There are number of shows up in the Design District that feature small, very affordable sculpture. I wondered at first about a nascent trend. Then of course I realized that small affordable sculpture makes a good Christmas (or otherwise) present. The idea of people shopping for holiday gifts in galleries made me get all philistine and irritated. It’s completely adolescent, I know, I know, but I still threw myself full weight into resenting the good folks that could holiday shop for art, without selling their plasma first, as a friend suggested she’d consider doing in order to own a certain piece. But if you do happen to be in the market for a one-of-a-kind gift for someone special this holiday season, and are still fumbling for just what to get, all the design district galleries currently have shows up to help give you a clue: buy art (and then have me over for dinner and gift me with it).
I found a lot of the small sculpture on view in the Design District galleries to be pretty candy-coated, and by that I mean bright and shiny, which I guess makes it easier to swallow. (Some of it was actually coated in candy at Marty Walker Gallery.) I hadn’t been to Galleri Urbane Dallas, the satellite gallery of Galleri Urbane Marfa, until visiting its latest show, called Shipping Bags, with work by UT Arlington professor and Dallas Architecture Forum founder, Russell Buchanan. I think the name of the gallery put me off, or at least the spelling of it, which reminds me of so many wind chime-earth stone-blown glass galleries along Canyon Road in Santa Fe. But I was impressed with the gallery – a small, bent space situated off Irving Boulevard in what seems a fertile new frontier for art spaces. Russell Buchanan’s show is a quiet affair – small, free-standing, marshmallow-ish sculptures made by coating inflated shipping bags in marble emulsion. The marbleized bags dry in all manner of postures that give each of the little sculptures an animated personality. They look like creatures out of a Hayao Miyazaki movie, or some altered albino version of a Takashi Murakami character. Buchanan’s sculptures are playful things — perhaps not powerful, but formally satisfying.
Adjacent to the Galleri Urbane is a space that former Pan American director, Cris Worley, has just taken up. It is a small room, separated from Urbane by a wall, though the two spaces share the same entrance. Worley rotates work here from a number of artists she’s taken with her from her Pan American days: Massey Craddock, Rusty Scruby, and William Cannings, to name a few. I saw a few things in her space that fit the bill in terms of candy-coated delights, most notable being one of William Cannings’ inflated steel sculptures. This one is a series of three bright orange, wall-mounted water floats, the kind a baby wears in a pool. These are Technicolor bright and shiny things, lick-able looking. But the floats have little black switches on the side of each, looking like beady eyes on some cartoon beast’s oddly shaped head. The candy-ness coupled with the monstrosity factor pushes this piece onto a fine, visceral line between levity and fear, like being pushed into deep water without really knowing how to swim.
All three of the shows up at Conduit Gallery had sculptural elements in the mix, but the shows by Roberto Munguia and Ellen George had sweet little thangs that would fit, by the dozens, inside a shoe box wrapped in reindeer paper. In the main gallery space, across from a few, very excellent black and white ink drawings by Roberto Munguia is his Golden Zero series – white porcelain, hand pinched rings and objects, averaging about the size of a tea saucer, whose rims are painted with gold. These are rough little beauties – sort of haphazard and full of speed, most closely resembling baked goods, except for the gold… The crude shape of the rings begs for gold to edify them, and gold obliges, turning them into a wall full of Gollum’s My Precious. They are edible in the sensual sort of way, and they pulled out of me some latent current longing for scads of jewelry, or at least art that looks like it, which, since you asked, I’d prefer.
In the project room, Ellen George had lined the walls with clusters of strange little polymer shapes, some looking like ears, others like innards. These all seemed a bit contrived, but kept with the mood of precious-hood which was abound. Because nothing says “I love you” like an ear in a box.