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Arts / Museums

We’ll Always Have Paris (Texas)

BY Catherine D. Anspon // 04.29.15

There’s still time to catch a top view unveiled during the dizzying rush of Dallas Arts Week. “Desperate to Appear Sophisticated and Other Titles” showcases a Texas-born provocateur who’s returned to his roots after more than a decade living the high life in Manhattan. It’s up now at one of Dallas’ most eagerly watched new spaces: Trinity Groves pioneer Erin Cluley Gallery (through May 2).

Cue Chivas Clem, who jump-started his career as an art-maker by being admitted to the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (whose alums include Julian Schnabel and Jenny Holzer) in 1996. Post-Whitney, the artist hung out with a band of other emerging decade-defining NYC talents — not coincidentally, fellow 2015 Dallas Arts Week participants Nate Lowman (Dallas Contemporary headliner, though August 23) and Dan Colen (now up at James Cope’s And Now gallery, through June 27).

How did Cluley and Clem — who has been living and working in his birthplace, Paris, Texas, for the past five years — connect? As the recently minted gallerist relays, “I met Chivas when I was working with Rob Pruitt on his exhibition at Dallas Contemporary. Chivas was newly living back in Paris, Texas, and came to support Rob, his longtime friend. Not long after, Chivas was curated into a group video exhibition at Dallas Contemporary. ‘Los Americanos’ — six Texas based artists working with video.”

Clem was immediately on Cluley’s wish list. “As soon as I started making plans to open the gallery, I knew I wanted to do a project with Chivas. He was one of the first artists I called, and he was immediately on board and excited to work together.”

Despite the protagonist’s cinematic prowess, don’t expect video to make an appearance at Clem’s solo Dallas debut. In lieu of presenting some of the artist’s edgier works — which involve glitter and vomit and also a car wash with the artist splayed out upon a vehicle being hosed down — Cluley has taken a more minimalist approach, concentrating on three sculptures and seven canvases, which removes Clem from some of his surrounding hype.

The trinity of totemic sculptures being exhibited — formed from a melange of stacked VHS tapes (an ongoing series raiding the refrigerator of box-office fodder, from Oscar contenders to B-list releases) — speak to the artist’s fascination with the continuous flood of American culture and its detritus. More alluring perhaps are the canvases of glitter suspended in resin, which evoke all sorts of analogies yet are surprisingly understated in their flat vastness; they remind this viewer of a petrochemical spill or geological incursion upon the West Texas plains.

The response, gaged in terms of sales, has been encouraging. “We are particularly excited about one of the ‘Totem’ sculptures going into a grand entrance in a collector’s home in the Park Cities,” says Cluley. Expect a return engagement: “Chivas and I have already started talking about plans for our next project together … Stay tuned,” reveals the gallerist.

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