Dallas Art Fair 2013

By Brienne Walsh

Martin Kobe, Untitled, 2011, Courtesy Brand New Gallery and the artist Filip Dujardin, Untitled (2009), Highlight Gallery Michelle Grabner, Untitled, 2012, Courtesy of The Green Gallery, Milwaukee

When people think of Dallas, they usually think big hair, big portions and big cars. Some of that was present at the Dallas Art Fair this past week, although the general air was of a sort of efficient, branded elegance. And there were many familiar art world faces at the booths, which included wares from eighty galleries around the world.

In general most of the art was collector friendly — lots of canvases and lightboxes, with the occasional sculptural installation. The big boys bought booths near the entrance but the most interesting galleries were tucked away in the back corners of the two-storied Fashion Industry Gallery, where the event was held. At Hosfelt Gallery there was a triptych drawing by Lordy Rodriguez that depicted a map of the world not as it is, but rather as Rodriguez wishes it would be – with Houston, where all of his family lives, but a few miles from Williamsburg. Next door at Hosfelt Gallery, from San Francisco, a robot by Alan Rath, a former MIT engineer, beckoned from a corner. Composed of flimsy mechanised arms and pink boa feathers, the piece shimmied, sashayed and flirted with viewers like a stripper – or even better, Beyoncé in a music video. It might not have been the most intellectual work at the fair, but I certainly fell in love with it.

At Carrie Secrist, from Chicago, Anne Lindberg had installed a work titled Shift Grey (2013). Consisting of cottons strings in colors of grey, pale green and cream, which were tacked to one corner of the booth, and then pulled to another corner to create a sort of linear cobweb, the piece recalled both the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt and the paintings of Agnes Martin writ in 3-D. “People sometimes respond to my work by breaking out dancing or filling up with tears,” Lindberg told me. I did neither –rather, I tottered along with my notepad to C. Grimaldis Gallery from Baltimore, which was showing some trippy, mirrored lightboxes by Korean artist Chul Hyun Ahn, strongly redolent of similar works by Leo Villareal and Ivan Navarro.

Easy to miss were two photographs at Highlight Gallery by Filip Dujardin, a Belgian architectural photographer who, much like Lordy Rodriguez, manipulates the real world to fit his own fantasies. In Untitled (2009), he mashed up elements from a number of different apartment buildings to create a structure that looked like the messed up offspring of a Le Corbusier housing project and Montreal’s model housing complex Habitat 67, designed by architect Moshe Safdie – and I say messed up in a positive way, because it was mesmerizing.

Outside of the fair there were coinciding events at a number of the art institutions around the city. A Nathan Mabry show opened at the Nasher Sculpture Center, and a show by Dan Rees show opened at the Goss-Michael Foundation, an institution devoted, strangely, to showing emerging British contemporary artists. Dallas Contemporary was staging an exhibition called Seven which was curated by, you might have guessed, seven galleries that included BravinLee programs, P.P.O.W. and Postmasters. At the Power Station, an old industrial building located in an artsy neighbourhood north of downtown, artists Tobias Madison, Emanuel Rossetti and Stefan Tcherpnin created a two story installation that consisted of flooding the top floor of the space so that it dripped into messy puddles on the ground floor beneath it. Navigating around that in high heels was no small feat — but there was something hypnotically soothing about all the plopping water. The Power Station was founded by Alden Pinnell, an entrepreneur who co-founded skin care company SkinCeuticals and who is one of Dallas’s eight or so mega collectors.

These collectors also include the aforementioned Deedie & Rusty Rose, who opened their incredible home to the press one perfect sunny morning. Designed by architect Antoine Predock, and edged into a tiered landscape alongside a waterfall, the concrete compound held works by Gabriel Orozco, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, Ree Morton and Gordon Matta Clark among many others. Although the collection held much to admire, what really stopped the press in their tracks was a tiny painting by the former President of the United States, George W Bush. For those who don’t know, Dubya has taken up painting in his retirement – recently, the Internet was flooded with hacked images of supposed early works, which included a scene in which he is depicted naked from the back in a shower, his face revealed in a tiny hanging mirror. The Roses have been close friends of the Bushes since the late 1980s, when they bought the Texas Rangers baseball team, together. Dubya’s painting depicted the Roses’ two dogs sleeping on the kitchen floor.

Art fairs are never the best conditions in which to view art but it was hard to find things to dislike about the Dallas art fair, the mostly good art enhanced by beautiful weather and friendly and generous people. If fairs make galleries enough money to free them up to discover emerging talent and mount daring exhibitions in their main spaces, maybe art fairs taking a more prominent place in the art world isn’t such a bad thing – or maybe that would be hoping for too much.