Coast to coast to coast

Posted on 28 Apr 2010 at 9:24am
By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com


Dallas Museum of Art brings surprising innovation to new Coastlines exhibit


‘Duck Island’ by Childe Hassam and ‘Sunbather on the Seine’ by Frank Welch represent the diversity of work in DMA’s ‘Coastlines’ exhibit.

In Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea, the Dallas Museum of Art’s newest exhibit displays work of contemporary artists using coastal images as their inspiration.

OK, yes, maybe it sounds a little meh. "Coastal art" probably evokes images of generic paintings you pick up at Pier 1 suitable for framing. But thanks to curator Heather MacDonald and UTD sound design professor Frank Dufour, the DMA has created something innovative and spectacular.

Broken into five galleries, each with its own theme — "Coastal Labor, Seaside Leisure," "The Bather: Myth and Modernity," "From the Particular to the Universal" — the exhibit includes works by Edward Hopper, John Marin and Catherine Opie. The art itself ranges from your usual landscapes to abstract paintings to modern photography, but all are grouped in a nice flow that give the themes weightiness, not pretension.

What makes the exhibit exciting though is the sound installation accompanying the galleries. Dufour and students from the University of Texas—Dallas’ Arts and Technology Program (along with students from the France’s Universite du Sud Toulon-Var) have added sound to an art exhibit that punctuates each gallery’s theme. This collaboration is a first for the DMA.

Somehow, the team pulls off the element without ever sounding like a wave machine or generic ambient noise. Musical layer are synced to create the natural atmosphere of the art. While it may not seem like much, it adds surprising depth to the show. Certain works are highlighted with soundscapes designed specifically for them. With hypedirectional speakers, music is almost beamed down to a spot in front of the work.

"You are invited in to the piece," Dufour says. Literally. Carpeted spots on the floor are the only place the extra soundscapes can be heard. Step out, and it’s gone. Try not to whisper to yourself, "Cool."

What sounds like an uninspired show of mere landscapes of coastlines is transformed by modern thinking into a triumph for the museum and both universities. The show may do what no one would conceive: Make "boring" art transcend into magic.

Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood Road. Through Aug. 22. $10. DallasMuseumofArt.org.

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