Your Show of Shows
Art gallery picks of the month: 35 years of Texan talent, Ninja homage and photographic anniversary
The weather last week may have dampened your holiday spirit, but December’s art offerings are a very necessary reason to get in the festive swing of things. Patrons can indulge in a look back at over three decades of 500X Gallery, a cartoony tribute to a reggae icon and a photographically inclined anniversary.
“Creative Differences: 35 Years at 500X,” various artists, at 500X Gallery
Reception: December 14, 7-10 pm
Exhibition dates: December 14-January 5, 2014
For 35 years, 500X has been fertile ground for homegrown talent, nurturing and giving exposure to the likes of Frances Bagley, Greg Metz and Tom Orr. To wrap up this momentous anniversary, former member and curator Leslie Murrell spent five months gathering together work from 30 former members, from the gallery’s ‘70s founding group to more recent alumni.
The pieces she discovered — painting, photography, installation, video, drawing and performance — ended up creating niches in the gallery, “talking to each other” across the different generations.
“With the right juxtaposition, these little subtle threads will come through,” she says. “This is all new work from a lot of the artists; everything except a piece by [the late] Mary Iron Eyes was created in the last two to three years.
“I was interested in the tradition of 500X being a place to show experimental pieces and test out ideas, and a lot of artists were intrigued by the opportunity to come back and play with that again.”
“Portraits of a Ninja,” Lord Blakely, at Public Trust
Reception: December 14, 6-9 pm
Exhibition dates: December 14-January 18, 2014
It might not be your run-of-the-mill subject, but Portland artist Lord Blakely finds a rich narrative in his works honoring the embattled dance hall reggae DJ Ninjaman. Blakely (nee Blakely Davidson) — who received his moniker from co-workers teasing him about his “aristocratic name” — draws on a layered approach to create each portrait.
Starting with an ink wash drawing, images of his flawed hero are manipulated in Photoshop, printed with the chromera method, airbrushed, then finally gilded and finished with hand-painted homages to old-school cartoons.
“There are all these translations [in the images], and Ninjaman personifies that as well,” Blakely says. “I chose cartoons because everyone can relate to them, and they can tell a story very efficiently in a quick way.”
Blakely calls his subjects “kindred spirits,” and his portraits are quirky, stylish and emotionally relevant, much like his muse. “He got out of prison pretty recently and seemed like he was washed up, then he dropped this track that blew Jamaica up. I love that he’s still doing his craft and making that work.
“I love that time of dancehall he’s coming out of, and the power I have as a painter is to lock into that history and capture it to live on after I’m gone.”
Gallerists Scott and Marilyn Miller’s love for photography ended up becoming a lasting career. The duo started their business in an off-the-beaten path spot near Addison Airport before moving to the Design District five years ago.
Now in their 12th year, they’ve befriended and currently represent a photographer for each year in their roster, including Alan Ross and John Sexton, the last assistants of the legendary Ansel Adams.
Marilyn says she likes to keep her roster small and specific because “we bring in our photographers slowly. In order to rep a photographer well, you have to become familiar with their whole body of work and since [everyone we represent] has been photographing for decades, it takes a while. This show is the best to see. We’ll have some of everyone’s work.”
Works such as gold leaf and silver gelatin prints are on display, and photographers R.P. Washburne and Scot Miller will attend the reception. John Rohrbach, the Amon Carter Museum’s senior curator of photographs, has graciously provided signed copies of his monograph for the current “Color! American Photography Transformed” exhibit for patrons to purchase.