Bill Fegan, “In and Out,” 2010, oil on canvas, 58 x 72 inches
SPECIAL “EYE” TO WATCH
June Mattingly // contributing art writer

TWO DRAGON STREET GALLERY SHOWS

Holly Johnson and Craighead-Green, celebrating their fifth year on Dragon Street,
attracted their normally large number of content buyers and intent lookers in the
annual artist packed spring group shows openings. Openings like these draw
interest-sharing folks to socialize while sipping wine, many of whose main desire
is to get first pick on a special piece by an artist they want to acquire that
doesn’t already sport a red dot on the label.

Dragon and nearby streets, not new to Dallas’s premier art galleries, are
identified as the Dallas Art and Design District. On future dockets are galleries
within a short driving distance, Conduit in its tenth year and Galeri Urbane in
its first in Dallas; and look for these residents too, the Dallas Contemporary
Museum, Photographs Do Not Bend and Marty Walker Gallery.

Two of the 53 Artists I particularly liked in Craighead Green’s “New Texas Talent”

Known for their “diverse” stable of 40 artists on all levels of accomplishment
working in conventional and nontraditional mediums, Craighead-Green is a
centerpiece and stabilizing force on Dragon Street. Their open, high ceilinged,
cordoned off space is perfect for their one-person shows for three or more artists
at the same time or for group shows too.  
A Fort Worthian by birth, in his Artist’s Statement Fegan recalls his young past by
explaining, “reared in a climate that encouraged young artists, I realized my
ability and desire for the future at age seven.” He continued on his path to
being an achieving artist by receiving an MFA from S.M.U. in 1972 on a
Meadows Foundation scholarship.

His skillfully rendered large-scale photorealistic paintings are packed full of action
with the impact of the make believe giant rolling waves resounding in your ears,
making you think you’re actually there on the beach experiencing and
enjoying it. Photorealism since the mid-60s in this country as the term implies,
is a painting whose subject is the “photographic version of reality.” It is the
photographic effect that consumes artists using Fegan’s style as much as
the subject does.  

Fegan, long known for his talents in the restoration field, last year had his first
affiliation with Craighead Green as a practicing artist in an exhibition titled
“Stimulate,” a common word with lots of interpretations, on purpose. His lush,
true to life and light filled landscapes continue to make quite a hit.
Colin Murasko “Elemental Harmony and Flux,” 2010, acrylic on canvas, each 36 x 36 inches
The calming, comforting, curvilinear waves in Colin Murasko’s characteristic line/color
abstract works deliver a much different reaction than Fegan’s tumultuous crushing
waves, yet they work together. Abstract art describes art without subject matter
ranging in styles from expressionism to minimalism.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for
people to equate modern art with abstractions – more on this term later.    

From his Artist’s Statement “I allow for each line to function as a conduit which is
regulated yet intuitive at the same time. Within each line there lies the next,
relentlessly pushing and pulling, all within the constraints of a two color palette.
I see this act as an endless touch-and-go experience.”

On color Murasko says, “Color for me has always been an active component in
my work. Equally, within this new body of work, the use of a limited palette
provides an effective means for ‘visual involvement.’ The predominant pigments
have changed slightly from being the tool that carries the viewer’s eye from one
sector or line to the other.”  
Two of the Especially Interesting Artists in Holly Johnson’s
“Back and Forth Celebrating Five Years”

This preeminent gallery’s art reflects a broad range of 20th and 21st century
artistic styles, concepts and ideas created by artists at various stages of their
careers and at varying degrees of renown. The gallery’s thoughtfully planned
6,000 square foot space is full of uninterrupted white walls covered with art
definitely worth a long stopover to study – see below.   
Margo Sawyer - “Index for Contemplation 21,” 2010, powder coat on
steel and aluminum and yellow zinc on steel, 9 x 16 feet (dimensions
variable), photograph courtesy Holly Johnson Gallery
My friend Margo’s admirable credentials include an MFA from Yale and as an
associate professor of art at the University of Texas in Austin. Her first sculptural
commission in Dallas was for the atrium of Art House where I lived. It’s still a very
big draw for the residents and guests. She’s since completed other
commissions in Dallas and had a one-person at Holly Johnson’s in 2008 where
right now she has a stunning, brand new piece that fills the whole wall.    

Her medium, aluminum box panels in an array of intensely brilliant colors and
surface treatments, are what she uses to construct wall sculptures and
free-standing exterior, site-specific installations she “equates as a quilt of color.
” All her works investigate the relationship between color, light and architecture.
Here are three outdoor sites of hers to visit: “Synchronocity of Color,” 2008, on a
12-acre park in downtown Houston that encompasses the interior stairwells
and exterior walls of the parking garage, her outdoor piece for Whole Foods’
World headquarters in Austin, and the monolithic sculpture and coordinating
swimming pool and esplanade design for Lucy Billingsley’s Austin Ranch
apartments in the Colony.  

Sawyer was born in Washington DC in 1958 and lives outside of Austin.
Otis Jones - “White Rectangle with Black and White Lines,” 2009, mixed media on
linen, 71 ½ x 65 ½ x 3”, photograph courtesy Holly Johnson Gallery
The slight nuances in the art production of Otis, another friend of mine, represent
his artistic strength to continually evolve in his career of creating distinct
monochromatic and deceptively minimal paintings. The time has come
when his determination to pursue his individualistic manner of painting has
reached its deserved critical notice and praise from important local art circles.
Public collections that own his work include the Dallas Museum of Art,
A.H. Belo Corp., American Airlines and Rosewood Corp.

The highly physical, time consuming process for Jones to make his art begins
stretching canvas over irregularly shaped wood structures, then applying a
base of plaster ground followed by multiple layers of varying colors of paint,
sanding in between times, constantly reworking the surfaces. There’s so much
paint applied that in some cases the paintings are as much 4”deep from
the wall thus becoming almost sculptural compositions. The remaining
fingerprints not left by accident attest to his presence.    

Jones was born in Galveston in 1946 and received his MFA from the University of
Oklahoma. In 1984 the federally funded National Endowment for the Arts
recognized his talent with a grant. He’s taught art at Texas Christian University
in Fort Worth and the University of Texas in Austin and Arlington.

The William Campbell Contemporary Art Gallery in Fort Worth also represents Jones.

In 1990 I curated a group show at the Arlington Museum of Art in Arlington,
Texastitled “Woodwork,” in which Otis Jones was one of the artists I chose.

More on the Galleries

Both galleries belong to CADD or Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas, whose main
purpose is to add credibility to its members and organize openings on the same
date. Both galleries concentrate on living Texas artists, of course with exceptions.  

The driving force, inspiration to their artists and support for their clients behind
both galleries are their owners/directors are Holly Johnson and Jim Martin at
Holly Johnson and Kenneth Craighead and Steve Green (and Scot Presley,
the asst. director) at Craighead Green.
Holly Johnson and Jim Martin at Holly Johnson Gallery photo courtesy of  Kent Barker
Kenneth Craighead and Steve Green  at Craighead Green Gallery
Also, regularly read  texascontemporaryart.com, June Mattingly's personal blog on art.   

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