Contemporary art gets some play time with DMA’s Big New Field exhibit

PLAYING THE FIELD | Franz Ackerman’s ‘My Ready Now’ splashes color into the exhibit while Gonzales’ ‘Carousel Club’ recalls Dallas history.

Dallas Museum of Art,
1717 Harwood St.  $10.
Through Feb. 20.



The last person you’d think of taking to a contemporary art show is that beer-guzzling, La-Z-Boy sitting pal/partner/relative glued to a Sunday’s worth of televised football. Why would he (or she) want to look at random smatterings of paint flicked on a canvas when there’re refs to be yelled at?

But combining the sports and art worlds — without LeRoy Neiman in sight? The Dallas Museum of Art has done that for you.

In Big New Field, the museum showcases selected works by artists whose works are also part of the installations on view at Cowboys Stadium. With Super Bowl XLV approaching in February, sports fans will get more than an eyeful of art at the complex. But New Big Field successfully previews those works in a quieter setting — and for those of us not making it to the game. It should be noted that this isn’t art depicting sports.

“The art program at Cowboys Stadium has enriched the North Texas art community with a unique commissioning program that bring together sports fans and art aficionados,” says the DMA’s Bonnie Pittman.

Art fans win with an eclectic selection that’s mind-boggling and awe-inspiring at the same time. Although the exhibit opens with the kind of contemp art where people will respond, “I could’ve done that.”

What that means is it opens weakly: Two wall installations introduce Field but with lackluster appeal and convey immediate pretension that non-fans will slam.

Lawrence Weiner’s typographical art of phrases doesn’t offer strong intent and the opposing wall of stripes broken up into small frames by Daniel Buren won’t win anyone over immediately.

The treasures come quickly after, though. Walk into the next room, and the exhibit mixes painting and sculpture in fascinating ways. Many of the works play on the eye’s sense of dimension. Annette Lawrence’s Free Paper answers what to do with all those Dallas Morning News circulars for neighborhood sales. She takes junk mail, rips it into specific-sized strips and chronologically stacks the trash into this mixed-media piece. The guide talks about art mixing with ecological sensibilities, but this really just reminds me how pissed off I get when I keep trying to unsubscribe from those circulars. Its 3-D effect creates an exciting texture.

There’s nothing ugly-duckling about it, because a swan it doesn’t make. Instead, it’s an interesting timeline that really signifies waste in artistic fashion.

The project piece The outside of inside shows a variety of geometric shapes centered by a silver ball bearing on the wall. This trippy slideshow plays with the mind and eyes as you focus on the ball. Overlapping boxes turn into triangles and images imprint on your vision after they are long gone. The 12-minute run is hypnotic and fun actually. We forget what art can do in its various forms and Olafur Eliasson reminds what an impression, even if whimsical, it can make.

What should be the centerpiece is Wayne Gonzales’ Carousel Club. His rendition of matchbook art from Jack Ruby’s famous club is both elementary and exquisite. He conveys vintage Dallas nightlife with the club’s logo, the bare-bottomed girl and cocktail. The acrylic on canvas is lush in red and would make most people drool with envy. If it weren’t for the lurking docent, I would have hidden this in my jacket and put it up in the living room stat.

Big New Field works beautifully here and the larger works of each artist at Cowboys Stadium are equally impressive. The works are bold and represent the broad spectrum of contemporary art, even in some of its lingering pieces. The show, made possible by Two X Two for AIDS and Art, amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS

Research and the DMA, still may have to try harder to reach those sports fans who aren’t art fans, but at the very least, they will probably say ‘That’s cool.” Hey, it’s a start.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.