The Texas in My Mind

In a few short weeks I’ll be relocated to Texas and far from the Met, Guggenheim, New York Historical Society, Newark Museum, Winter Antiques Show and all of the other art and culture haunts that have come to know me in New York City.

It will be a change for sure, but look forward to discovering the Dallas Museum of Art, Amon-Carter, Kimbell, visiting the antique shops and malls and attending shows. At this point I have still not set foot in Dallas itself and surely have skewed perceptions of it. I’d like to try and record some of them here so I can look back later.

When traveling around the suburbs near Grapevine Lake, the live oak trees struck me as looking similar to the ones in paintings by the Ralph Davison Miller (1858-1945). As far as I know Miller painted primarily in California. I don’t know if he ever set foot in Texas. He was born in Cincinnati in 1858, lived in Kansas City and by the 1880s in New Mexico and finally settling in Los Angeles in 1893. Miller died in Los Angeles on December 14, 1945, leaving a number of paintings that in my mind anyway resemble those in Texas. So now anyway the image of the Lone Star State is, in my mind, a Ralph Davison Miller painting.

Then there is the Sister Wendy video tour of the Kimbell Art Museum designed by Louis I. Kahn’s. Unlike the other museums she visited for her American Collection, the Kimbell is young—having opened in my lifetime, 1972. Sister Wendy herself remarks that the building itself is a work of art. Gone are the stately columns found at the Met or Brooklyn Museum. There don’t appear to be any stairs to climb, not taxis and hot dog carts outside, just a building that seems from the pictures anyway set away from the city, an oasis of sorts for art.

That brings us to My Architect, the documentary about the Kimbell’s architect. The movie likely gives another entire level of importance to the building that all visitors don’t have when they enter. There are not so many art museums you can visit where you can bring such insight into the building. There are a few art museums created by notable architects, but none I can think of that represent such a pinnacle achievement in their career. To fans of Louis Kahn, the Kimbell is what Guernica may be to fans of Picasso. I’ve not yet been to the Kimbell, but what I know of it represents the art museum world in Texas, in my mind anyway.

I also have an idea, some from Ross Perot, some from Ima Hogg and more recently Alice Walton, that people in the Southwest have used their money to pull art from the Northeast with them. Most recently notable is Walton’s attempt to secure the Gross Clinic by Eakins and the successful buy of Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits. Arkansas is not Texas, but it’s not far. It doesn’t seem to be modern art that’s attracted to the Texas magnate, but the foundation stones for great art collections. This suits me fine since there’s so much of it yet to discover, I doubt I’ll ever have much time for modern art.

I really don’t have a good idea of what I’ll find in the antique shops and malls around Dallas. I had a conversation with the promoter of a show in Fort Worth last week who suggested “Yankee shows don’t work here. The stuffiness is gone. Our shows are fun.” To which I replied, “that may be a welcome change.”

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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