Birds, bunnies, and blooms of all sorts make for some very seasonally appropriate Dallas art gallery shows this month. Add in an alternate universe created by a singular talent, and you’ve got one of the more intriguing mixes of work (and mediums) we’ve seen in quite some time.
Here is what’s naturally wonderful in April:
“Spelboken,” Natasha Bowdoin, at Talley Dunn Gallery
Reception: April 1, 6-8 pm
Exhibition dates: April 1-May 14
Timing is everything, and the cut paper and painted board works by Natasha Bowdoin seem particularly perfect to show in spring. The Houston-based artist is taking over Talley Dunn with larger-than-life blooms drawn from a rich history of scientific illustration. Moth drawings and works of paper bark and roots have a fecundity that brings to mind the inevitable stages of growth and decay found in the natural world.
Formerly installed at the Savannah College of Art and Design, her work Garden Plot is the piece de resistance, measuring 10 feet high and 30 feet in length.
Says Dunn, “We are excited to have [it] installed at the gallery, especially since she has added more than 20 feet to the piece to make it even more immersive and incredible. It's one of the best pieces that have been created for the main gallery space.”
Those interested in the artist’s process can attend an insightful chat on opening night at 6 pm.
“Reflected Yeses,” Juan Fontanive, at Conduit Gallery
Reception: April 2, 6-8 pm
Exhibition dates: April 2- May 7
Visitors to Conduit Gallery’s booth at last year’s Dallas Art Fair couldn’t help but be drawn to a charming kinetic sculpture of a hummingbird floating around flowers. Crafted of screen-printed cotton rag cards, gears, and sprockets by Juan Fontanive for his “Ornithology” series, the piece had a soothing quality, as much for the way it recalled a childhood flip book as for the fluttering noise it made, reminiscent of the sound of wings in motion.
Fontanive is exhibiting four new pieces featuring birds and insects in his latest show, which gallerist Nancy Whitenack says viewers will find equally engaging.
“It’s like the moth to the flame,” she explains. “The fact that it moves is the first thing, but if you had it turned off and just one section was showing, they’re beautiful little objects.
“The boxes are exquisitely made, but the fact that they whirl and keep moving and the bird changes or flies around a flower is just absolutely captivating. I find myself standing and staring at it.”
In addition, Fontanive will unveil equally kinetic larger sculptures made of colorful moving lines and squiggles. Says Whitenack, “He must really be an engineer at heart, because he’s engineered these amazing pieces. They all move and change.”
“Soliloquy: Trenton Doyle Hancock,” at the Public Trust
Reception: April 2, 6-9 pm
Exhibition dates: April 2-May 7
Drawn from toys, comics, pop art, American film, and classic prints, the work of Trenton Doyle Hancock is a mash-up of motifs that recalls nothing so much as the work of Henry Darger, even though their aesthetics are far from aligned.
What Hancock has in common with that outsider artist is the ability to create his own world, a glimpse of which viewers can see at the Public Trust.
“He’s created this alternate universe that’s built around this narrative of Mounds,” says owner Brian Gibb. “It’s amazing, the fact that he’s taken that character and made it so iconic in his imagery. I’m a huge fan of narrative work, but he’s taken the concept and run with it his whole career.”
Furry little creatures with wincing grins, the Mounds are Hancock’s tragic protagonists. Gibb has a sculpture of a Mound on hand, and the lucky buyer will also receive a painting, only to be created by Hancock post-purchase.
The appearance of this half-human, half-plant collectible is just an extra incentive to view Hancock’s 5-by-7 painting, the latest in the “Soliloquy” tradition of showing a single heroic piece by a notable artist.
For anyone who has ever pored over ’50s-era cookbooks with equal measures of fascination and repulsion, the alluring gelatin molds and creative appetizers crafted of soap by local artist Erin Stafford will instantly hit a nostalgic chord. Formerly shown in Austin, her “Haute Cuisine from Bygone Eras” series looks just like the real thing.
Stafford used food molds to make the work, which she says was inspired by novelty soap makers on Etsy who craft fake pastries and treats.
“I wanted to explore the idea of food as objects, sculpture, and entertainment while engaging with the social and historical associations,” she explains. “I have always been interested in food as metaphor, but I am also now taking on these domesticated roles in my practice with an interest in subversion.”
Smaller tidbits titled “Amuse-Bouche” will be shown alongside the larger pieces, which are definitely the main course in an exhibit that includes additional sculptural work and installation. Look, but don’t nibble!