Saturday, May 02, 2015

OUT + ABOUT IN THE MUSEUMS



Sadamasa Motonaga, Red and Yellow, 1963, oil, synthetic resin, and gravel on canvas

ModernDallas.net re-post of my article.

It is a good time to think outside the commercial spaces and hit the art museums around Dallas. The art district is having a spring block party on the 20th of May, so the Nasher will be free, along with the DMA and Crow Collection which are already free. The theme for the night is Jane Austen, so hopefully some people will be out in their best victorian outfits.

Another theme you might notice in the Dallas Museum of Art is abstract painting. Frank Bowling’s map paintings marry the ironic structures that Jasper Johns explored in this flag painting and the expansive colorfield painters of the 1950’s and 60’s. Bowling was part of that zeitgeist of transitioning from abstraction to irony. Though not represented in the show, his early works look similar Neo Expressionists of the 1980’s, only Bowling predated them by thirty years. Also, his later work moves into complete abstraction around the end of the 1970’s, which was a surprise to me, because so many others of that era took such a different path after they had a taste of irony. Bowling’s map paintings were the trend, but then he bucked the trend to seek his own path.

The DMA also has action or colorfield abstract painters from Japan making these works in the 1980’s - the early 2000’s. I say action painting because Kazuo Shiraga picked up where Jackson Pollack and his band of friends left off. Only now performance was part of the game, so in and out of the studio his work was created by smearing and splashing paint to create the happy accidents of the paint dance. The canvas is only a recording device of his actions and choices. Sadamasa Motonaga’s colorfield works have the benefit of being informed by Pop art, so his work is much more playful than the serious New York School. Stories or a narrative structure seem to creep into the works which make his abstract paintings more accessible and even endearing to my children.

Traveling over to the Nasher Sculpture Garden, you will find one of this years important shows not to miss. Phyllida Barlow has looked at the museum and thought about how her work can interact with the space. I urge you to take a long hard look at her abstract sculptures. UT Dallas recognized back in 2003 that her work was not thrown together. I remember back then some of the dismissive remarks about her work from some students, but clearly Barlow has been on to something. I too was unsure of her work, but I can see a clearer picture here at Nasher. I just wish I could flesh it out and define it.

If you find yourself leaving the Arts District going south, head over to the Meadows Museum for one of our Texas natives who moved away and made good, John Alexander. His paintings are not abstract but rather about the East Texas bayous or the people destroying nature. Alexander’s two bodies of work he does at the same time are like pure dichotomies of one another. One being the natural beauty from his memories of his swamp and the other being masked people destroying the world for petty reasons. Life with and without people is how Alexander deals with the world. Nature wears no masks, while people must change everything, even their own identity.

The DMA will host works by Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga through July 19 and Frank Bowling to August 2. Phyllida Barlow will be at the Nasher until August 30th. The Meadows Museum runs John Alexander’s show through June 28.

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