Your Show of Shows

Dallas-Fort Worth galleries bring art scene together with 4 must-see March shows

DFW galleries bring the art scene together with 4 must-see March shows

Mark Messersmith
Stargazer Still Life - Clear Vase, by Mark Messersmith, courtesy of Valley House Gallery. Photo courtesy Valley House Gallery
Frank X. Tolbert
White Pelican, by Frank X. Tolbert, at William Campbell Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy William Campbell Contemporary Art
John Hartell
Passer By, by John Hartell, courtesy of Valley House Gallery. Photo courtesy Valley House Gallery
Elise Eeraerts
Surfaces (étude), by Elise Eeraerts, at Cydonia Gallery. Photo courtesy Cydonia Gallery
Terri Thornton
Artist Terri Thornton working on her installation for Art Tooth and 500x Gallery's "Mind the Gap" collaboration. Photo courtesy of Art Tooth and 500x Gallery
Mark Messersmith
Frank X. Tolbert
John Hartell
Elise Eeraerts
Terri Thornton

For two cities so geographically entwined, the Dallas-Fort Worth art scenes still remain relatively siloed, with more intrepid talent bridging the divide to exhibit in both places.

This seems to be changing, most notably this March, when a Cowtown collective comes to Big D, and a beloved Arts District space relocates to a new venue on Fort Worth’s Crockett Street. Add in exhibitions from two of the oldest galleries in these two singular towns, and you have four artistic events to inspire spring fever for new art.

“Mind the Gap” at 500x Gallery presented in conjunction with Art Tooth
Opening reception
: March 18, 7-10 pm
Exhibition dates: March 18-April 2

Born of two former art collectives (the Exhibitionists and Bobby on Drums), the 9-month-old Art Tooth is devoted to making invigorating art accessible- while solidifying Fort Worth’s status as a world-class arts destination.

Last November’s whirlwind of an election got members Aimee Cardoso, Shasta Haubrich, Dee Lara, and Jay Wilkinson thinking, so when they were approached by 500x to bring their ideas to Dallas, exploring the role of arts in politics and community seemed just the subject to collaborate on.

“We saw what was happening in society, with so many people caught off-guard by the [voting] results,” explains co-director Lara. “It was very timely to stage an exhibition that discusses the pitfalls of being an artist in this climate. It was also important to attach a microgrant opportunity [to the show], because we wanted to have a discussion about what was happening beyond a gallery setting, where only 150 people come to an opening. We want to be a catalyst for other projects that continue this discussion.” 

For “Mind the Gap,” artist Terri Thornton (who is also curator of education at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) will unveil new work, and the collective Michelada Think Tank will facilitate a discussion of diversity in arts through a speed-dating event (complete with the drink that inspired their name). Other works by Christopher Blay and Giovanni Valderas will be on display, but Lara says William Sarradet’s contribution took the show’s theme is the “most literal,” with an engaging PowerPoint presentation shown on a loop alongside a video installation.

The whole experience is meant to be inspiring enough to continue the conversation amongst artists, writers, and curators, who are invited to submit proposals of 500 words or less with digital files that help address how artists can navigate the pitfalls of the current political climate. The contest will award a total of $5,000 in funds, and closes April 15 with the winners presented in a ceremony Saturday, May 13, at 1 pm at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts.

This isn’t all Art Tooth has up their sleeves for March — the quartet will also be presenting the work of Sean Miller in the group’s first solo exhibition, a multimedia extravaganza opening the 25th from 2 pm to midnight at FwBlackhouse. One of Fort Worth’s most exciting event spaces, the venue will provide the perfect backdrop for Miller’s light-emitting sculptures and video projections. 

“Surfaces,” Elise Eeraerts at Cydonia Gallery
Opening reception
: March 24, 6-8 pm
​Exhibition dates: March 24-April 22

Making its debut in September 2014, Cydonia Gallery has built a solid reputation for its ambitious programming and international focus. Like her conceptual stable of talent, gallery director Hanh Ho isn’t afraid to push things in ambitious new directions — in this case giving up her airy Design District space for new digs at 2955 Crockett St. in Fort Worth.

For Ho, the move to a smaller city made sense on several levels. 

“I’ve been working with the Fort Worth Arts Council for almost a year as a Grants Panelist, reviewing grants for cultural institutions in Fort Worth,” explains Ho. “The president, Karen Wiley, and development director, Shannon Roberts, exhibited a sincere interest in supporting my gallery’s mission. They embraced and encouraged our move. [Also,] my entire staff is from Fort Worth, all of who have been making a loyal commute for nearly three years. We have a following of Fort Worth collectors and visitors who engage with our programming, who have also been making a commute to our openings.” 

Ho tested the waters with a pop-up show about contemporary landscapes last September, which was enough of a success that she’s mounting Belgian artist Elise Eeraerts’ first U.S. solo show as her first foray in the new space. 

Focusing on a mix of porcelain sculptures, flat two-dimensional replicas of the sculptures, and scaled representations in print, Eeraerts plays with perception and dimensionality while serving as an homage to Neoclassicism and the precious building materials found in Greco-Roman architecture. Marvelously marbleized, the works explore the idea of repetition as the basis of learning and give Cydonia 2.0 a solid foundation to build upon.

For Ho, where she ultimately bases her vision isn’t as important as the fact that it exists in the first place. 

She explains, “All gallerists, and I feel comfortable to make this generalization, are questioning the expense of a brick-and-mortar space when for many galleries, our largest investments and returns are from international fairs and online inquires. For us, it doesn’t matter where our physical location is. As an entrepreneur, the first year is new buzz and publicity, and we enjoyed a nice amount of success. Years two to six is when we actually build the foundation for the business, and that requires focus.”  

“Paintings (1955-1993),” John Hartell and “Pay the Thunder No Mind—Listen to the Birds, and Hate Nobody,” Mark Messersmith at Valley House Gallery
Opening reception
: March 25, 6-8 pm
Exhibition dates: March 25-April 29

Also with a Fort Worth connection is Valley House, Dallas’ oldest contemporary space. The gallery owns 100 works of Texan artist Valton Tyler, who is currently the star of a critically acclaimed show at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Being prescient is the stock in trade of Valley owners Cheryl and Kevin Vogel, who have made another discovery worth watching in their latest exhibition, which highlights the work of John Hartell. Dreamy and mesmerizing, his canvases were first brought to the Vogels' attention when a famous gentleman in Dallas who is a former museum director happened to have dinner with Hartell’s daughter and spied one of the incandescent works hanging in the dining room. 

“He emailed me, because he thought it was something I’d really love,” recalls Cheryl. “It was serendipity. The estate of the artist was with his daughter in Baltimore, Maryland, and we flew up to attend an opening at the National Portrait Gallery and went to Baltimore to see the estate.”

The meditative, peaceful works are contrasted with the hyper-colored paintings of Mark Messersmith, who is exhibiting in the other half of the gallery. 

 “They work against each other,” says Cheryl. “There are almost elements of [modern painters] Milton Avery and Rothko, as crazy as that is.”

“The Texas Bird Project,” Frank X. Tolbert at William Campbell Contemporary Art
Opening reception
: March 24, noon-9 pm
Exhibition dates: March 24-April 29 

If Messersmith’s layered paintings celebrate spring’s flora and fauna, the show at Fort Worth’s oldest contemporary gallery mines some of the same fertile territory. To bring in spring, William Campbell is focusing on the birds (not the bees) with Houston-based artist Frank X. Tolbert’s “Texas Bird Project.” 

An outgrowth of a 2014 series of prints commissioned by Austin’s Flatbed Press, the 20 drawings and paintings range from minute to oversized, spare to lush, with the blue jays, hummingbirds, owls, egrets, and pelicans popping off the canvas in a colorful, folk art style. Catch one before they fly away.