Everyone knows Fort Worth has great museums. The Kimbell, The Modern and Amon Carter are all well-established institutions. Unfortunately, the city known as "Cowtown" is somewhat sparse in contemporary art galleries. However, on a small street in the Camp Bowie Historic District sits a fairly small, two-story gallery, bordered by a coffeehouse and a framing gallery. William Campbell Contemporary Art's current show, Show Offs II: New and Emerging Texas Talent, was pleasantly surprising. The status of emerging TX artists has been on the rise. Nevertheless, it is oftentimes difficult to find a group of capable emerging artists. However, William Campbell has stepped up to the plate and provided the Fort Worth area with some emerging artists worth following. Indeed, a trip is worth your time.
The show, curated by Fort Worth–based artist Robert McAn, features 11 artists: Lane Banks, Candace Briceño, Jerry Cabrera, William Cannings, Jane Eifler, Mary Emma Hawthorne, Tom Hollenback, Jeff Mueller, Julie Shipp, Charlotte Smith and Dustin Van Orne. A wide range of media is explored. Surprisingly, the ever popular photography and video art are absent. Rather, this show is dominated by painting and sculptural objects. Overall, the quality of works is quite strinking, particularly some of the paintings. Those by Shipp and Cabrera are especially worth noting.
Julie Shipp's Klara series presents paintings in a mixture of sensuous mossy greens, blues and purples. Shipp is a self-proclaimed color field painter with an MFA from the UTSA. The viewer's experience of these tranquil abstract canvases, though, would have benefited from their being hung together.
Jerry Cabrera, who also received an MFA from UTSA, creates sublimely textured oil paintings that are astonishingly captivating. The subtle shifts of color produce a pulsating sensation that is complemented by the crystalline, bubbly texture that Cabrera fashions with oil. By utilizing a serial presentation, the artist has constructed a narrative incorporating the viewer into its implied movement and intense colors. The artist's statement asserts the bullfight as his inspiration for these Verb paintings. Regardless of whether artistic intention is relevant to the viewer's experience, the textured paintings do exude a sense of rhythm and energy.
The highlight of the show, though, is an artist with an MFA from The Art Institute of Chicago who utilizes a medium more associated with craft than fine art. Candace Briceño's felt creations are animated and intriguing, exuding a sense of the fantastical. Particularly enchanting is the Grass Island series situated in the lower level of the gallery. Filling an entire wall, these curious and creative representations of nature are reminiscent of the cartoonish figures one might see in a children's book. The spirited forms of mushrooms, flowers and other earth-bound life emanate a childlike energy that is quite engaging.
Other notable artists are Austin-based artist Tom Hollenback, whose Plexiglas and steel objects are undeniably reminiscent of Donald Judd, and whose interest in walled structures is manifest in these brilliantly colored and luminous objects. Dustin Van Orne's sculptural works comprising everyday materials such as wood, bathroom tile, door handles and light switches mix domesticity with a clever dose of wit. Mary Emma Hawthorne's collage works appear to be a combination of personal memories, found objects and a fascination with birds. Hawthorne's artistic talent and fundamental skill in drawing and painting are juxtaposed with found pamphlets and other paper materials, and of course the persistent presence of a variety of species of birds.
What this show does best, and what Robert McAn has accomplished in this exhibition, is finding some interesting emerging talent. These artists are not only clever, but also show promise for fruitful careers. The work exhibited in Show Offs II is intriguing, insightful and visually stimulating. It is refreshing and encouraging to see such promising work in a Fort Worth gallery.
Images courtesy William Campbell Contemporary Art.
Stefanie Ball-Piwetz is a graduate student at TSU in Fort Worth.