Ida Badal: Set at Ex Ovo, March 13–April 6, 2021
Painters from L.A. make the drive to Dallas from time to time. Badal brought these panel and canvas works from the west coast to be hung on the walls of Ex Ovo in set, as per the show’s title. The momentary event of the sun setting is displayed in a static arrangement that mimics stop lights. Navigating the road, and its yellow-red-green palette rhythms, is neatly organized in these pieces.
Eric Cruikshank: The Skies Window at Holly Johnson Gallery, February 27–May 8, 2021
Cruikshank is a Scottish artist, pulling colors from the landscape in his homeland onto paper and canvas. The oil paint is arranged in a similar way across the works, with a gradient that shifts from light to dark with a parabolic shape; layers of paint are meticulously added and subtracted. The finished paintings may be windows, as the show is titled, to an undisclosed plane that never ends.
Current group show at And Now, curated by Leslie Martinez, February 27–April 3, 2021
Justine Meldford-Colgate’s Sotto Voce is a fabric ladder hung from the ceiling. Paint coats the wide-mouthed tubular pasta that, in turn, hugs the rope snaked onto the floor. Martinez curates a show for And Now that is, for this gallery, typically mystifying. The theme that the exhibition follows isn’t didactic; it requires the viewer to position themselves at the center of the the people operating it to understand more. I find that it’s a challenging and fun viewing experience for anyone interested in the direction of contemporary art.
Kevin Todora: 7head and Robert Horvath: A Veritable Minefield of Useless Information at Erin Cluley Gallery, February 27–April 3, 2021
Titled after the seven-headed dragon which manifests the apocalypse, Todora’s solo show is delight of primary color, separated by momentary shafts of shadows. The work, in direct response to the pandemic, seems to irreverently ignore the conditions under which it was made, and I can’t bear to cast blame for the distraction.
Robert Horvath’s Minefield certainly wouldn’t be pleasurable to step on, but that label couldn’t be less accurate of a description for this work. Splayed across a table of untreated wood (a gorgeous display decision for a platter of highly engineered ceramic objects), the pieces beget the question: how many layers of chemistry and heat are applied to reach this result? Of course the answer is that the layers are nearly incalculable. They are craggy and smooth, golden and bleak.
Margaret Meehan: After Laughter; Jeff Gibbons: Wablu the Shlablues; and Matthew Whitenack: Rotten Work at Conduit Gallery, February 26–April 3, 2021
Meehan is a Dallas favorite, known for the deceptively saccharine temperament and deeply political considerations in her work. She was based in Texas for years, but is currently living in Richmond, Virginia. Her owls, with their sagely and morose signifiers, are ceramic objects with human eyes, surrounded by collage drawings with similar ocular surprises in the faces of contemporary figures like Billie Eilish and Greta Thunberg.
Gibbons’ show is a return to his menagerie of crumbling characters made from every material in your dad’s work shed. The Sai in the Wall (The Sword in the Stone) showcases his effortless ability to turn a wall into an evocative moment. The Sai sword was constructed by a family member using steel and facilities belonging to an auto manufacturer in Detroit, which is where the Dallas-based Gibbons grew up. Many of the pieces in Gibbons’ oeuvre have germinated for years in the studio, aside from the above-pictured snowman, made from the precipitation of Winter Storm Uri earlier this year.
Matthew Whitenack’s Rotten Work insinuates that, at one point, the materials on view were organic matter on the other side of decomposition. This multimedia show is full of right angles because of the cubicle he constructed in the gallery’s annex space, which usually features artists who aren’t necessarily represented by the gallery. Whitenack’s output here is varied, and makes mincemeat of simple inquiries.
Jackson Hammack: A View From My Window at Craighead Green Gallery, March 6–April 3, 2021
Jackson Hammack’s owls, like Meehan’s, are also purveyors of wisdom, perhaps with less yearning and more voyeurism. The texture of nature takes center stage in these paintings; the background is painted last.
Mitch Epstein: Property Rights; and Mythmakers: The Art of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, December 22 2020–February 28, 2021
Epstein’s photographs are evidence of decay. Not just decay from natural means, but the problems we have made for ourselves, or that some have made for others to clean up. The artistry here is not simply the photographic evidence of issues that we need to remember from the news cycle, but the succinctness with which Epstein displays them. Paradise, California II (2018) is an image of the lowest point that the California city has endured. Bisbee, Arizona (2017) presents a wall of bills (as in “post no bills”) torn beyond recognition. The staples the once held their decrees are more identifiable than any string of words.
Somewhat “paired” with Mitch Epstein at the Amon Carter is a full exhibition of paintings by Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington — two painters who chronicled the romantic American West. There are a lot of men in these paintings, negotiating the pristine land under their feet with no regulatory bodies around to manage their grand vision. Homer and Remington forge that narrative for our eyes. Men traveling across open lands and open waters, fighting on various sides of the stake for those natural earthly bodies we now live upon. This show and Epstein’s offer context for each other.
Nasher Public: Shelby David Meier: A Part of the Whole, February 25–March 21, 2021, and Nasher Mixtape at the Nasher Sculpture Center, February 6–September 28, 2021
Some artists know that a glimpse of the future can be seen in the present if you look in the right (unlikely) place. Meier has reimagined styrofoam takeout containers as cast ceramic since 2018 (as seen in the Clay + Things group show at Dallas’ Site 131). For Meier’s current show, the Nasher Public Space (formerly used as the gift shop) is filled with the perfume of flowers, which nestle among Meier’s trash heap of single-use containers pressed from ceramic. A couple of envelopes are flung open and pinned to the wall, in reference to the artist’s current interest in aspects of security, and possibly messaging.
Nasher Mixtape is the Nasher’s answer to an exhibition schedule on the other side of the pandemic’s exhaustive postponements and cancellations. It’s a chance to showcase new acquisitions alongside longtime works in the Nasher’s collection. Artist lauren woods’ piece, Lookin’ down on my soul now, is a video projection that highlights imperfections in the digital transfer of film to video, bringing about questions of historicity in documentation. Lynda Benglis’ Quartered Meteor is a bronze work of flowing form that sits in the vertices of the same gallery. This show is a declaration that sculpture is here to stay.
Queen Nefertari’s Egypt at the Kimbell Art Museum, December 6, 2020–March 16, 2021
Among the fascinating artifacts from this exhibition is a page from the Book of Amduat, a text that describes the mythology of the underworld. It depicts the final hour that the sun god spends traveling through the underworld. The proportioned scribe work on the page is an excellent example of the ancient art of document keeping, as it both describes lexical information and illustrative prowess while adhering to strict style guidelines.
Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, February 28–May 26, 2021
There’s 30 years’ worth of photos and videos here, if you want to know what Iranian-born Neshat has been thinking about since well before the catastrophes of the current day. Neshat herself is a subject of political revolution by subtraction: she left Iran in 1975, and is unable to return because of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Various series from the artist are on view in this retrospective, for reviewing the discrete eras within this history, including photographic portraits of Americans and Middle-Eastern subjects of varying Eastern and Western geographies and socio-political lives.
Pia Fries: picklock manual, February 16–April 3; and Arely Morales: Paintings at Talley Dunn Gallery, January 12–March 13, 2021
The multimedia works by Fries are dizzyingly rich. Brushstrokes and impasto color are applied — but also emulated, through offset color transfers which are not easily detected from a distance. Despite the plentiful white space in these pieces, it’s hard not to get lost in the tangle.
Arely Morales is newly represented by the gallery. The artist is from Nacogdoches, and these large oil paintings (and one graphite drawing) show figures from Morales’s circle, caught in a moment of recognition while they do what they do every day: live and work.