Shiki 1 x Space, 2014, photographic print. Photo courtesy the artist and Zhulong Gallery
ModernDallas.net repost of my article.
2016 has had a rocky start this year with a few member of the art community passing and closings of some galleries. I mentioned before that Re Gallery closed, but Zhulong Gallery and Lab Art have also closed.
To be honest, I was never really impressed with Lab Art. So little street based artists interest me. It seems like a type of art that few taggers are willing to stretch the limits in style and form, so you end up with a great deal of sameness and mediocrity. After the first few times I ventured into the space, I was pretty much left unimpressed and then I just stopped going. There is only so much street level rehash Pop art one can take before it gets drab and boring.
Zhulong Gallery on the other hand was a huge tragedy to close. I thought this was the gallery the said what Dallas is, and aspires to be as a city. The program was tech savvy, rooted in Modernist clean aesthetics, strong on content, form, and design. I felt that if with enough time, the gallery would have become a driver of taste. But this was short lived and now we are only left with memories of show like: Azuma Makoto who brought us the tree that traveled the world and the edge of space, the fictional landscapes of Jeremy Couillard, and the sublime images of Anne Katrine Senstad. I have seen several galleries have 3D printed art, but nothing like Matthew Plummer-Fernandez’s objects. Zhulong Gallery was strong in their use of video art and really pushed works that played with new technologies. I felt like this was a gallery where artists that are interested in the new media field could shine. Unfortunately, this is not the first gallery to disappear with the goal of being tech heavy. You might remember years ago the And Or Gallery. They also attempted this model, but moved on to new challenges. Not to say that a gallery with this kind of mission can’t work, it just has to have all the stars align, I suppose.
For a moment I thought WASS Gallery was gone too, but they have renamed the space Level Gallery. Possibly this rebranding is a way for the gallery to show the public they have a new mission in mind for their space. They state that the gallery wants to show socially and politically engaging work. Opening up with oil and gas as a theme already touches on a hot button topic. Maybe Level Gallery will look more like Houston’s Station Museum of Contemporary Art, which would mean a great deal of controversy could be brewing.
I must mention the passing of June Mattingly. She was a fixture in the gallery scene and she was big on supporting Texas artists. She was also a contributing arts writer to ModernDallas.net with her articles’ byline titled Special “Eye” to Watch. I read an archived article about a September openings back in 2010 and it brought me back to all those places. I had seen 6 out of the 7 shows she mentioned. She had me kicking myself for having missed the one. When she left ModernDallas.net to compile her book on Texas contemporary artists, I took the job as arts writer. Thanks June for creating opportunities for artists.