini: “It’s so perfect. Now everyone will know exactly what kind of person is driving the car in front of them. They’ll know everything because of the artist’s sticker they chose!” He announces this and then smiles as broadly as a child surrounded by puppies and bounce houses. And, yes, he’ll be in town during the time of the Dallas Art Fair, but there is nothing on his schedule. Yet.
ROBYN O’NEIL is among the Texas expatriate artists Quadrini brought into the light of public adulation. She is known for her large-scale graphite drawings and will be in Dallas for the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Great Create, an interactive family fundraising event on April 27 that benefits the Nasher’s education programs. O’Neil’s work was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and she has had shows in a variety of cities: Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris, Shanghai and New York, to name a few. However, she makes it clear precisely where her roots lie. “I started my career in Dallas while I was still in college. David Quadrini gave me my first one-person show in 2000.” Indeed, he spotted her long before she shot off into the glammed-up international art sphere.
CHRISTINE NICHOLS, owner of C. Nichols Project art gallery in Mar Vista, is another associate of Quadrini. She is bringing work to this month’s Dallas Art Fair that includes pieces by Thaddeus Strode, an artist she describes as being “fascinated by Moby Dick — but he depicts things from the point of view of the whale. It’s a bit sinister.” Nichols grew up on Padre Island where, according to Quadrini, “Her mother flies a plane and takes off to places like Marfa! We just pile in and go!” (It should be noted that said plane is a Cessna Citation jet, the swankiness of which obviously makes far less of an impression on Quadrini than the chumminess of flying off with friends to a locale deemed somewhat remote.) Nichols now lives in a modernist beach house by acclaimed architect Maya Lin. Nichols is, in Quadrini’s opinion, a spectacular gallerist. “Christine occupies the highest ethereal plane of the art world,” he says. This is lofty praise from an art sage known for separating the splendid from the dross.
Thus, three Texas natives who migrated to Los Angeles are still maintaining their ties to one another and to their home state. They coalesce and regroup and, generally, maintain an exotic camaraderie. Quadrini indicates that there are fabulous things on the horizon. He merely arches an eyebrow and offers a succinct cliffhanger: “It’s going to be amazing.”