Each month, Arts Fort Worth hosts a First Friday reception to celebrate its newly opened exhibitions. With seven galleries that rotate on different schedules, there is always something fresh to see — either work by local artists, or shows that have been brought in from elsewhere in the region. For January’s opening event, I was excited to see a slate of impressive works by emerging and established North Texas artists.
There is much to see when you first walk through Arts Fort Worth’s doors: to the right is a small gallery with a windowed front, and to the left are offices, a shop, and a transitional space, through which the building divides into the additional galleries. In this entryway, one of the first pieces to catch my eye was Janet Chaffee’s large-scale drawing, Interlacements, No. 2 (Over the Pass Series). With its massive size and expressive line work, it is a perfect piece to draw the audience in and make them want to see more.
The drawing features a large irregular grid of heavy charcoal lines that feels like a monumental window, giving us a glimpse to another world bursting with overgrown, wild plant life, which is also rendered in charcoal. The work is part of More Than This…, a group exhibition that opened in December and is organized by Anne Allen, an artist and curator with deep roots in the North Texas region. The show features works that depict nature and employ a mostly black and white palette by four female artists: Rosalyn Bodycomb, Rachel Barminski Bounds, Janet Chaffee, and Dan Jian.
Along with Interlacements, No. 2, Chaffee presents another similar large-scale botanical drawing and a handful of encaustic pieces. Created a decade ago, the encaustic works are made with dry pigment. The thick and at times cracked texture of their surfaces at once pulls you in to inspect them closer and repels you, as they bring to mind ominous imagery, such as pools of oil or sludge, and the foreboding sense of the destruction of nature.
Dan Jian’s surreal landscapes, created with charcoal dust and burnt ash, are evocative of Chinese landscape paintings, in that they feature mountains rendered in soft gradients. While her two-dimensional pieces hanging on the gallery wall allow viewers to simply gaze upon at her imagined landscapes, the unique presentation of Flowers in the Mirror — on a long narrow table in the center of the gallery — provides an opportunity to walk around the piece and see it from unexpected viewpoints. Though covered in protective plexiglass, displayed this way the piece gives the sense of being a work in progress. On the artist’s website, the drawing is labeled as “a landscape accordion book project in progress.” Seeing a book that is meant to be folded and unfolded laid out in this flat way allows viewers an overview of the narrative all at once.
In a nearby gallery, Kelly Waller, an MFA candidate at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, debuts her first solo exhibition, Appropriated Portrayals. Waller uses found objects, many of which have been purchased at antique or resale shops in cities where she has lived, to assemble small-scale relief works. Many of the original materials are ephemera, including photographs, drawings, and printed media. These have been folded, combined, and sometimes shredded, a process that obscures their original narrative and transforms the two-dimensional objects into small sculptures.
Since each sculpture is made up of materials sourced from various locales, the works act as time capsules or portraits of a place for the artist. However, since many of these references are personal and are obscured through the sculptures’ creation, viewers may not walk away with a full picture of Waller’s practice. There is, undoubtedly, a universal quality of nostalgia inherent in the materials. This essence, coupled with the distortion and re-presenting of the materials in a new way, is evocative; rather than having hard folds and bends, many of the works flow gently, cascading like water.
Another solo exhibition that opened at Arts Fort Worth earlier this month also draws on found objects. If I Would Have Did, I Would Have Done features new work by Joshua Steven Bryant, a local artist who recently received their MFA from the University of North Texas. Bryant’s exhibition, filled with large-scale assemblages, is so cohesive it feels like a full room installation. Though there are clearly distinct sculptures, the repetition of forms, shapes, and colors unifies the work. Bryant has disassembled and painted mostly wood furniture and tools, along with other household objects, and reassembled them into unexpected compositions.
The brightly painted pieces are jovial and playful, but, by placing objects that should bring to mind comfort and relaxation into precarious arrangements, also hint at an impossible balancing act that will inevitably fail.
More Than This… will be on view at Arts Fort Worth through January 28, and Appropriated Portrayals and If I Would Have Did, I Would Have Done will be on view through February 25.