Thursday, December 17, 2015

Contemporary Art in Dallas,Texas 2015

We spent a pleasant afternoon visiting galleries in Dallas. The warehouse district between the city and the Trinity River has become a mecca for local artists and galleries. Dallas is pretty cheap for artists to live and there is (I imagine) a good source of support in the local wealthy community.

First up was the Dallas Contemporary, which is a large old warehouse structure that has been converted into a flexible space.

Adriana Varej√£o from Brazil does tremendous work .. in three distinct series. I particularly loved the large landscape works, which are almost in 3D, with the surface of the earth projecting from the canvas. Very striking. There were a couple of other important exhibitions at the Contemporary, including striking photographs from Synchrodogs.

Color Wheels

Colored portraits

Photography from Synchrodogs

A series from the USA
Then on to several galleries. Of particular interest was the exhibition at Circuit12 Gallery. We were both taken with the work of Matthew Zefeldt in a group exhibition.  He is a young artist who brings together traditional art forms of oil painting and the digital. All is paintings are done by hand in oil, but seem on first view to be a digital collage. Just really funny and challenging. I was surprised that they had not sold.

Matthew Zefeldt

Matthew Zefeldt

Elvis Memorial Garden, Memphis, TN, November 2015

When in Memphis (and I missed posting this page), we took an early morning visit to Gracelands to see the memorial gardens where Elvis is buried. The house and gardens were at there best. And interesting to view the  memorial gardens.
Gracelands at dawn

The memorial garden

The memorial garden

Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, December 2015

From Houston, we made our way north to Dallas and Fort Worth. I was rather taken with Fort Worth -- perhaps because it is not so overwhelming as Dallas.

On the night we arrived, we drove out to Fort Worth to Rahr and Sons Brewery to listen to the young opera singers from Fort Worth Opera. We were expecting thirty or so at the Brewery .. wrong, wrong, wrong. There was a crush of two to three hundred people, most drinking beer and talking, but some listening to the opera. It was a very difficult environment for the performers but they labored mightly against the odds. A friendly group of people gave us several hints on where to visit in Forth Worth.

Hundreds of people at the brewery, many lining up for beer (of course!)

Singing opera in a brewery? That is tough!
On the Friday afternoon after I had presented at the University of North Texas, we headed back to the Stockyards District at Fort Worth to see the running of the longhorns. This celebrates a time in Texas history -- a very short time, as it happens, of only a dozen years -- when longhorns were driven to Fort Worth for sale. Twice a day, a group of longhorns are driven down Stockyards Boulevard for the tourists. Interesting to see.

The longhorns being run down Stockyards Boulevard. Notice something wrong in this picture? Look carefully.

In the stockyards

At night, we went to see the rodeo, that is on each weekend year round. I had last been to see a rodeo in the 1990s -- actually, across town at the Mesquite Rodeo. The rodeo is down to earth -- literally. You have to take it for what it is.

At the rodeo

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Museum District, Houston, December 2015

One of the great things about Houston is that all the (many) major museums are within walking distance -- or at least, they are in a few minutes by car. We visited the Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Asia Society Texas Center on different days. The Menil Collection was funded by the de Menil family with oil wealth. It has a stupendous collection of surrealist art and modern American art. Unfortunately, no photographs are allowed, so look up their website. The main building is by Renzo Piano and a striking example of his typical pavilions (and see my post on Fort Worth for another pavilion).

The Contemporary Arts Museum had an exhibition of contemporary Texas design, which was lively and challenging. Who knew there was such as thing as contemporary Texas design!?

And the   Asia Society Texas Center is in a relatively new building by Yoshio Taniguchi, who did the renovation of MOMA in NYC. The Center had an exhibition of contemporary art from Asia which was nothing less than stunning.

Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich works in rattan

The building

Seon Ghi Bahk works with charcoal, strung on nylon line from the ceiling. I have seen nothing like it. You have to stand and look at these works for quite some time.

Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich works in rattan

Mineko Grimmer’s sculptural sound installations

Every 11 minutes, the pond on the second level has mist .. adds a mystical flavor to the building

Houston, Texas, November and December 2015

From New Orleans we headed due west to Houston. In the week after Thanksgiving, things were pretty quiet and we took it rather easy, going to the gym and three movies. It is the Oscar season, so too many good movies to see. Houston is a huge metropolis with ridiculous freeways and interchanges. Oh, and no town planning. But still interesting to visit for a few days.

We did take in a concert at The Match is a brand new $25m venue in Houston. Michel Doneda on saxophone & Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion. New music in Houston, of all places. Tatsuya does incredible things with the percussion. On the Sunday of Thanksgiving there were still sixty or so in the hall. The Match is obviously going to be important in the performance life of the city with several flexible halls for music and theater. 

Preservation Hall, New Orleans, November 2015

Preservation Hall is the Mecca for lovers of traditional New Orleans Jazz of the early 20th century. I had visited Preservation Hall in the 1990s and was keen to go again. It is just a tiny room where you are packed in, close to the players and the rest of the audience. I'm sure the hall has not seen a lick of paint in the last half century. But the music is not to be missed. We lined up on one night but could not get in and so went another night, queuing for an hour to listen to one of their one hour long concerts. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band travels widely, but there is nothing to compare with listening in the Hall itself.

On the street

Waiting for the musicians
After the concert.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

New Orleans, November 2015

We made our way from Memphis to New Orleans, a long drive in the truck. We like to be in to the campground by dark and we just made it. It was Thanksgiving, so not much was on -- but the French Quarter was very busy as always. We were able make several trips in what was a pretty quiet time for us. We had a good look around the Lower Ninth Ward -- in fact our (excellent) RV park was only a mile from the Lower Ninth Ward. We were able to join in to the Nine Times Social Aide & Pleasure Club's annual second line parade in the Upper Ninth Ward (I will post photos).

Particularly enjoyable was to take the trolley from the terminus of the Saint Charles line to Canal Street via the Garden District. It takes nearly 45 minutes to run the complete distance but to see the 19th century homes is a must see.

New Orleans is the most European of cities in the USA .. and all the best for that. These shots were taken at Jackson Square in the French Quarter .. there is, of course, music everywhere in the city. 

Andrew Jackson statue


National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN, November 2015

Of the many museums and galleries that we have visited on this trip, the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis must be the most unusual. As the name suggests, the museum is devoted only to works in metal. It is set in several old mansions, looking down on the Mississippi River. They typically have one exhibition as well as items from the permanent collection. 

The featured artist was Linda Threadgill, who makes the most beautiful ornamental items and jewelry. She works in silver and gold, primarily. To be seen to be believed.

The ornamental gates of the museum

A chalice


BBQ in Memphis, TN, November 2015

We had wanted to eat ribs in Memphis, the ribs capital of the world. The NYT recommended the Bar-B-Q shop .. and it was excellent. No dinner that night.

Half with a rub only and half with sauce

Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, November 2015

We visited the Dixon Gallery and Gardens when in Memphis. This is a private gallery, in the house. The gallery has a collection of (at least what it seemed to me) pretty ordinary US impressionist art. What was stunning was the exhibition or massive ceramic sculptures from Jun Kaneko in the garden. Kaneko is a Japanese American sculptor who has his studio in Omaha, Nebraska. 

There was a particular connection for us with this art as there are four of his pieces in the courtyard at the Honolulu Museum of Art, so we immediately recognized  the work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Memphis, Tennessee, November 2015

From Nashville, on to Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is famous for the blues and the home of the blues is Beale Street. We visited Beale Street on a quiet Monday .. but the music in each of the several Honky Tonk bars we went to was just too loud. Does music in a bar with 10 people have to be so loud that you could hear it in Nashville? Interesting to visit but not to listen to music, unless you have earplugs -- or are aged under 30.

We ended up at the Withers photography collection, which is right on Beale Street. Ernest Withers was a black news photographer who  photographed current events in Memphis over 60 years. The photographs are both interesting and challenging. Some of the photographs were taken in Beale Street right outside the collection at a time that it was often used for civil rights demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s.

Beale Street on a quiet evening

Frist Center for the Visual Arts Nashville, Tennessee, November 2015, USA

Frist Center for the Visual Arts is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is built in the 1930s Central Post Office. A fantastic beaux arts structure, well converted into modern art museum. There is a nice write up here.

We saw an excellent set of exhibitions including Michelangelo drawings, Islamic art from the Museum of Art in Boston and modern art from Shinique Smith, an artist from NYC I had not previously heard of. She does very interesting work with fabric and paint -- exciting.  

The beaux arts exterior in the main entrance on Broadway.

This is the original lobby, where the public bought stamps. The aluminium frieze work is very interesting.

The upper stairs are an addition in the renovation -- nicely done.

Exterior at dusk

The entrance at dusk