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Arts / Galleries

Dallas’ 2018 Art Stars — The Bold Artists Whose Work Made a Real Impact on the City

BY // 12.21.18

The do-it-yourself thread that ran through the DNA of Dallas from 2012 to 2015 has long since eroded. In it’s place, blue-chip galleries, art fairs and the state’s museums has picked up the slack. Some of the most dynamic installations and curatorial choices have came from the type of institutions active in art markets on the coasts.

This is a list of my favorite exhibitions across Dallas in 2018 and includes shows at major museums, fine art galleries and community colleges. Many of these exhibitions include artists who were integral in the DIY muscle a few years back.

Keer Tanchak’s Buttons/Crowns at The Cliff Gallery

Canadian-born Keer Tanchak is one of Texas’ best painters, whose work simultaneously riffs on and pays respects to the decadence of the 18th century French Rococo movement. Since taking over curatorial duties of the Cliff Gallery, the exhibition space inside Oak Cliff’s Mountain View Community College, performance artist and curator Alison Starr has pushed the academic space to another level.

Showing an artist of Tanchak’s magnitude, as she comes off a solo show at The Dallas Contemporary in 2017, in her home neighborhood of Oak Cliff no less, is exactly the kind of art happening that makes Dallas great. Imagine the young minds molded anew after a close-reading of Tanchak’s work after class.

We can only hope for more exhibitions of this cultural significance in 2019.

Keer Tanchak’s “Hania,” 2017, at the Dallas Contemporary (Courtesy the artist and the Dallas Contemporary)

 

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Jeff Gibbons’ Noodle in the Wind at Conduit Gallery

Jeff Gibbons is one of the most interesting and potent artists to call Dallas home. As one-third of the braintrust behind Culture Hole, Gibbons has been pushing the city’s culture forward since his Deep Ellum Window projects with fellow artist, Justin Ginsberg in 2013.

Those allowed Dallas artists to take over derelict spaces in Deep Ellum (well before the gentrification explosion of today) to host some of the best and brightest art shows of this century.

This winter at Conduit Gallery, Gibbons effortlessly constructs hyper-personal poems built out of form and tension. Standing like apparitions throughout the gallery, dummies struttingly realer than most of us, stand, lay and tumble towards stillness, mocking, begging to be touched, acknowledged, spoken to.

Visual Artist Giovanni Valderas Announcing his run for Dallas City Council

In a year of high-profile art happenings the most inspiring gesture came not from the gallery, but from Oak Cliff artist and activist Giovanni Valderas throwing his name in the running for City Council in his home base of District 1. Valderas is known for his “little sad houses” or “Casita Tristes” — paper mache sculptures utilizing the techniques of piñata making which take gentrification to task through their placement in areas of Oak Cliff rife with displacement.

Valderas is taking his years of vocal activism against dangerous economic policy by the City of Dallas to action, making his run in the municipal election next May a vital one for both the arts community he serves as mentor to and the Latino community he walks vigilant with.

Ariel Davis’ Work at Brewing Arts Festival

It was the first iteration of the Arlington arts festival, in a city trying to reverse the perception as a culture vacuum. While inaugural bumps and bruises were felt in trying to do a lot of new things at once, there was a patience taken to who the organizers reached out to for collaboration.

Selecting Fort Worth’s Art Tooth collaboration paid dividends in bringing an established element to first time fest. Painter Ariel Davis, a member of Art Tooth was part of an installation inside of an unused retail space.

Her work, “Hannah”, depicted a young woman surfing the malaise of leisure. Reclined on the couch with her heads between her fists and her feet ankle deep in pillows, the scene depicted a quiet moment in life. A moment out of millions, captured elegantly by Davis who lets us witness vulnerability and boredom in a moment that would otherwise soon be forgotten.

Nina Chanel Abney’s FOCUS Exhibition at The Fort Worth Modern

Within the stoic museum programming of North Texas, the FOCUS series at The Fort Worth Modern proves to be where art lovers can catch a glimpse of the future. The museum utilizes the series to highlight artists of color making noise on a global scale.

Chicago’s Nina Chanel Abney’s buoyant paintings dissecting race, gender and modern America through color and line was the most beautiful and challenging show to spend extended time with this year.

Part of the fun of visiting the series is it’s placement within the museum. You usually must traverse through the ongoing “big” show up at the moment to find your way to the back of the main downstairs gallery. But once there, the fun really starts.

Nina Chanel Abney
The distinction of best exhibtion by a national artist belongs to Nina Chanel Abney’s FOCUS show at the Fort Worth Modern.

The Culture Hole series at The Power Station

The non-profit Power Station, where Culture hole is hosted, has been an excellent source of contemporary exhibitions since 2011. Culture Hole co-creators Jeff Gibbons, Danny Skinner and Gregory Ruppe saw potential below a metal lid, six feet underground. This is where most of the exhibitions are hosted — a few times a year, for one night.

Sometimes you’ll catch a once-in-a-lifetime musical happening, other times a surfing contest inside a kiddy pool, and perhaps even an omelette bar, which artist Shelby David Meier hosted this summer. The only way to find out is to go down the hole.

Brandon Thompson’s Broke Def Boyz Off at PRP

The best young painter in the city hails from South Dallas. Cedar Hill to be exact. And his paintings are beautiful love letters to the radio towers, football fields and front porches that make up the milieu of the slow-moving suburb.

Brandon Thompson’s work reads as a family album you would take to your grave. One filled with grandmothers, baby mommas and gang bangers. These are people he loves and commemorates with Matisse like depictions of a day in the life.

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