This morning, despite a later start than intended (a start I attribute to the odd phenomenon we continue to have, of days that start in the 30s but finish in the 80s), we drove down to the Dallas Museum of Art. This weekend is the last weekend of the Duchamp/Cornell/Johns/Rauschenberg exhibition I'd wanted to see for months.
The Dallas Fort Worth area has a handful of great art museums, of which the Kimball in Fort Worth, a small museum with an exquisite collection, is generally considered locally to be the "marquee attraction", while the Amon Carter, also in Fort Worth, is a sentimental favorite because of its western art holdings, assembled before the odd faddish vogues and lack of vogues set in for western art, and western art was seen as merely a point in time in a region.
The Dallas Museum, by contrast, tends to focus on 20th Century work and antiquities. Some find its work more "challenging", but I really think those labels don't mean nearly as much today as they did even in my childhood. So many revolts did indeed become styles in popular culture, both in the good sense and in the less good sense. It's a great museum, as far as I am concerned, particularly in its collection of works from the 1950s and 1960s.
The exhibition used the common theme of the box assemblage, and the way these artists were very conscious of one another's work, to draw contrasts and insights from the juxtaposition. I enjoyed seeing some works I had not seen before (indeed, I had only seen one or two Cornells before, and not that many Johns), although any small exhibition which tries to cover four artists who encompass such a wide sweep of works and ideas takes on quite a task. The overall impression I took from the exhibition was "ambitious but not ridiculous, overall quite enjoyable". I liked that while a lot of people came to tour the show, it was not crowded in the way that some special exhibitions can be crowded.
Because Rauschenberg was from Port Arthur, here in Texas (as was, for that matter, Janis Joplin--both essentially seeking to flee town as soon as they achieved adulthood), they had additional coverage of his work in poster-making in a separate room. We also enjoyed a collection of American art from a single private collection which
featured both 19th and 20th C. art accompanied explicitly with furniture design and silver appropriate to the era in question--a kind of historical set of touchstones (this is the picture from that era, here is the silver, here is a table).
I am partial to regionalist work of some decades back. I had forgotten how many such works the DMA featured--a fair bit of Grant Wood influence, here and there. We lingered less long over the later 20th C. works that are at the heart of the collection--we were not indifferent, but we tend to do a museum one small snippet at time,
ninety minutes or so.
I always feel that all the things I see in art museums interest me, with rare exceptions. It's like looking at a kaleidoscope--I never worry about which glass patterns a particular scope affords, but just enjoy watching the prisms move.
Only one artwork offended me today. The special exhibit had two chess boards set up, in honor of Duchamp, who proved to be a chess player first and an artist second. But the pieces were set up "artistically" instead of in recognized formations. I disapproved of this, particularly as many historical Duchamp games exist from which positions could have been drawn. I did not know Duchamp, but I have read enough of what he said about chess to know he, too, might have disapproved. Perhaps I am uncharitable, though, and the positions were one of Duchamp's elaborate chess problems, and the whole matter is excusable in some way I do not now foresee. I know the UT-Dallas chess team gave three exhibitions during the exhibit, and surely they would act to prevent such blasphemy. Controversial art is one thing, but chess must be pristine.
We left the museum and headed to "uptown", which is the area of Dallas just north of the downtown. This area underwent a major gentrification while we were in California, turning into luxury high-rise townhomes and
shopping areas with Francophiliac, Italianate and Grecian facades. We stopped at a place called the Tom Tom Cafe, where our waitress' inattention suggested she was the worse for Friday night wear, but we ultimately had a serviceable sushi roll or two, and forgave the absence of the miso soup.
We took a moment for my wife to browse in a clothing store which lost me at "hello, this entire rack of torn and over-flowered jeans are 'only 80 dollars'", and then we headed north to our beloved hinterlands. Give me cookie-cutter houses, attentive waitstaff, outlet malls with twenty dollar jeans, and a good hiking trail in Collin County, I say. I do enjoy museums, though.
We drove to the city of Richardson, to stop by a Petsmart. We there perused dogs brought by the local humane society for people to meet who hope to become adoptive owners. I was quite partial to a mongrel terrier mix named Sunburst, but we left without applying to own any of the dogs. I was so impressed with the volunteers, spending a warm afternoon staffing an outdoor dog adoption booth, fighting canine holocaust one adoption at a time.
Indoors, noble feline support groups showed off wondrous cats, who mostly slept and thus could not sing "Gimme Shelter" or any other similarly appropriate song. We will find Ted a pal soon, I imagine, but we shall see.
It is my current but perhaps inconstant intention to never buy a puppy again, but only adopt from here on out.
At home, we took our own dog, young Ted, age 11, for her accustomed walk around the tiny park pond. The pond had two park ducks in it (it usually has but one) and several migratory ducks. A 20 month old boy gave us a huge and winsome smile when he saw Ted, but clung to his mother's leg when Ted's friendly proximity changed from an idea to a reality.
We went for dinner with my brother and his wife to Ralph and Kacoo's a wonderful New Orleans style restaurant, which, unlike some such restaurants, did not restrict us to fried foods, blackened foods, or high-fat foods.
I ate a broiled corvina with steamed vegetables, a healthy and yet very hearty meal. We drove back to their home. I'm glad I have siblings I love and enjoy spending time around.