Scratching the December gallery surface

There were a slew of gallery openings over the weekend here.
I only made it to the Eastside spaces, and not even all of those. I'll update this
week after I make some more rounds.

It continues to amaze how much more gallery
activity there is in Dallas now than just three years ago. There have been some
losses (notably Vance Wingate's Gray Matters gallery; and Angstrom sort of just evaporated) but there are so many
more venues now than there were, and everybody's game seems to be increasingly
par, or better.

The crucial piece missing, I think, was largely just some cash
flow. It took awhile, but radiant heat from the supernova that is the New York
art market seems to be reaching us out here in the boonies. Gallery walls are
sporting more red dots than an under-washed art student's forehead. Art is
cool, art is hip, art is an investment opportunity, go art.

I started the night at and/or gallery. Paul Slocum has his first
group-show curatorial effort on display, and it's a good one. He nails the
20-30 y.o. demographic/aesthetic. "Stylishly beat" is the tag; lots of found
crap – photos, video footage, objects, you name it – cleverly recontextualized.
I put my empty "vintage" reissue Coors can on a table in the back, and thought,
hey, that looks like art here. andortable.jpgA generation grew up in the '70's in the
suburbs, with tons of tacky junk, that they now use to generate nostalgia,
pathos, insight, and laughs. Certain kinds of artists (often the best ones) are
drawn to the compellingly "ugly." And much of visual popular culture in the
last 30 years is a natural fit. Slocum essentially really shows pop art, but
instead of being informed by billboards, comic books, and print advertising
while grandly increasing the scale and ambition (a la '60's), Slocum specializes in the kind
of artists (pretty prevalent now) who cop video games, internet porn, and Gen Y
honorary plaques; you know, the kind received by everyone for just showing up.
That kind of thing. The scale is one to one, or reduced even. Mass media humbly, sardonically
messed with, for a tiny, hip, esoteric audience.

johnson.jpg

Road Agent was my next stop. Elliot Johnson's paintings combine baroque filigree on color
field backgrounds, surreally emanating Beckett-ian dialogue. It's an interesting
play in Ed Ruscha territory. I like a couple of them a lot, and they're really
well made, but sometimes the text feels strained, and too knowingly cute. But speaking
of the market, I'd say the guy is onto something, and I bet he'll kill with
these things. Stick with it dude. It's a good shtick – novel, informed, and
clever. They'll make for a great ad in Artforum someday.

Barry Whistler's was absolutely packed. Not normally prone
to social anxiety, even I couldn't stand the psychological heat, and fled
before seeing much. You can bet I'll be back though, because there's new work
by Lawrence Lee, a young painter about whom there's big buzz this year. His
work is great, unmistakably the real deal, funny, political, poignant, from the
gut, with an illustrative retro-style that's totally seductive. He's young, he works on paper and often small, and
people are just buying the stuff as fast as he can make it. Good for him – he's
the nicest guy.

In a rush to go eat, I forgot to swing around the corner to The Public Trust , but
owner Brian Gibb is showing his own stuff, and from what I've heard it sounds
cool. When I get over there I'll post some pics. They redesigned the space a
few months back, changed their name, and seem to have clarified their mission.
Its much more 'art' now, and less 'street boutique.' Their last show (of Evan
Hecox
) was sharp – though I did sort of hate the title ("Urban Abstract"? Why
saddle yourself with that lame label?) There's some faint buzz about a possible
area museum appearance by him, so remember that name.

also by Titus OBrien

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