I haven’t posted any new entries over the past couple of weeks on account of a busy travel schedule that took me to from Chicago to Louisville (for a very lovely non-sculpture, though hilariously art history-related wedding), then to Dallas (for a very lovely new exhibition on ceramic sculpture), back to Chicago for night, before departing for a new academic term in Leeds. Over the next few weeks I will be posting on the two current exhibitions at the Henry Moore Institute, The Age to Innocence: Replicating the Ideal Portrait in the New Sculpture Movement and Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture, a piece related to a new research project on the Italian artist Alberto Burri, and the Nasher Sculpture Center’s recently opened Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943-1963; the latter being the reason for my trip to Dallas. So a nice early autumn line-up of sculptural things, but I thought I would do a quick post today about Dallas as a bona-fide destination for art and architecture enthusiasts.
Now in full disclosure, I lived in Dallas for six years. I began my career at the Nasher Sculpture Center and fell in love with sculpture while working there for nearly all of those six years. I interned at the Dallas Museum of Art, and received an MA from Southern Methodist University. So I unavoidably have a bias, but I think as an outsider who never fully acclimated and with the exception of its appearance in the above title, fervently resisted the ubiquitous ‘y’all’ while living there, I am also cognizant of the widespread bias against Dallas, especially by those based in larger, more cosmopolitan cities. None of this, however, should dissuade you though from taking my most sincere advice to put Dallas on your arts radar, especially for this autumn. A lot has changed in Dallas and there is a lot going on.
New additions to the city include the lovely and long-needed Klyde Warren Park, created over the Woodall Rogers Freeway. Filled with people and food trucks, even on the sweltering afternoon I walked through, the park not only connects uptown Dallas to downtown Dallas, but creates a beautiful green artery running alongside the impressive Arts District. Now visiting from Chicago, I admit to being struck by the lack of pedestrian traffic/access throughout the city and the general absence of a vibrant downtown environment, but man, if Dallas isn’t really trying to give it a go.
The Arts District still feels like a civic concept in transition, but it boasts an impressive collection of museums, public space, performance venues, and buildings designed by Pritzker-winning architects (Foster, Pei, Piano, Koolhaas). There is the new George W. Bush Presidential Library just up the freeway on the SMU campus, and just down the freeway is the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science, designed by another Pritzker winner, Thomas Mayne of the L.A. firm Morphosis, with its glass-enclosed exterior escalator visible throughout the city.
Now, Dallas like many other US cities, is far from a idyllic urban oasis. There are serious problems to fix and even within the realm of civic development, there have also been some less desirable additions, notably the condo development Museum Tower, which has wrecked havoc on the Nasher, literally frying parts of its garden and effectively destroying the skyspace created specifically for the Center by James Turrell. This ongoing legal battle was discussed frequently during my four days in the city, and while you can probably guess where my support lies, I was surprised and even more disappointed to see the building in person, as I actually found it rather attractive – though perhaps one better suited to the white sands of Miami Beach.
I was also reminded of the tremendous wealth of the city, not just in terms of economics but more so in regards to the quality of both the art and the civic spirit of philanthropists and collectors. I was able to visit a few of the private collections while in town, an experience I can only described as humbling, overwhelming, and exhilarating. I am still massively impressed by the “Fast-Forward” bequest and coordinating collecting strategy of Marguerite Hoffman, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and Deedie Rose. Their impact on Dallas is felt beyond their personal collections, with Hoffman an especially visible presence at the Dallas Museum of Art and with the Rachofskys’ recent opening of The Warehouse, an 18,000 sq. ft. space dedicated to display and research of contemporary art. The current exhibition there, Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is a serious and timely endeavor, bring additional attention to two generally overlooked tendencies, Arte povera and Mono-ha.
And all of this doesn’t even account for the upcoming activities in the neighboring Fort Worth, which will see the opening of the new Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimball Art Museum, the DMA’s upcoming Jim Hodges retrospective, or the Nasher’s Tenth Anniversary project opening next month, Nasher XChange, which will bring together ten national and international artists to create ten site-specific public works at ten different sites throughout the city of Dallas, and their truly excellent Return to Earth exhibition, which includes over seventy ceramic sculptures, many which have never been seen in the United States. And if for some reason you needed another reason to go after reading all of the above, there is also really great Tex-Mex. Enchiladas as sculptural things?