Various Venues

While the one-sided controversy skulks along over the shameful 33rd Annual Dallas County competition at Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, pickings are almost as lean elsewhere this spring in other museum and gallery fare.

Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts crowed pretentiously in advance of its “1961” conglomeration, culled from favored New York galleries, and fell on the face of its own presumptions when the exhibition came nowhere near its billing of surveying that meaningful year of title. There were creditable items—one apiece—by Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers, Alberto Giacometti, Robert Mallary and a huge and magnificently controlled Jimmy Ernst titled Overnight.

But where were the likes of Kline, Rothko, Kamihira, de Kooning, Hiram Williams, John Chumley and others so essential to such a survey? Nowhere in sight in a collection that came on as though the 1913 Armory Show was about to reoccur. There would have been ample room for these major oversights if Claes Oldenburg’s The Store, a painted-plaster waste of time, had not displaced space out of all proportion to aesthetic experience or even the interest of assembled “pattern,” which is about all it offered.

Even more disturbing was the 130-piece affront to standards of quality that Dallas Museum of Fine Arts accepted from a 3-man jury including Philadelphia’s Hobson Pittman, Fort Worth’s Amon Carter, Museum director Mitchell Wilder and Austin artist Ishmael Soto. It had taken years of coercion to obtain the multiple-jury system. The work of this year’s team, however, throws the whole matter of open competitions into an uproar. There was no detectable argument from any source defending the visible results, but the dust has yet to settle about a system and museum leadership that can produce such setbacks for students, professionals and public-at-large.

In the midst of the shambles, Dallas Art Association cleared the premises long enough to hold its Beaux Arts Ball and raised all but the final $8,000 needed to complete its public-contribution purchase of Andrew Wyeth’s $57,000 That Gentleman for DMFA’s permanent collection.

Currently taking up too much space for the quality of content is the annual Young Collection spring sale exhibit, a naive plan of scrounging up salable art that any reputable commercial gallery can better—and with far less dross. What’s available is mostly competent, decorative and guaranteed not to impress astute art patrons.

Valley House Gallery has scattered indoors and out its annual Spring Sculpture Exhibition, augmented this time by a clutch of paintings, drawings, water-colors and sketches by Raoul Dufy—thanks to New York’s Wildenstein & Co. Biggest batch of sculpture introduces Sergio Signori, who has tilled the Carrara lode as a fine artisan but exhibits only fleeting aesthetic substance in the objects being shown. Signori knows his Arp and Brancusi perhaps too intimately to speak forth himself, but there’s no denying his skill in subtly refining basic natural forms and his eye for appealing colors and markings.

The most impressive pieces are by Fort Worth’s Charles Williams, who has upended a huge slab of granite and topped it with a balancing rock even huger and for a potent spell of mysterious playfulness. Familiar competence is also repeated by Carol Crow, Charles Umlauf and others of the Valley House stable, though newcomer Robert Weimerskirch’s ceramic grotesqueries made no point in his favor this time out.

Haydon Calhoun Galleries followed its delightful “Eight Sculptors” collection with the first local one-man show of Arthur Okamura which turned out a vexing disappointment. After the entries dating back to 1958 and 1959, Okamura seems to have coarsened his Oriental poetics into an uneasy compromise between the current fashions of “school” on both coasts. The artist, hitherto much admired for his subtleties, if not always the physical chemistry of his surfaces, now crowds ideas and themes without assimilation in what could be a haste to broaden his market. This collection will work for him in reverse if his most recent tendencies continue to leave him and us as unsettled.

Rual Askew