New York has the press. Miami has the parties. But the contemporary art scene in Dallas has something far more important — potential for growth as wide open as a Texas sky.
Opening Sunday, May 26, the Dallas Museum of Art’s new exhibition DallasSITES: Charting Contemporary Art, 1963 to Present takes a closer look at both the past and future of North Texas’s bold and distinctive art scene, from the envelope-pushing work of the Betty McLean Gallery in the mid-’50s to painting, sculpture and performance art provocateurs of the 21st century.
“The moments where Dallas’ history of contemporary art crisscrosses with a more national or international history will be a real eye-opener for our audience,” says assistant curator Gabriel Ritter.
Dividing the exhibition into geographic areas — the Arts District and downtown, Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff, Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs, as well as university communities like Arlington and Denton — DallasSITES presents the history of the local art world through gallery invitations, posters, photography, video and objects culled from private archives and public records.
Supported by a grant from UTD’s Texas Fund for Curatorial Research, DallasSITES was originally spearheaded by former DMA contemporary art curator Charles Wylie. Leigh Arnold, a curatorial research assistant for the exhibition, began sourcing materials in May 2011 under Wylie’s direction.
“When I was hired to begin the research, Charlie had seen the Pacific Standard Time exhibit [at L.A.’s Getty Center], as well as similar exhibitions in Houston. These were early influences, and he gave me a road map of highlights he had heard about and wanted me to go into in greater detail.”
“The amount of material that Leigh has unearthed and the alternative narrative that we were able to articulate will be a surprise to everyone,” explains Gabriel Ritter, DMA’s Nancy and Tim Hanley assistant curator of contemporary art.
“There are favorites [artists and galleries] they’ll be quite familiar with, but the moments where Dallas’ history of contemporary art crisscrosses with a more national or international history will be a real eye-opener for our audience.”
This includes guest appearances from Claes Oldenburg (who staged a 1962 “happening” at the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts) and Robert Smithson (who spent a year as an artist-in-residence at a local college). A timeline that illustrates significant moments such as these grounds the exhibition with visual ephemera.
Throughout July and August, the DMA presents DallasSITES: Available Space, a month-long experimental showcase of some of today’s top contemporary talent, including interactive installations by the Fort Worth-based HOMECOMING! Committee collective, Oil and Cotton workshops, and programming from the Dallas VideoFest.
“We’re excited about bringing community into the space of the museum; it bookends the exhibition in an interesting way,” Ritter says. “It’s a continuation and the beginning of a fruitful relationship between the Dallas Museum of Art and the artists working in this community.”
DallasSITES: Charting Contemporary Art, 1963 to Present is on view May 26 through September 15, 2013. DallasSITES: Available Space runs run July 19 to August 18 in the Barrel Vault and surrounding galleries.