Culture / Travel

Must-See Texas Art Exhibits That Are Well Worth the Summer Road Trip

Take an Art Pilgrimage to These Destination Cities

BY // 06.28.21

If wanderlust has struck, might we suggest one of the most American of adventures: a summer road trip. PaperCity culture/style editor Billy Fong has mapped out a list of must-see art exhibitions, all within a day’s drive of Dallas and Houston. So, gas up, enlist a friend or two, and hit your ignition button. By the way, we would have included Marfa, but we’re sure everyone is already tuned into that hipster Mecca and made the requisite pilgrimage to Prada Marfa — #beentheredonethat. We suggest you do as Frost did, and take the one less traveled by. Then finish your summer art pilgrimage in one of Texas’ art Meccas, Austin.

 

Oklahoma Art Exhibitions
Ebony Iman Dallas’ “And Justice For …,” 2014, at the Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City. (Courtesy the artist)

Oklahoma City

“We Believed in the Sun,” Oklahoma Contemporary

If you haven’t yet visited this spectacular new arts center, situated on a 4.6-acre campus in the heart of the city, then wait no longer. The stunning 54,000-square-foot modern building, designed by architect Rand Elliott, opened during the pandemic. This exhibition’s title echoes a quote from Civil Rights icon Clara Luper: “I came from a family of believers. We believed in the sun when it didn’t shine. We believed in the rain when it wasn’t raining. My parents taught me to believe in a God I couldn’t see.” The show pairs Oklahoma-born Ron Tarver, who recently received the 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in photography, with Oklahoma City artist Ebony Iman Dallas. Together, they provide an intergenerational perspective on Black Oklahomans’ struggles for equal rights.

Through September 20, oklahomacontemporary.org.

Retail therapy: Don’t think that just because you’ve left Dallas, there will be no shopping. Unexpected locales often have some hidden gems. Check out Balliets in the tony Nichols Hills neighborhood for ready-to-wear (Stella McCartney, M Missoni), droolworthy shoes (Aquazzura, Nicholas Kirkwood), and new and vintage bags (Chanel, Louis Vuitton). My chic Diorcombat-boots-on-the-ground Okie girl, Dana Garner, says to ask for Teresa Sanders when shopping.

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Balliets, 6443 Avondale, Oklahoma City, balliets.com.

 

Crystal Bridges Art Exhibitions
Alice Neel’s “Hugh Hurd,” 1964, at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Bentonville, Arkansas

“Crystal Bridges at 10,” Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Since its opening in November 2011, the museum that Alice (Walton, for those not in the know) built has welcomed more than 5 million visitors. The building, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, and the expansive grounds are a glorious testament to what a sizable Walmart inheritance can achieve. The exhibition “Crystal Bridges at 10” is an immersive experience with 10 unique art vignettes. Become part of Maxfield Parrish’s famous Symbolist painting The Lantern Bearers (1908) via a life-size tableau vivant. Want to see art being created before your eyes? Check out the gallery with Fayetteville artist Ziba Rajabi, who creates new works during most public hours for the run of the show. If the weather isn’t cooperating, don’t fret: You can still stroll through a portion of the exhibition that’s an audio/visual experience inspired by the Ozark forest that surrounds the museum.

July 11 – September 27, crystalbridges.org.

 

Grace Museum Art Exhibitions
Lilian Garcia-Roig’s “Vine, Branch & Root Menagerie,” 2008 at The Grace Museum, Abilene.

Abilene

“The Grace Collects Women Artists,” The Grace Museum

If you want to avoid the traffic in a big metroplex, consider Abilene, a little hamlet well worth the visit. The Grace Museum is housed in a historic 1909 building that was once a hotel on the railroad line between Fort Worth and El Paso. The Grace Hotel was renamed The Drake in 1946, but it fell into disrepair when downtown Abilene declined in the ‘60s. In 1987, the Abilene Preservation League purchased the property. It took on a few iterations before the 55,000-square-foot building was renovated to become The Grace Museum. The institution has a long history of investing in women artists for its permanent collection. More than 100 works of art including paintings, fine art prints, and photography are included in this exhibition. Get ready for some incredible pieces by Lee Krasner, Alice Neel, and Mary Ellen Mark.

Through October 2, thegracemuseum.org.

Also on the itinerary: Just a short drive from Abilene is Buffalo Gap (population just over 600), home of the renowned Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Tom Perini’s namesake restaurant, which opened in 1983, is a carnivore’s nirvana and a favorite of past presidents (George W. Bush had them cater the annual Congressional Picnic at the White House while he was in office) and celebrities (Robert Duvall has been spotted numerous times at a corner table). If your mouth is watering just thinking about it, Perini Ranch (as well as Bergdorf Goodman) ships its meats all over the country.

Perini Ranch Steakhouse, 3002 FM 89, Buffalo Gap, periniranch.com.

 

Austin Contemporary
Torbjørn Rødland’s “Dancer,” 2009, at The Contemporary Austin. (Courtesy the artist)

Austin

“Torbjørn Rødland: Bible Eye,” The Contemporary Austin

This little jewel in downtown Austin currently features the photographs of Norwegian artist Torbjørn Rødland, whose work pays homage to the seductive allure of commercial and fashion photography — but with a conceptual bent, presenting the everyday through an uncanny perspective. For this presentation, Rødland displays a selection of recent and older works alongside new images created in Austin.

Through August 15, thecontemporaryaustin.org.

Where to score a res: How did we make it this long? Texas now has its own Soho House. Entrepreneur cum disruptor cum bon vivant Nick Jones’ eagerly anticipated outpost of the member’s-only institution of revelry and respite is just a stone’s throw from Lady Bird Lake on South Congress Avenue. Beyond spaces to eat and drink, the three-story club has a rooftop pool and bar, screening room, and 46 bedrooms. Designed by Soho House Design, it’s classic Texas Modernism with a contemporary Spanish aesthetic. The art collection includes works by 72 artists born, based, or trained in Texas, from the established (Deborah Roberts) to emerging talent (Tsz Kam and Santiago Escobedo Garcia). Like all Soho Houses, you must be a member to take advantage of all the amenities (hotel rooms are open to the public), so apply soon before the Austin techies take every last slot.

1011 S. Congress, sohohouse.com.

 

Yoshitomo Nara
Yoshitomo Nara is a leading artist of the Superflat movement. (Courtesy of Nara, Blum & Poe, and Pace Gallery)

Dallas

“Yoshitomo Nara — i forgot their names and often can’t remember their faces but remember their voices well,” Dallas Contemporary

One of the preeminent leaders of Japan’s Superflat movement and pretty much a darling of the art world Yoshitomo Nara’s current exhibition has been drawing record crowds. This mid-career show brings together a vast selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures from 2006 to the present which often feature his playful and slightly deranged children and animals. The Dallas Contemporary’s adjunct curator shared exclusively with PaperCity — “most of the artworks in the show were made in the last two years. The exhibition includes several impressive large-scale paintings on wood. There are references to popular culture, the street, activism, and music.” Who can’t love an image of a young girl, who looks like she could play bass for an all-female punk rock band, with the words “fuck bout everything” scrawled below her.  Also on view, some larger-than-life sculptures that seem like they might be suited for your favorite amusement park. Be prepared to have a smile that lasts for hours upon leaving the galleries. Through August 22, dallascontemporary.org.

Where to sip a cocktail: The Dallas food scene is always adding new additions and we are eagerly awaiting the opening of Carbone in the Dallas Design District this fall. But until then, after you finish up at the Contemporary’s Nara exhibition, head down to the burgeoning Bishop Arts neighborhood for a cocktail at the newly opened Elephant Bar housed within Âme, the utterly chic restaurant fusing Indian fare with French culinary techniques. You might ask, “what pairs well with a poppy Japanese artist?” We’d suggest their Boulevard de Clichy made with Pierre Ferrand cognac, Rittenhouse rye whiskey, curaçao and Gran Classico bitters. Or just indulge in one of the lounge’s myriad selection of bubbles. 418 N Bishop Ave, amerestaurantdallas.com.

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