Touring The Dallas Art Scene with the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas.
The non-profit Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas organization put together a bus tour and shuttled area art lovers to various galleries, studios and the home collections of curators this past weekend — and, though it wasn't exactly cheap to attend ($50 a person), it was certainly an enlightening affair.
The open-to-anyone tour (which, granted, boasts a limited ticket capacity) began promptly at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Galleri Urbane. It was here, amongst complimentary coffee and the amazing artistic work of Jessica Drenk, that tourists were introduced to their host and art enthusiast, Hampton Burwick.
Over the course of the day, Burwick would kindly lead this small collection of people through four more stops: Carlos Donjuan's studio, Kirk Hopper Fine Art gallery, The Public Trust and the home and collection of Alan Kagan.
As a host Burwick was colorful: While riding the tour's bus over to Oak Cliff, he dismissed the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge's supposed “bridge to nowhere” designation, laughing at those who claim that Oak Cliff could use a Starbucks to help get people to visit the other side of the landmark.
And, once over the bridge and settled across the street from the Belmont Hotel at Carlos Donjuan's studio, his point was proven. Suddenly, everyone seemed fascinated with the neighborhood.
Rightfully so. Carlos Donjuan, member of Dallas' notorious Sour Grapes crew, has been long known to humbly open his studio to visitors, and, on this occasion, he did so while simultaneously teaching a frame-building class in the back of his space. Still, as his guests curiously investigated all parts of his studio — from the art to the toys to the arrangement alone — he took time to speak to his momentary visitors.
It didn't take long for him to get to his back story, explaining his early involvement in graffiti and his evolution into using watercolor on wood. The tour group was especially fascinated with his watercolor efforts; Donjuan uses an incredible amount of layering to make his colors pop, as the wood medium he works on absorbs a lot of the water from the painting method. Another fun reveal: His biggest buyer is none other than Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame. Marin even recently graced one of Donjuan's Houston shows. Their relationship is a tight one; Marin personally calls up Donjuan any time he wants more work.
Clearly, this first stop impressed. The viewer response at Donjuan's studio was so positive, in fact, that a few stragglers almost had to be dragged onto the bus to keep the tour on schedule.
At the next stop, Kirk Hopper Fine Art in Deep Ellum, the scene was less colorful, albeit still quite a moving one.
The silence was heavy and awe evident among all of the tour's guests while taking in Ledelle Moe's work in the main gallery room. Moe's efforts focus on two scales — the gigantic and the small. Her large-scale figures were made of earth from all parts of the globe. She connects with a place, takes a part of it, and eventually combines all found natural elements into a cement-like mixture for sculpting.
Hers colossal figures in particular represented transition and displacement. Moe's mother and sister, both recently passed away, were the focus. Interestingly, the sculptures on display here were so massive that they traveled in separate large pieces and were assembled just for this show. The smaller figures, on the other hand, were more easily shipped and more reminiscent of ancient fertility goddess sculptures, albeit from a more contemporary perspective.
In the smaller room of Kirk Hopper was the work of Vince Jones — found objects perfectly mounted cohesively, with a piece of work for each of the eleven songs on the Cat Stevens record, When the Children Play.
It was pretty fascinating. Each piece was made of different materials — some collage-like, although one wouldn't necessarily notice that effect unless they were up close to the work.
The last of the gallery stops came just up the road at The Public Trust. Over a delicious catered lunch and in a room filled with work by artist Shepard Fairey, gallery director Brian Gibb supplied stories from his own history and from Fairey's. Specfically, he explained Fairey's evolution in mediums over time, especially as contrasted against the growing popularity of his work.
Since all of Fairey's work at The Public Trust is for sale, some travelers treated themselves to the more affordable, limited 18×24″ prints on hand. Later, Gibb explained, he expected those printed to go for upwards of $500 on eBay. But that reveal wasn't Gibbs' last. Instead, while leaving, everyone on the tour surprised with a free T-shirt (or two) to be had from Gibbs' blind T-shirt box, which featured tees from area clothing brands such as DECADE Clothing, Fur Face Boy and Sleepy Dan.
Things were slightly more formal at the tour's very last stop, which came at Dallas-based art collector and home-builder Alan Kagan's home, where he and Burwick showcased his large and beautiful home collection of modern art, which Kagan has been compiling since the 1970s. His collection was a wide one, too, ranging from emerging to fairly developed mid-range artists.
The entire house was filled with gorgeous pieces — but the house itself was also an exquisite work of art. Kagan recently built the home, which includes a Zen garden, a pool, an outdoor shower and an incredibly clean and modern interior. From the foundation of the house to the collection of masks in the master bedroom, every square foot of Kagan's property had a story to tell.
“The biggest challenge is figuring out where everything is going to go,” Kagan explained before simply imploring his guests to “collect what moves you.”
Overall, the tour was spectacular. It can be easy for young Dallas artists to slip directly into the hip, pop art scenes cultivated at places like The Public Trust and We Are 1976. But it's also good to be reminded where artists get their influence from, to read a cohesive artist statements and to see fine art in well-constructed and respectable (read: haute) environments.
The CADD Bus Tour did a good job of mixing this up. If you can afford the 50 bones, we recommend taking the ticket to ride.