Gay art at the DMA

Art Issue Cover 11/28In this week’s Art Issue, I did a story on Mark Leonard, the (gay) conservationist at the Dallas Museum of Art tasked with restoring and preserving important items in the collection. But a few weeks ago, during Gay History Month in October, Taylor Jeromos — an intern with the DMA and its Arts & Letters Live program — did a blog post on the museum’s website honoring out artists of the past whose work can be found in the collection. It’s a really interesting mini-history. Enjoy it — link to it here — and the other stories in our Art Issue (about fashion design [also a subject of art at the Crow Collection right now], pop art and abstract art among them).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DMA begins sale of David Sedaris tickets

SedarisYou know how arts organizations are always encouraging you to become a season subscriber for all the great benefits? Well, here’s a prime example of why it really does pay to do that.

Starting right now, the Dallas Museum of Art has on sale tickets to hear David Sedaris talk pretty via its Arts & Letters Live series at the Winspear Opera House on Nov. 11. Tickets don’t go on sale to the general public until Aug. 12. Now, you may think, “That’s only two weeks; the Winspear holds 2,300 people. I can wait.” But you’d probably be wrong. Or at least disadvantaged.

I know from experience how quickly Sedaris’ readings sell, and how hard tickets can be to come by. You really will benefit getting them early, and you can join for as little as $100 (which comes with free parking at the museum and is 80 percent tax deductible). Click the link or call 214-922-1247 to join and get the code. Tickets start at $25.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

It’s Dress Up Your Pet Day!

197228_1954942355179_1284918_nIf Halloween is “Gay Christmas,” then today, Jan. 14 — Dress Up Your Pet Day, officially — must be like “Gay Parent Christmas:” A day when gay “parents” (of animals, natch) can smack a frock on Fido and make him as faboo as his master.

Here in the office, we have our own fashion plate staffer, Joey (pictured here inside my camera bag), who struts around the office every week in new couture duds, from sweaters to parkas.

But I really got a kick out of these pix from the Dallas Museum of Art, where pets got dressed up like works of art. Click here for some fun, and click here (at DFW Style Daily) for some more pix of four-legged fashionistas.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

FIRST LOOK: DMA’s new conservation studio

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Mark Leonard, formerly of the Getty in L.A., outside the Paintings Conservation Studio at the Founders Room inside the DMA. It officially opens to the public Nov. 22.

Almost since I moved to Dallas and began working Downtown, an upper-floor space of the Dallas Museum of Art was 1717 Restaurant. Back in the day, it was one of the trendiest places in Dallas for lunch (it wasn’t opened for dinner), but all things end. It went through a number of iterations and changes, and for the last 18 months or so has largely been an event space for cocktail parties, but not a true restaurant. And now even that is gone.

And what’s in its place is even better.

What was 1717 is now an exhibit and social space, but most importantly, an atelier where the DMA’s head of conservation, Mark Leonard, gets to give the public an idea of what he and his fellow art restorers do.

The entrance is The Conservation Gallery, a rotating exhibit of artwork that has often been confined to the storage space at the DMA. These rarely seen works all have one thing in common: They have been restored, or are in need of restoration. And that gives the viewing public a chance to see a kind of before-and-after.

Not only that, most of the pieces will be exhibited so that both the fronts and back of the paintings are visible, offering a glimpse into the creative process — how the artist started on one idea, flipped the canvas over, and started on a whole new one.

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The restoration room.

But the most exciting part of all is the Paintings Conservation Studio. Designed by Samuel Anderson, it adds skylights permitting natural light to flood the studio, where Leonard and his team bring new life to Old Masters. The space is equipped with a first-of-its-kind x-ray that allows conservationists to see below the top level of oil paint to the art below. And while the general public won’t be allowed to enter the studio (there’s not a lot of room, except to make mischief), I got a first-look at it and the entire space, and it’s very impressive.

The Conservation Gallery and Founders Room will open to the public on Friday. Like the rest of the general exhibits at the DMA, admission is free.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Two x Two raises $5 million

Two x Two for AIDS and Art, the fundraiser held Saturday that benefits both AmfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art,  raised $5 million this weekend. One piece at the auction, by artist Luc Tuymans, netted $700,000. Approximately 500 people attended the black-tie event, at which Grammy winner Gladys Knight performed.

The DMA’s Jeffrey Grove and AmfAR CEO Kevin Frost spoke, introducing Tuymans, who received the 2013 Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight for AIDS.

Celebrities including designer Diane von Furstenberg and actors Gilles Marini and Jesse Metcalfe were in attendance. You can see a slide show of the event after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Jim Hodges’ artistic process

In Friday’s issue, I reviewed the Jim Hodges exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art (one of the best in recent years). I was especially impressed by his untitled piece, a tapestry composed entirely of denim.

Below is a video, made by the DMA, showing the background of the piece’s creation. It’s pretty awesome.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jeffrey Grove appointed to new executive position at DMA

DMA GroveJeffrey Grove, the gay senior curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Art (whom we profiled here), has just been appointed to a new position within the museum.

Grove will now serve as senior curator of special projects and research, a newly created position, Maxwell L. Anderson, the DMA’s director, announced. Grove was most recently responsible for spearheading the Cindy Sherman exhibition, which is on display through June 9 (and well worth a visit). His upcoming projects for the DMA include a show featuring the work of Jim Hodges (opening in October) and a retrospective of one of the art world’s most influential women, Isa Genzken (opening in the fall of 2014).

A nationwide search is now under way to find a new curator of contemporary art to replace Grove.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kidd’s stuff

When Chip Kidd is the designer, you can judge a book by its cover

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CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK? | Dust jacket designer Chip Kidd, above, has created iconic covers for authors like David Sedaris and Haruki Murakami, below.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Chip Kidd takes the adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” seriously. On the other hand, part of his job is to get you to look at the book in the first place.

In the world of publishing, there is probably no more respected dust-jacket designer than Kidd. After more than 25 years at Alfred A. Knopf, Kidd’s reputation is almost as solid as the authors for who he has designed covers: Michael Crichton, David Sedaris, Cormac McCarthy, James Ellroy and Michael Ondaatje, to name a few; some writers even have it in their contracts that no one but Kidd may design their book jackets.

You might think such acclaim would give Kidd an ego bigger than some of the novelists and essayists whose words adorn his art. But nothing could be further from the truth.

“Yes, a cover can be a sales tool, but it can just get your attention,” he says. “The question I get asked with astonishing regularity, and have for decades now, is ‘Do you read the books before you design them?’ Oh my god yes! Yes yes yes yes yes!”

Everything he does is in service to the text. Which means he has to flex his creative muscle while still respecting the source.

“It’s tricky — each book is its own particular case,” Kidd says from his office in New York City. “ I could give you a whole case study on [McCarthy’s] The Road and how we ended up with what we did. But different authors want different things. I have been doing this 25 years and counting, and that’s working non-stop. There is every conceivable story [of how a design came about].”

Those stories, in fact, make up a presentation of his work that he’ll bring to the Dallas Museum of Art this week.

There are carefully planned successes, and unexpected failures, “such as the horrible [cover] you have to do again and again until everyone gives up,” he says.

“But the opposite of that is also true: The one where everything comes together.”

Kidd is thinking about his design for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, an experience “that was almost too good to be true. The [final design ] is bookshelvesexactly what I presented to our editor-in-chief. I usually do about three different things, but this one I thought was absolutely the best thing to do and everybody agreed. I would say that’s my most favorite or my recent covers.”

Without even reading the book, its cover suggests something ethereal, dreamlike, unnerving — all words that Kidd says capture Murakami’s writing to a tee.

The story begins with a woman in Tokyo navigating down a spiral staircase from a highway, but when she reaches the bottom, she feels she has entered a parallel universe. Kidd originally considered a Tokyo cityscape, “but faces work remarkably well on an emotional level and on an aesthetic level. I just started researching faces of Japanese women.” Suddenly, an instant classic.
It’s not always that easy.

“We publish every conceivable kind of book — cookbooks, crime fiction, literature,” Kidd says. And he has to bring that creative bent to all of them.

“Genre stuff is hardest because you want to transcend the genre,” he says. ” Technically, 1Q84 is science fiction — there is supernatural stuff going on, though it is very subtle. So a design ethos of mine is, if you can predict what I’m going to do, I’ve failed.”

There is a shorthand that develops when he works with the same authors over and over, but even that’s almost incidental, because “I try to wipe the slate clean every time.” Still, no one can deny his covers for Michael Crichton’s books, such are Jurassic Park, became part of the iconography of the novels. (I tell Kidd Disclosure is still one of the best dust jackets I’ve ever seen. “Yes, that’s about as good as it gets,” he agrees.)

Turning a hardcover jacket into a paperback soft-cover is a whole different beast, which comes with its own dynamics.

“There are so many different factors at play” in designing a paperback, he says. “Sometimes it’s about whether the hardcover was perceived to have under-performed. Then you have the opposite and everything in between: Let’s keep this and that element and change the rest. One of the things we follow here at Knopf is, at the end of the day you want the author to be pleased. You sometimes talk them into it or you compromise. There is a sort of buttered-side-down aspect to this business.”

What does it take to make a lasting, memorable cover? Even Kidd’s not sure. Certainly, though, he’s agree that the original jacket for The Great Gatsby is iconic. Not so much.

“From a graphic designer’s point of view, coming into it cold, it’s not great — it’s kind of silly! Eyes floating over a purple sky…? But the book is iconic so the cover became iconic. The most important thing is the text. … though from a book collector’s point of view, to find a first edition with a jacket is worth tons and tons of money.”

Spoken like someone who understands art and business.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Kenneth Craighead, Diana Pollak among judges for Richardson’s Cottonwood Art Festival

The suburbs get a little more gay friendly with this year’s announcement of Richardson’s major event, the Cottonwood Art Festival. Probably the city’s biggest attraction, the CAF happens twice a year with the first going down May 5–6 and generates a whopping $2 million-plus in sales.

This year’s list of jurors includes out gallery owner and director Kenneth Craighead of Craighead Green Gallery, as well as Diana Pollak, an LGBT ally who has served on the board of Youth First Texas.

Read the entire list of announced judges after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

His ‘World’ and welcome to it

French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier talks one-on-one about his Dallas exhibition, celebrities and the most beautiful clothing a gay man can wear (hint: it’s not couture)

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CELEBRITY MYTH MAKER | Need an idea how influential Gaultier is? Leading up to the Super Bowl halftime show this week, the image most associated with Madonna was the cone-bra boustier Gaultier designed.

RICHARD BURNETT  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Jean Paul Gaultier loves a fabulous rack. While he was in Montreal, he let slip that one artifact scheduled for display in The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk — about to wrap up its run at the Dallas Museum of Art — was his 1960 teddy bear, Nana. The piece is complete with the cone bra Gaultier crafted when he was just 8 years old.
“You see, I designed the cone bra 30 years before I made one for Madonna,” Gaultier laughs.

The iconic body corset he created for Miss Ciccone’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour is also included in this multimedia exhibition, the first international showing devoted to the celebrated French couturier and, featuring 140 ensembles from 40 years of his couture and prêt-à-porter collections. Gaultier gave the curators exclusive access to his label’s archives in putting together the exhibition. Still, the fabulous gay designer, in a rare one-on-one interview, goes out of his way to emphasize that this is not a retrospective.

“It is more a contemporary installation,” Gaultier says. “When the director of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Nathalie Bondil, asked me to participate on this project, I did not want to have a retrospective that would be like a funeral, a chronological presentation. I worked closely two years with the team and curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot, on the selection of the pieces, on developing the themes that have obsessed me — corsets, skin, cultures, genders, Parisiennes, etc. — since I started in the fashion world. It is my story [told] through my clothes.”

This is not your ordinary fashion show … nor ordinary museum piece. As extraordinarily well-constructed as Gaultier’s clothing, it boasts dazzling layouts, colors, lighting and projections that animate the faces of mannequins that make them seem to come alive.

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COWBOY CHIC | The entrance to the DMA exhibit, autographed for Dallas by JPG himself. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Gaultier has always prided himself on being avant-garde and over-the-top, from the designs themselves to the models who show them off.

“The fashion world can be very formatted when it comes to casting choices and the way models should look,” he explains. “I don’t follow trends. From my very first shows, I did street castings, [using] friends and anybody I thought was interesting. I sell my clothes to real people, not only models. Women are very powerful now, and they can [take responsibility for] what they wear. It is like when Madonna decides to wear a corset; it is like a political statement because she decides to do so. It then becomes a symbol of power and femininity. We dress first for ourselves.”

Gaultier has also been inspired by and worked with many other celebrities from Pedro Almodóvar to Leslie Cheung. What, in his estimation, is the common denominator of great stars?

“All the stars I have worked with are very different,” Gaultier says. “I guess the thing that successful stars have in common is that they work very hard. There is no secret to success, even if you are not a pop singer. Madonna still fascinates me. She has been of great help for this exhibition and the [accompanying] book, loaning pieces from her Blond Ambition Tour and Confessions Tour.”

Another adored Gaultier muse is plus-size pop singer Beth Ditto, of the band The Gossip. Ditto once notoriously complained to London’s NME magazine, “If there’s anyone to blame for size zero, it’s not women. Blame gay men who work in the fashion industry and want these women as dolls. Men don’t know what it feels like to be a woman and be expected to look a particular way.”

“I think everybody is beautiful and has a different kind of beauty,” says Gaultier. “It is always a question of perception and of presentation. Beth Ditto is fascinating by the way she moves and assumes her body. She represents freedom. She comes from a small town in the U.S., is voluptuous and openly gay. She is very sexy. I have used a lot of plus-size models in my show. They are part of the society, so why not of the fashion world?”

While Gaultier believes women are dressing more for themselves these days rather than for men, he says straight men are also becoming much more style-savvy.

“I think all men should show more their sensitive side, to show more their bodies and shapes,” he explains. “It is not a question of gay or straight. Both can have good and bad taste! I think straight men are getting better with their style. [But] gay men are [still] more aware of what suits them best in some cases, because they have this sensitivity.”

As for his own wardrobe, Gaultier insists he owns nothing that approaches the kind of clothes he designs.

“I am not extravagant; I like to dress others,” he explains. “I am more conventional now, but in my personal archives I have a lot [of extravagant outfits], like when I hosted the MTV Europe Awards in 1995 and did 16 costume changes during the show, from a see-through gown with platform boots to a leopard-print Speedo with matching thigh-high boots and maxi fake fur coat. Actually, you can see excerpts of it in the exhibition.”

Gaultier — whose atelier has lost many employees to AIDS over the last quarter century — says somberly, “Condoms are the most beautiful clothes to wear. AIDS affected a lot my entourage, close friends, co-workers and my partner, who died from it in 1990. I started being involved with AmFar in 1992 when I did a benefit fashion show in LA to fight against this terrible disease. People need to be educated about safer sex. Because even if you can take medications and [can] control it, you still cannot cure it. So awareness is very important.”

”The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier”, at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 Harwood St., through Sunday. DallasMuseumofArt.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas