Because I often come into the Dallas Design District from the south, I find myself entering Dragon Street from the Continental Avenue side. Therefore, I almost inevitably visit Craighead Green Gallery first. Although top on my list, I can’t imagine ever skipping it. Their current show of James Zwadlo made the visit all the more rewarding.
I was instantly drawn in by Zwadlo’s sea of people crossing the street. These paintings are from the perspective of his office window, so you see the tops of people’s heads. All the works reminded me of the ant farm I had as a child. I would watch for hours as ants moved dirt and stored food while navigating around other ants. Zwadlo’s people all have personal destinations in mind and they have to navigate around other people with different goals. One painting had a dog walker which was breaking up the natural motion of people crossing the street. Another had a group of bikers moving around each other. In a few works, Zwadlo breaks his pattern up by painting on two or several canvases to tell the same story of people crossing the street. One would expect a kind of pause to the action between works, but for me I felt more tension between each painting.
The patterns of Zwadlo’s figures are eye catching, and on closer inspection, the details of his individuals are just as fascinating. One could imagine a story for each person he paints. You might see an individual make a subtle glance toward another, and you instantly connect it to your own experience glancing at a stranger. Another figure had a balding head and I caught myself checking my own head for hair. Zwadlo uses a slightly loose, painterly brush stroke to further obscure the identity of the individuals. His style, along with his perspective, obscures the identity of his subjects. This makes it easy to put yourself into Zwadlo’s paintings.
Craighead Green did a great service to Zwadlo’s paintings by clustering them in their center gallery space. Zwadlo’s crowds of people took on much more intensity. Two other shows are up at the gallery, Jerry Cabrera’s paintings seem like portraits of lightsabers. Of course, that is just the geek in me. There is also the abstract musings of Peter Burega. All shows run through March 29th.
ModernDallas.net for more images