By Michael Westfried
Photos by Michael Westfried
I set out towards the Design District without the greatest expectations. I have been going to Dragon Street to view the artwork on and off for about five years and I am almost always disappointed. Tonight was different.
Dragon Street holds special interest to me as an artist. Dragon Street says something about the art scene in Dallas. It isn’t representative of the Dallas art scene as a whole but as it grows and shrinks it shows the impulses of the Dallas art world. Dragon Street is located in the Dallas Design District and houses an array of architecture and design firms along with furniture shops and just about everything that you might imagine might be found in a place called the design district. In a sense, Dragon Street is a very high-end outlet mall. On gallery night, which is the first Saturday of the month, crowds of people fill up the galleries to drink free wine and mingle with the cultured “elite” of Dallas society or at least they seem to be well-groomed, affluent and often all around good-looking members of the Dallas community. The Craig-head Green gallery, the Marty Walker gallery, Artzen and few other un-apologetically decorative art galleries are packed on opening night. I assume that free wine is more of a draw then one might think because I can’t imagine them being there for the artwork. If these decorative galleries were the only galleries on Dragon Street I would never go there. The work is contrived, boring and trite. It does not add to the dialogue of Art. Really, the quality of work is one step above the work that litters the homes of north Dallas, which are primarily painted from photographs of Italian Villas and the like by sweat shop workers in China.
It seems as if Dallas is perpetually painted as an emerging art hub. Great art is shown in Dallas. Unfortunately, most of it is imported. It’s not that Dallas doesn’t produce talented artists but Dallas doesn’t seem to have the mechanism to push talented artists to the forefront. Many artists and art lovers have seen this gap in culture and have tried to fill the space and many have been largely unsuccessful. Dragon Street has been the home to several galleries that have come and gone, leaving behind remnants of hope and broken dreams.
It seems as if Dallas is perpetually painted as an emerging art hub. Great art is shown in Dallas. Unfortunately, most of it is imported.
I don’t think that hope is lost. Some people are still trying. So far, the newcomer, Plush Gallery has disappointed me. The work seems… vapid. Hey, if you drink enough of that free wine, everything gets blurry and interesting anyway…
My discovery of the night was the 1111 Gallery. I have to give a warning before I continue. There is controversy surrounding the gallery owner. For some, this is an issue but at the same time, I believe that artwork stands by itself. I was happy to see artwork that interested me showing in a Dallas art gallery. Andrew K. Currey is a painter living with and creating art about Type One Diabetes. The show was titled “A New Alchemy” The work shows images of the machinery and drugs involved in the life of a diabetic as well as animals that relate to diabetes in one way or another. For example, there were bees and an a painting of a pig. I imagine that the pig has to do with the creation of insulin and that the bees are relevant because they produce honey which has very high sugar content. There also seemed to be references to God which I always find interesting.
The prices on the work were very reasonable and the young artist responsible for creating these drawings and paintings seems to be interested in saying something about the world today. This is a commendable goal and shows true artistry. Saying something about life is a lot farther then many if not most artists get. In fact, there was a book at the gallery that had images of the artist’s work and explanations of what each image meant. It was kind of nice really…
I have to pick out some things that bothered me but don’t let this turn you off. I tend to pick apart almost any work of art that I see and if I were criticizing the artwork from some of the other galleries on Dragon Street I wouldn’t be picking apart, I would tearing to shreds. Some of Andrew K. Currey’s work seemed a little bit rushed. The draftsmanship was a little bit messy. The work deals with grand themes but the figures are created in a very youthful style and I might guess that the artist is a fan of anime. The washes in the background are undeveloped and the image as a whole was often not processed enough as a whole. Figures float in different background washes. To me, it seemed as if Andrew feels the pressure and pull that many artists feel, especially in Dallas, to make their art palatable to the Dallas consumers who seem to prefer the kind of artwork that they can hang in their kitchen. I think that it’s uncomfortable to have one foot in each boat. Once you start painting blood, I think that you can drop the decorative aspect. Instead of trying to be a decorative artist and a fine artist at the same time I think that the best thing is really imagine the future and see how you see yourself as an artist. I think that if you are a decorative artist that people will put your work on their walls if it fits their home. If you are a contemporary artist then maybe someday someone will build a home to fit your artwork.
I do think that Andrew is technically talented as a painter. He should not be ashamed of his show. To be honest, it was one of the most interesting shows that I have seen on Dragon Street in a very long time. I was very apply to discover it and I spent more time enjoying that artwork then I spent in all of the other galleries combined during the night. I commend Andrew for making his art meaningful and I recommend this show to anybody who loves the Art or just to anybody who likes free wine and crowds of people.