On Presence: Texas Galleries at the 2015 Dallas Art Fair

Two still life paintings by Sarah Atlee at the 2015 Dallas Art Fair.Breakfast: Peaches, Coffee, Shogun and Peaches & Quilt by Sarah Atlee. Seen here as part of Ro2 Art's exhibition at the 2015 Dallas Art Fair.

Ugh, another art fair?

Art fairs. We've come to expect a certain amount of cynicism connected with these events. There's the jaded art press, the buyers with more money than sense, the gallerists pushing the latest shock-&-schlock, and artists like me - who feel left out of the whole insular art fair circuit.

That's one very dismal view of this business. I'd like to offer a counterpoint, based on my recent experience at the Dallas Art Fair.

The DAF has been running annually for the past seven years. The number of galleries from Texas and the surrounding region has dwindled to make way for exhibitors from around the globe, making it a truly international affair. This was my first visit to the DAF. It was also the first time I had work in an art fair.

Visitors discussing work at the Dallas Art Fair, 2015 Fair visitors discussing work in Ro2 Art's booth.

It was exciting to participate in such a global event. However, the Texas galleries represented at the 2015 DAF stood out firmly from the crowd. What was the one thing that made the difference?


Nobody from a Texas gallery was too cool to talk to me. Nobody from a Texas gallery looked at my shoes and decided that I wasn't about to drop six figures in their booth, so I must not be worth their time. Nobody from a Texas gallery sat staring at their iPad while I looked at the art on their walls.

Instead, the Texas gallerists were greeting visitors, offering information about the artists and their work, all with smiles on their faces. They were engaged. They know that long-term success in the art business isn't about trends, stars, or dollars - it's about relationships. And a good relationship starts with courtesy and a smile.

(This isn't to say that the Texas gallerists were the only engaged participants at the fair. But the atmosphere of presence was so noticeable in the local booths that it's worth noting.)

Ro2 Art co-owner Jordan Roth greeting visitors to his booth at the 2015 Dallas Art Fair.

Ro2 Art co-owner Jordan Roth greeting visitors at the 2015 Dallas Art Fair.

Thank you, Texas.

I want to thank the following galleries for representing my new home state so beautifully: Barry Whistler Gallery, Conduit Gallery, Cris Worley Fine Arts, Galleri Urbane Marfa + Dallas, Kirk Hopper Fine Art, Ro2 Art, Sicardi Gallery, Talley Dunn Gallery, Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden, William Campbell Contemporary Art, and Zhulong Gallery.

For the first time, I'm very proud to be a Texas artist.

Read more about the 2015 Dallas Art Fair

Glasstire: A Loose Guide: Some Picks and Pics of the Dallas Art Fair, More Dallas Art Fair 2015

Artnews: Gone to Texas: The Art World Flocks to Dallas Art Fair for a Little Lonestar Hospitality

Interview: 10 Picks from the Dallas Art Fair 2015 (3 of the 10 are from Texas galleries.)

Blouin Art Info International: What to See (and Buy) at the Dallas Art Fair

See the whole enchilada on Artsy.

5 Reasons to Love James Jean Online

Waiting. Acrylic and Pastel on Cradled Wood Panels, 34 x 34 Waiting. Acrylic and Pastel on Cradled Wood Panels, 34 x 34", 2010 by James Jean. Click image to view source.

You've probably seen James Jean's work around the Internets. Maybe you love it like I do. He seems to draw and paint the other people breathe. It's delicious, mysterious, pleasing and disturbing at once.

I've never seen Jean's work in person. It occurred to me to ask myself why, other than the quality of the work itself, do I enjoy looking at it online?

Because James Jean has an excellent website.

Coco Chanel famously said that when a woman dresses shabbily, people notice her dress, but when she dresses well, people notice the woman. I looked at Jean's drawings and paintings for several years before I noticed how well he presents it online. Here are some reasons why:

Less is more. It's a cliche that independent artists often combat, but Jean lets his work speak for itself. His site design is absolutely spotless. No explanations, no exclamations. Just the art, loud and clear.

Big, beautiful photos He doesn't make us squint to see the work. The photos aren't fuzzy, washed-out, or imbalanced. The Reclamare scarf is a good example.

Up close and personal If we can't see the work in person, we can at least pretend. I wish more artists offered close-up details of their work like this.

Figure studies Because artists never stop learning or practicing, especially when it comes to the figure.

Sketchbooks Two of my favorites: Ottoman, Mole D-2

I'd like to thank the artist for putting all this work where we can see it. Keep it up.

Which Art Student Are You?

This series by illustrator and art educator Chuck Dillon (his website, his blog) speaks directly to my art school experience. I'm not sure which category I fit in to, so I'll just go with the one that happens to look EXACTLY like me, down to the paintbrushes stuck in the overalls pocket:

Brownnoser by Chuck Dillon.

Brownnoser by Chuck Dillon. Click image to view source.

Seriousness Abused

Tate I, photo by Flickr user Martino's doodles Tate I, photo by Flickr user Martino's Doodles. Click image to visit the Flickr page.

It's easy to label me as an artist: I paint. I paint pictures. I paint pictures of people. Easy, right? I don't happen to be particularly turned on by conceptual art, or art that's deliberately obfuscated, or art objects overshadowed by the artist's mission to "break boundaries" and "challenge preconceptions."

Before you click away, conceptual artists, please hear me: I love you. And also you guys, who like to paint pictures of kitties and geraniums: I love you, too. Art is art, and it takes all kinds. There, I've said my thing.

Art can be difficult for us to swallow. As Dan Fox writes in this editorial for Frieze Magazine, difficult art has become the norm in the art world.

Boundaries are ‘broken down’ and ‘preconceptions challenged’ so often as to make subversion and radicality seem like a mandatory daily chore rather than a blow to the status quo. They perpetuate old-fashioned notions, such as that of the artist visionary liberating the masses from mental enslavement by bourgeois values. Overuse has made these words sound strangely toothless, for what’s at stake in the art is often less important (but not necessarily without value) than the language suggests.

Of course, what constitutes "the art world" is an ever-shifting tapestry of popular opinion, preconceptions, and nebulous reputations. (Perhaps some boundary-breaking is warranted here.) It seems one is either in it or not. It's hard to say when exactly an artist becomes part of the art world, we usually rest upon the consensus that they have arrived. This vague notion of the art world as an establishment points out our links to the tired cliche of the artist as revolutionary. At what point does the liberator become the institution?

This is just one of the many questions I asked myself while reading Fox's article (via Kristin Anderson). I didn't come up with many answers. I'll continue to think about how deeply the following resonates with me:

You have to understand the pieties: the weight of an artist’s monograph or how many times their name crops up on e-flux announcements; someone’s preference for reading October rather than frieze; the internationalism of the contemporary art world – some romantic residue of the idea that, if you travel regularly by plane, you must be high-powered because your business reaches far outside your locality; artist names exchanged as collateral by those jockeying for position in the marketplace of curating or criticism. These are the little curlicues that adorn the edifice of the professional arts establishment.

Near Future Laboratory's Criteria for New Media Art

View of 'Liso Armonium,' an installation by Sagi Groner. View of Liso Armonium, an installation by Sagi Groner. Click image to view its source on Flickr.

How can you tell if it's New Media Art? Here are some tips.

(New Media Art in the Aughts is what web art was in the 90s, installation art was in the 80s, and performance art was in the 70s. That is, largely oblique and inaccessible unless done very well.)

This handy list was put together by the Near Future Laboratory, a "think/make design & research practice focusing on digital interaction designs based on "weak signals" from the fringes of digital culture, where the near-future already exists."