Dressed in a black, knee-length sweater dress, gold necklace and pointed, nude flats, I grab a fresh, pocket-sized notepad from my drawer of office things, stuff it into my little Cole Haan bag and head out of my bedroom. It's a Wednesday, about four o'clock, and while I feel a bit over-dressed for the time and day and curious as to if my mother will comment on my apparel, I'm charged and ready for the evening. After sleeping away most of my day off and only eating a bite of my leftover veggie WhichWich, it was time to get active and accomplish something. I'd dug out my two year planner from between a backpack and suitcase still strewn on the floor from when I moved back to Dallas three and a half weeks ago and sat on my bed flipping past the weeks since that time that I had slacked off and not planned or documented anything. Today was going to be a new day. I'd been hunting for all the current art happenings in the city and, after finding a show at Galleri Urbane of an LA artist who had created a body of work following a trip to Marfa, Texas, I positived that here was where I would start. Seeing as how the exhibit was closing in two days and the gallery in one hour, it was best to be off quickly.
My mother would be my art buddy. With my car dead for the umpteenth time, I'm unable to drive myself until my friend's father can come over to check it out on Saturday. Plus, this means a higher chance of getting her to stop by Cafe Express afterwards for tea and hummus. She quips at me when I enter the kitchen about this place being off I-35 towards Denton. With rush hour traffic we might not make it. Darn, I hadn't though of that. She quickly pours a mug of green tea into a plastic tumbler and I find the lid for her while she finds a straw. I'm happy inside to see that without knowing why I want to go to this show haste is still upon her and she's eager to make it in time for my sake. Within seconds, she slides on her shoes and we're out the door.
Galleri Urbane is in one of those warehouse areas where on first glance you can't tell what any of the buildings are and if they're even occupied, but also note that they're the kind of commercial real estate that's great for gallery space, just terrible for foot traffic. As we pull up, I think of this sad fact and my desire to one day have a combination studio/ storefront and the unlikelihood that anyone without specific knowledge and desire to visit such a place would probably ever come across it. Luckily, there are art lovers like me who are happy enough to trek out to these places. We park in front of one of three tall agave planters and walk up the short steps inside.
At first, no one is there. We walk through the unlocked door to see a guest book and a silent, unpopulated gallery. My mother signs it and I begin to slowly peruse around. And for the moment, it feels special. I like being left alone and trusted with the art like this. It's like the houses on Halloween where the owners are out but they're still sweet enough to leave a bowl of candy by the doorstep and, in return, every child is thankful enough to obey and just take two or three candies. Sometimes good faith can make for good people. Soon, however, I hear footsteps and notice an inch of light below a wall. The shadows of the footsteps appear and the wall surprisingly opens. I had expected the attendant to come around the hallway to my right that opens up behind a desk but, instead, the wall I had just been gazing upon suddenly moved towards me and I had to take a few steps back to avoid it. A man in a sriracha T-shirt appears and heads towards the front door to fumble with some magazines. We say our hellos and each resume our places. We, my mother and me, although moreso me than her, the awkwardly quiet gallery visitors who will very likely not purchase anything, and he, the awkwardly quiet gallery attendant who will sit in restless doubt at his desk, trying to occupy himself while being certain that we will likely not purchase anything. The moment is over and I become unsure of my ability to take notes or photos of the artwork but, I try to remain at ease and take everything in.
David Wilburn is the first artist at which whose work I look. I had come for Andrea Marie Breiling and her Rauschenberg-like combines, but am taken away by Wilburn's simplicity. Chunky, abstract, paper cutouts lay atop the bottom edge of a washy color field that neatly occupies a loosely square portion of a rectangle of muslin. The six or so pieces hang vertically among three walls, all embroidered with a type of blind contour-like geometric gesture that looks more like pencil until you get up close. Then you notice the splotches in the paint or that the muslin isn't on paper but perhaps a fabric backing. Other than the pungent, square-ish color field on each, the pieces are mainly monochromatic. The white paper on light tan muslin on white backing creates this field so flat you'd think they were drawings on paper rather than carefully layered, embroidered paintings. Only the paper cutouts give some hint of layering away as they cast pleasant shadows on the dark grey wall. The wall color was a great choice. The poppy pink, yellow-green and orange squares pair well with the cool grey. It is said that Impressionism is the most popular genre of art, and for what reason? Because the colors are so pretty to the general public. Like Monet's many lily paintings, the colors here are gentle, soft like the fabric they're on. The oddly shaped negative space of each square and gestural thread leaves some unknown thing to be remembered. Perhaps, taking after impressionism in more ways than one.
My mother calls me over to the hallway to see a couple pieces which turn out to not be in a hallway at all but a dead-ended narrow nook where more art resides. She has taken to an acrylic piece by Gail Peter Borden and its clean, resin shellac and a cut paper piece on the back wall. There's no tag to be found for it but I learn later that it's called Interleave and made of paper, wood and Plexiglas by sculptural artist Jessica Drenk who also has a driftwood-like item made of pencils on a podium in the gallery with Wilburn's work. I finally wander over to the far left gallery space to see Andrea's work. After lamenting my iPhone's loud shutter sounds while still not knowing how to mute it, I tuck it back away under a postcard that I pick up. There's nothing against taking photos of the work in galleries but, it's just one of things that, like taking photos of your food in public, makes you feel all touristy, like you'll be judged for not just living in the moment. I, however, am here for the specific purpose of this blog post and visiting a gallery I hadn't been to yet, so I try to remind myself it's high time I get over that shame.
Andrea's work is...brighter than expected. My mother calls it garish and seems to think it is too haphazard. Personally, I feel it is trying too hard to be Rauschenberg, or just Texan in general. Robert Rauschenberg is of course the beloved Texas-born artist famous for his ground-breaking mixed media painting and sculpture "combines" incorporating found objects. Not too long ago, I visited a wonderful show at the Cleveland Museum of Art exhibiting his work alongside Rachel Harrison's and, for better or worse, was hoping for something to the same effect. According to the gallery's description, Andrea's work in the show was created in response to experiences during her residency in Marfa, a tiny Texas town famed for its unusually high art content including two museums dedicated to serving the ideals of Donald Judd. This, however, felt a tad inauthentic. With the knowledge that the artist is LA-based, even with her being from Arizona, it feels like a girl who traveled abroad and returned naively behaving as if she lived there for years. The colors and textures are overwhelming and I find myself looking at her piece with a cowboy hat hanging on a lasso connected to a painting and envisioning her painting the blue brush strokes on the hat and stepping back and wondering what else she can add to make it work. I do think the work that follows this will be even better. If this work was created during a residency, it will be the work that follows, once she has had more time to absorb her takeways that will be all the more successful. I think actually just dunking the hat in paint or scraping away some of the layers of paint beyond the cliched rip or cut into the painting would exhibit a higher level of self-assuredness and intent. For now, I think she's still figuring things out but, I will be eager to see what she comes up with in the future.
Leaving the gallery, I notice a building with the acronym DAG on it, Dallas Auction Gallery. Another place I'll have to come back to, I think to myself. While I hadn't been able to tell what neighborhood we were in on the way there, within a few minutes I realize we are by Oak Lawn. We pass several furniture galleries and carpet stores unique to the Design District and pass Market Center and Turtle Creek before my mother announces she's lost. While the Arts District is a place to appreciate the arts, both performing and visual, the Design District is a place that services them, mainly interior designers, with all their framing, furnishing or upholstery needs. It's a place to buy things and get things done. Businessmen now stand on medians and sidewalks waiting to cross the street and get to their cars. Suddenly, my mother sees a place called Rodeo Goat, exclaims in joy, and whips the car around. While we'd been on the lookout for a Cafe Express she explains she'd heard about this place and written it down. She hadn't been able to find it another time so it was lucky that we happened upon it now. "Sorry Taylor," she says, "maybe they'll have veggie burgers." I brace myself for a dinner made up of side dishes.
We walk through a cold, dimly lit, country music playing restaurant and quickly notice the back patio and take our menus out. Even outside they have fans blasting though. I understand it's Texas, but come on y'all, it's November. There's no need for fans in 60 degree weather. The place is nice though. Somehow we went from being in a city to overlooking a long, green pasture. It's like having a picnic by a bayou. Surprisingly, the menu has lots of substitute options too. Beef patties can be swapped out for turkey, chicken, veggie or quinoa. My mother gets the Sugar Burger and a Tecate beer with lime while I get the Mother Blues with a veggie patty and a salted caramel pretzel milkshake. My mother tells the waitress our order while I step away to answer a phone call then runs to the car to get her blue jean jacket. We joke about who should get the privilege of wearing the jacket as we're both still chilly, and our burgers arrive. Honestly, delicious. We both have to hold back from eating them too quickly. I am exceptionally pleased with the amount of blue cheese on my burger. Usually people like to skimp on that but, this was perfect amount of blue cheese tang with sweet caramelized onions and cool coleslaw crunch. I go back inside to order fries to sop up some of the burger spillage that escaped my bun. The sun slowly sets in the distance and Johnny Cash plays followed shortly by the song Buffalo Soldier. My mother is honestly lamenting having consumed her burger so soon it was that good. It's not that we ate very fast at all but, with fries sold separately, the burgers got polished off within a few minutes. I believe hers had grilled peaches and bacon on it. The fries arrive during my last couple bites, and, alas, I accept that I am full beyond belief. The milkshake was good, maybe a little lacking just because if I hadn't known I might have just thought it was a vanilla milkshake. There was a little bit of caramel taste and something soggy every now and then that I am guessing was the pretzel but, overall, I got so full and dairy-ed out I didn't finish it.
On the way home, we pass Medieval Times and that place modeled after the London Crystal Palace and hit traffic. My mother is still riding the high of her burger discovery though. "That was a hit! A slam!"
first image courtesy of the artist's website